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Arkansas men, women sweep SEC indoor titles

FAYETTEVILLE — Behind three event titles and a score of 152.5 points, the top-ranked Arkansas men’s track and field team won the program’s 19th Southeastern Conference indoor title Sunday at the Randal Tyson Track Center.

Meanwhile, on the heels of a victory from its 4x400-meter relay team, the No. 3 Arkansas women’s team came out on top of a tight team race with a victory. The Razorbacks scored 114.5 points during the three-day conference meet to secure the program’s fourth SEC indoor title, and first since 2003.

On the final day of competition, the male Razorbacks collected conference titles from Andrew Irwin in the pole vault, Tarik Batchelor in the triple jump and the team’s distance-medley relay.

With this weekend’s performance, the Arkansas men have now won 56 SEC team titles—20 cross country, 19 indoor track and field, 17 outdoor track and field—since joining the league prior to the 1991-92 season. The win also represents the fourth SEC indoor title for head coach Chris Bucknam, and his 10th overall at Arkansas. Dating back to the 2011 outdoor meet, the Razorbacks have reeled off six consecutive SEC event championships.

Batchelor was the Razorbacks’ first champion of the day, claiming first place in the triple jump with a personal-best mark of 54 feet, 2.75 inches. Coupled with his SEC long jump title from 2011, the Razorback senior has two conference indoor titles to this credit. Batchelor is the eighth Arkansas jumper to win the event, and the first since back-to-back SEC triple jump wins by Nkosinza Balumbu (2007-08). With his jump Sunday, Batchelor took sole possession of the NCAA lead.

The Razorbacks’ followed up with a win in the pole vault from Irwin who successfully defended his SEC crown from a year ago. The Mount Ida native did so in school-record and NCAA-leading fashion with his final clearance of 18-4.5. With his indoor and outdoor times from 2012, Irwin has yet to lose an SEC competition. Irwin was down to his final attempt on two occasions with a third-attempt clearance at 18-0.5 and a second-attempt clearance at the final height after passing with one miss at the previous bar.

For the 15th time in program history, Arkansas ran to victory in the distance-medley relay. The foursome of Anthony Lieghio, Nathanael Franks, Cameron Efurd and Patrick Rono combined for a victorious time of 9:50.67. Running stride-for-stride with Henry Lelei of Texas A&M, Rono pulled away over the final 150 meters for the relay win. The Razorback sophomore also anchored last year’s DMR victory in Lexington, Ky.

The Arkansas women’s team has now won 20 SEC team titles overall—13 cross country, four indoor, three outdoor. The Razorbacks won on their home track for the second time in school history (2000). Arkansas finished the weekend with three SEC event titles, adding two to its board Sunday with wins by Regina George at 400 meter and in the 4x400-meter relay, the final event of the meet. Makeba Alcide set the collegiate record in the pentathlon Friday on her way to a victory in the five-event competition.

Arkansas and LSU battled back-and-fourth through 16 events and heading into the final event—the 4x400-meter relay—the Razorbacks held a one-point lead on the scoreboard. The home team responded with a school-record win in the event with Chrishuna Williams, Sparkle McKnight, Gwendolyn Flowers and George combining for a time of 3:29.60. The win gave Arkansas its third SEC 4x400 relay title in four years and clinched the team’s top spot in the standings.

The Razorbacks’ time of 3:29.60 makes the current team the only one in school history to combine for a sub-3:30 performance. The previous record of 3:30.08 was set back in 2011 by the team of Flowers, George, Whitney Jones and Shelise Williams. Arkansas also won the 4x400-meter conference title in 2010 and 2011. With their time Sunday, the Razorbacks own the No. 1 time in the NCAA.

George was responsible for an individual title of her own Sunday with a school-record and NCAA-leading performance at 400 meters.

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