Arkansas leads NCAA indoors

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Arkansas sophomore Andrew Irwin defended his pole vault championship with a personal-best 18 feet, 8 1/4 inches to help the Razorbacks take the overall lead after the first day of the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.

With more than half of the event finals remaining, the top-ranked Razorbacks had 30 points to lead the men's competition. Texas Tech was second with 18, while Wisconsin had 15 and three-time defending champion Florida 14.

Arkansas has won seven of the last eight Southeastern Conference indoor titles, but the school -- which is tops in NCAA history with 19 indoor championships -- hasn't won a national title since 2006. Irwin hopes his 10 points on Friday help the Razorbacks win their first under coach Chris Bucknam, who took over the program in 2008.

Arkansas lost by five points to the Gators last year.

"We die-hard want to win this one," Irwin said. "We want to win it so bad. Just going to indoor nationals last year and losing by five points ... We've got a really good team this year, so I think we might be able to pull it out here."

Second-ranked Kansas topped the women's standings with 20 points, earning 16 in the long jump after a win by senior Andrea Guebelle and a third-place finish by fellow senior Francine Simpson.

Central Florida was second with 14 points, while Arizona State and Michigan were tied for third with 13. Three-time defending champion Oregon was 11th with 9 points.

Irwin almost missed out on defending his title after missing on his first two jumps at 18 feet, 4½. However, he cleared on his third and final attempt and went on to hold off last year's outdoor champion, Jack Whitt of Oral Roberts, who cleared 18 feet, 4½ inches.

"It's nerve-wracking when it comes down to that third attempt, but luckily I was able to come down and hit it off the ground really well and pull through and make it," Irwin said.

Florida sophomore Marquis Dendy jumped a personal-best 27 feet, 2 inches to win the long jump and give the Gators a boost heading into the final day of competition.

Dendy won the SEC meet in the Randal Tyson Track Complex two weeks ago, but he was determined not to repeat last year -- when he finished eighth nationally as a freshman. He had no problems on Friday, even after opening with two fouls, and extended his mark for the longest jump in the world this year.

"Last year, I was still pretty young," Dendy said. "... I was just like raw, raw talent. I'm older, I feel like I'm stronger and just have this experience that has led me to be a better athlete."

Arizona's Brigetta Barrett became the first women to win three straight championships in the high jump at 6 feet, 4 3/4 inches. With the title secure, last year's Olympic silver medalist elected to try and top the collegiate record of 1.99 meters, set by Texas' Destinee Hooker in 2009, but she missed on her three attempts.

"I've had a great collegiate career, looking back," Barrett said. "I've had the best college experience, in general, that I could have ever asked for. That is amazing.

"To win three, it definitely means a lot because I didn't realize how many people I inspire or how many people watch me."

Dartmouth's Abbey D'Agostino won the women's 5000-meter in 15:28.11, while Texas Tech's Kithuka Kennedy won the men's competition in 13:25.38.

Indiana State's Felisha Johnson won the women's weight throw with a mark of 77 feet, 2 inches.

Jordan Clarke of Arizona State won the men's shot put with a throw of 67 feet, 3 1/4 inches.

Texas A&M's Ameer Webb won his second straight men's 200-meter championship with a time of 20.42, while Kimberlyn Duncan won the women's event in 22.58 for top-ranked LSU.

Michigan's distance-medley relay team of Rebecca Addison, Maya Long, Jillian Smith and Amanda Eccleston won with a time of 10:56.46. Princeton won the men's event in 9:33.01 behind the team of Michael Williams, Austin Hollimon, Russell Dinkins and Peter Callahan.

In the heptahlon, Arkansas junior Kevin Lazas led the field with 3,449 points with three events remaining on Saturday. Wisconsin's Japheth Cato was second at 3,351.

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