FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas alum Laquan Nairn claimed a very talented Invitational long jump with an opening round leap of 26-7.25 (8.11) to highlight the first day of the Tyson Invitational while current Razorback John Baker had a breakthrough performance in placing third with a mark of 26-3.5 (8.01).
Baker had three jumps in his series surpass 26 feet, leading with his PR of 26-3.5 in the second round that moves him to No. 10 on the Arkansas all-time list. He followed with a 26-0.25 in round four and had a 26-3 in round five. Baker currently ranks fourth among collegians in 2022.
“We’re trying to get a mark for Laquan to get him on the world list and get to World Indoors,” Arkansas associate head coach Travis Geopfert said. “His series was so consistent over 26 feet and when you create that consistency big jumps will come. I’m just extremely proud of Laquan and the way he competed tonight. To get a win over a star-studded field, he just did a fantastic job from the start.”
Nairn, of the Bahamas, is currently No. 5 on the 2022 world list. His series of marks included three other marks over 26 feet – 26-7, 26-5.5, and 26-1.75.
In moving to No. 10 on an impressive Razorback all-time list, Baker went ahead of Tyrus Jefferson’s 26-3 (8.00) from 1988 and is just a quarter of an inch behind Nairn’s 26-3.75 (8.02) from 2020.
“I knew coming in it was going to be a really good competition,” said Baker, who had a previous indoor best of 25-6.25 (7.78). “Everything was working well tonight. I had a good push out of the back, carried my speed and ran through the board. That’s something I usually don’t do, but I’m getting used to it now. When I did that, and put it all together, I knew big jumps were going to come.
“I knew what the competition was going to be like, and I’ve been in big competitions like this last year with NCAAs. So, that doesn’t really phase me. I just block all that out and focus on myself. It felt awesome and I know there’s still room to get better.”
Tennessee’s Carey McLeod placed second with a 26-5.75 (8.07) in the final round to move up from fourth place. Finishing in fourth behind Baker was another Arkansas alum in Jarrion Lawson, who equaled Baker’s mark and had a second-best leap of 26-0.75.
Future Razorback Shakwon Coke of Barton Country placed sixth with a 25-8 (7.82) distance.
“Baker did a great job tonight, with three jumps over 26 feet, and six fair jumps,” noted Geopfert. “We’ve been really working hard in getting a lot of fair jumps in. He just executed extremely well. He got over the 26-foot barrier with a big PR and moved into our all-time top 10.
“When you make the Arkansas all-time top 10 list, that’s a really big deal.”
Josh Shearer established a career best of 8:00.03 as runner-up and top collegian in the 3,000m. The winner of the race was Arkansas newcomer Lexington Hilton, who competed unattached and produced a career best of 7:59.25.
In the sprints and hurdles, the Razorbacks raced well against top caliber competition.
James Benson II led the effort in the 400m with a 46.35 clocking to place fifth while Brandon Battle improved his career best to 46.37 to place sixth. Jeremy Farr ran 46.87 and Phillip Anderson posted a 47.59.
The meet record in the 60m hurdles was equaled by Trey Cunningham of Florida State with a winning time of 7.42 seconds, matching the effort by Terrance Trammell from 2003. Cunningham became the No. 3 performer with an equal No. 3 performance on the all-time collegiate list.
LSU’s Eric Edwards finished as runner-up in 7.60 with Nebraska’s Darius Luff third at 7.67. Phillip Lemonious was the top Razorback with a 7.72 for fifth place while Tre’Bien Gilbert ran 7.81 for seventh.
Ayden Owens set a career best of 7.81 in the prelims after posting a 7.91 in the qualifying round, and did not contest the final. Owens moved to equal No. 8 on the UA all-time list.
“The hurdlers had a bit night, Phillip ran a season best, and I think he’s just getting going,” said Arkansas associate head coach Doug Case. “He’s getting healthy and looking good. He always finishes strong.
“The 400m guys, this is our weekend, and we plan for it every year. We break it out and kind of get going to get ready for SECs. Those guys stepped up and had a good day as well. Overall, we did what we needed to do and look forward to tomorrow and get the 4×400 rolling along with the 800m guys.”
Ruben Banks finished eighth in the weight throw with a season best mark of 64-8.5 (19.72). Alabama’s Bobby Colantonio, currently second among collegians this season, won the competition with a toss of 77-10.25 (23.73), which bettered the field by over seven feet.