FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – In just his third race donning the Arkansas Cardinal and White, junior Dorian Ulrey has already cemented his name in the prestigious Razorback record book.
At Saturday’s Razorback Invitational, Ulrey clocked a mile time of 3:57.60 to finish second behind Oklahoma State’s German Fernandez, the 2008 Gatorade National Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year.
“I think Saturday’s race is just scratching the surface of Dorian’s talent and potential,” head coach Chris Bucknam said. “He looked so smooth and told me after the race that it felt pretty easy to him. That’s a great sign in my eyes. He still has work to do and it doesn’t worry me that he ran this quickly this early in the season. It just tells me he’s in excellent shape and he’s a smart runner. I know he has more goals he wants to accomplish this season.”
Ulrey’s time is an NCAA automatic qualifier, a personal best, leads the SEC by nearly five seconds and ranks ninth on Arkansas’ all-time list. Ulrey’s time is also the fastest clocked by an SEC student-athlete since former Hog Said Ahmed ran a 3:57.04 at the Iowa State Last Chance during the 2005 season.
Nine of the 10 times on the Arkansas all-time list were clocked by student-athletes under the tutelage of the legendary John McDonnell. It’s a very difficult list to earn a spot on. The top-10 times in school history range from 1977-2009. Just two runners in the last 10 years, Ahmed in 2005 and Dirk Heinze in 2002, have etched their names on to the list.
“Dorian Ulrey made that race,” former Arkansas coach McDonnell said. “After the first 800 meters, he took the lead and pushed the pace. Not taking anything away from German Fernandez, he ran off Dorian’s pace. It was a great race for both guys especially being their first miles of the season.”
“German Fernandez may be the best freshman I have ever seen,” McDonnell said. “He’s a tough competitor but Dorian is just as tough. He had a great double this weekend with a 2:54 1,200 meters in the DMR Friday night and a 3:57 mile Saturday. A great double will pay big dividends later in the season. It’s very valuable when you get to the conference and NCAA championships.”
“I have watched Dorian and he’s impressive,” McDonnell said. “He’s going to be a great runner with a great future ahead of him. The list of top-10 milers is very impressive and he earned his place among them. Those are some of the best runners in collegiate history not just at Arkansas. I wouldn’t worry about him getting beat by German Fernandez. He took the pace and it’s hard to lead for as long as he did and win the race.”
At the top of the Arkansas all-time mile list is Razorback great Niall O’Shaughnessy. Credited with being one of the first great Arkansas distance runners, O’Shaughnessy holds the school record in the mile with a time of 3:55.40 clocked in January 1977. His time is Arkansas’ oldest school record in any event and he was the first McDonnell recruit to stamp his name as a school record holder.
Additionally, many of Arkansas’ top milers who have won numerous NCAA and conference titles and All-America honors in the event, including Niall Bruton, Alistair Cragg, Chris Mulvaney, Frank O’Mara, Adam Perkins, Randy Stephens and Gary Taylor, are not currently on the list. Some were and have since been passed. At this point in time, a student-athlete would have to break 3:57.9 to hold the No. 10 spot.
Also noteworthy, Ulrey ran the lead leg of the distance medley relay Friday night before clocking his 3:57 mile Saturday afternoon. He registered a 1,200-meter split of 2:54.3 and paced the Razorbacks to an NCAA provisional-qualifying time in the event and the fastest time run in the nation and the SEC this season.
Fernandez, running in the first indoor meet of his career, as well as his first meet back after injuring his leg at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in November, set a junior world record in the indoor mile with his race-winning time of 3:56.50.
The previous fastest junior indoor mile was run by Kenya’s Boaz Lalang who clocked 3:58.34 at the 2008 Tyson Invitational. Prior to that time another Kenyan, Geoffrey Rono, had run 3:58.60 in New York in 2006.