Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Thin air awaits UA distance runners
Arkansas coach Chris Bucknam, left, and assistant Danny Greene watch Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, during the Razorback Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - In 2015, the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce should interview every distance runner competing at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships that the University of Arkansas will host at the Randal Tyson Indoor Track.
After running the 2014 NCAA Indoor Championships at the mile high altitude of Albuquerque, N.M., the men and women running the mile and up at the 2015 NCAA Indoor will be breathless only in their appreciation for Fayetteville.
“Yeah, it should be a breath of fresh air next year for those guys,” Arkansas men’s Coach Chris Bucknam said.
Bucknam and Arkansas women’s Coach Lance Harter and all coaches not located in high places know their distance runners could be gasping for thin air in Albuquerque come this March 14-15.
“That will be a challenge for us running in Albuquerque,” Bucknam said. “That’s the way the cards have been dealt and we will do the best we can. Jumpers will like it and sprinters will like it.”
Horizontal jumpers tend to soar at altitude, but distance runners can discover their normal run becoming a dizzying pace. Literally dizzying.
How can the distance men of Bucknam’s defending SEC and NCAA Indoor champions prepare for thin air?
“You can’t do much,” Bucknam said. “You can’t simulate it until you get there. We can’t control that environment other than try to get your guys in super good shape.”
That’s always the distance running objective from autumn cross country through winter indoor track and the spring’s outdoor track ending mid June, eternally, it seems now, with Oregon, about as commonly known as Nike, hosting the NCAA Outdoor in Eugene.
“Oregon just got the Outdoor Championships for the next seven years,” Bucknam said.
Arkansas, indoors, and Oregon, outdoors, historically host the NCAA Championship meets better than any.
The NCAA Indoor hosting remains rotating, Bucknam said with Birmingham, Ala. hosting in 2016.
“We are certainly happy we have it next year,” Bucknam said, “but we didn’t garner the same kind of support (to be perpetual Indoor host like Oregon now seems for the Outdoor) even though we won an award (Sports Travel) this year for hosting the best event [2013 NCAA Indoor] in the country.”
Oregon hosted the 2013 NCAA Outdoor but finished behind three SEC men’s teams. Florida and Texas A&M tied for the title with 53 points and Arkansas placed third, 46 ½ .
Arkansas returns NCAA Indoor champions Andrew Irwin (pole vault) and Kevin Lazas (heptathlon) and Neil Braddy (the lone returnee from the national Indoor champion 1,6000 relay), All-American distance runners Kemoy Campbell, Stanley Kebenei and Patrick Rono and All-American jumpers Raymond Higgs, Jarrion Lawson and Anthony May.
Touted newcomers include Omar McLeod, Jamaica’s Junior record-holder for the 110-meter hurdles, 400-meter hurdles and on the 1,600 relay.
“I think we will have a real strong team,” Bucknam said.
Arkansas hosts four indoor meets. The big ones are Texas, a Jan. 17 dual meet, and the “loaded,” Bucknam said, Razorback Invitational (Jan. 31-Feb. 1) and Tyson Invitational (Feb. 14-15) meets.
Sports, Pages 18 on 12/16/2013