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.
Batchelor’s determination paying off
NWA Media/ANDY SHUPE -- Arkansas' Tarik Batchelor completes his second jump Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, in the triple jump competition during the Razorback Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Most senior track and field collegians whose Olympic dreams are ended by injury also end their collegiate career.
Tarik Batchelor isn’t only an exception, he’s downright exceptional, according to University of Arkansas Coach Chris Bucknam and field events coach Travis Geopfert,
Batchelor’s 2012 indoor and outdoor seasons, which included representing his native Jamaica at last summer’s Olympic Games like he had at the 2011 World Championships as Jamaica’s national long jump champion, ended before they began. The senior ruptured his left leg’s patellar tendon while practicing the week of Arkansas’ first indoor meet in 2012.
Bucknam and Geopfert still wince.
“It was one of the ugliest things I have ever seen,” Geopfert said.
Neither coach imagined that Batchelor would long jump or triple jump in 2013, even though they knew Batchelor would have a final fifth year of eligibility after missing 2012.
“I was right there after it happened and I was there at his hospital bed,” Bucknam said. “I thought it was over.”
Even Dr. Chris Arnold, the orthopedic surgeon performing Batchelor’s surgery, told the coaches that it was over for Batchelor as far as his Razorbacks career was concerned.
“Dr. Arnold told us this is a two year process before he can even think about jumping again,” Geopfert said.
Batchelor thought otherwise.
Off a short approach, he triple 1 jumped 53 feet, 8/2 inches - which is certain to be an NCAA Indoor qualifying jump and amazingly close to his full-approach personal record of 54-2 1/4 - to beat a star-studded field last Saturday at the Razorback Team Invitational at the Randal Tyson Indoor Track Center. He will long jump at today’s Armory Collegiate Invitational in New York.
“A great sight to see,” Bucknam said, barely overcoming the lump in his throat.
“It is a borderline miracle,” Geopfert said. “It speaks volumes to Dr. Arnold and the medical staff and to the work that Tarik put in. He has been highly motivated on all fronts. When you are motivated, sometimes miracles can happen, I guess, because, man, he is doing it.”
It seems almost as miraculous that other than completing his UA computer science degree and rehabbing for a possible future as a pro track athlete, Batchelor would spend 2012-2013 even attempting the extraordinary efforts it took to jump again for the Razorbacks.
Well, Geopfert says, Batchelor may hail from Jamaica, but the four time All-American and 2011 SEC Outdoor long jump champion (26-10) is all about Arkansas.
“Wearing that Arkansas uniform, it’s a special thing to him coming back one more year knowing the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships [Feb. 22-24] and the national [March 8-9] meets are here,” Geopfert said.
Batchelor yearns for the No. 1-ranked Hogs, the 2012 SEC Indoor and Outdoor champions and 2012 NCAA Indoor runner-up, to win their first national championship since the men won the 2006 NCAA Indoor title under John McDonnell.
“Arkansas is my home away from home,” Batchelor said. “It has given me so much. Having nationals and SEC at home, the team is all fired up.
“I am really happy that I can be a part of it, and I am going to contribute as much as I can to an Arkansas national title.”
Sports, Pages 22 on 02/02/2013