Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
UA isn’t ready to loosen grip
Arkansas hurdler Caleb Cross is one of several Razorbacks listed among the top three in the SEC in 14 events. “To win in this league you need the big hitters, you need the guys that can go out and perform on the national level,” Coach Chris Bucknam said. “No question we have some real good athletes on our team, and we look forward to seeing them perform on the big stage.”
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas’ men’s track and field team doesn’t want the SEC trophy going anywhere.
The No. 1-ranked Razorbacks, who have won five consecutive conference titles in cross country and track dating back to the 2011 SEC Outdoor, look to make it six in a row this weekend when Arkansas hosts the SEC Indoor meet at the Randal Tyson Track Center.
The meet begins today with the men’s heptathlon and women’s pentathlon and runs through Sunday.
“We pride ourselves in having a winning culture, and winning the SEC championships is first and foremost,” said Arkansas Coach Chris Bucknam, who has led the Razorbacks to eight SEC titles since being hired from Northern Iowa in June of 2008. “It’s our first line of defense.”
Arkansas will have to defend its home track against a field that includes No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Texas A&M, No. 16 LSU and No. 19 Ole Miss.
“We are very proud of it, and obviously we want to keep our streak alive, but that’s kind of past history,” Bucknam said. “This is a brand-new team and we’ve looked good on paper, no question about that. But now it’s time to produce.”
The Razorbacks are listed among the top three in 14 events, including conference leaders Tarik Batchelor in the triple jump, Caleb Cross in the 60-meter hurdles, Patrick Rono in the 800, Kemoy Kennedy in the 3,000, Stanley Kebenei in the 5,000, Kevin Lazas in the heptathlon and the distance medley relay team. They have defending SEC champions in four events with the distance medley relay, Rono in the mile, Marek Niit in the 200 and Andrew Irwin in the pole vault.
“To win in this league you need the big hitters, you need the guys that can go out perform on the national level,” Bucknam said. “No question we have some real good athletes on our team, and we look forward to seeing them perform on the big stage.”
Bucknam said he welcomes Texas A&M’s addition to the SEC.
“I’m thrilled about it because the bottom line is that they’re going to make you raise the bar,” he said. “That’s how good they are. They’re a machine, and they’re going to come in here and compete.”
Arkansas’ third-ranked women’s team is among the favorites along with No. 1 LSU and No. 6 Florida. The field also includes No. 7 Georgia, No. 9 Texas A&M and No. 14 South Carolina.
“Everybody loves coming to our track,” Arkansas women’s Coach Lance Harter said. “I think we make good hosts, but we’re going to try to be rude hosts by the end of the meet.”
The Razorbacks are led by Regina George, the national leader in the 400 meters at 51.67 seconds. They are also expecting big points from Makeba Alcide, the SEC leader in the pentathlon who ranks second in the high jump. Diane Robison leads the SEC in the 5,000, and the distance medley relay leads the conference.
Harter said Texas A&M’s addition should be a plus for Arkansas.
“On paper A&M probably helps us a little bit because they’re also a sprint power,” he said. “They’ve got great hurdlers, great sprinters and great jumpers and they can help dilute some of LSU’s and Florida’s sprint points.”
Arkansas’ 1,600 relay team ranks third nationally but is second in the SEC to Florida.
“We’re second to Florida by a tenth [of a second] with LSU and A&M right behind,” Harter said. “You just can’t get away from the SEC.”
WHEN Today through Sunday WHERE Randal Tyson Track Center, Fayetteville.
ADMISSION $35 for three-day reserved ticket, $25 for three day general admission ticket.
Single-day tickets are $15 for reserved seats and $10 for general admission.
SCHEDULE Men’s heptathlon and women’s pentathlon begin at 1 p.m. today. Field events begin at 10 a.m. Running events begin at 1:30 p.m. Saturday with the last event scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Field events begin at 10 a.m. Sunday, with running events beginning at 12:30 p.m. The meet is scheduled to end by 4:45 p.m. Sunday.
MEN’S FAVORITES No. 1 Arkansas, No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Texas A&M WOMEN’S FAVORITES No. 1 LSU, No. 3 Arkansas, No. 6 Florida
Sports, Pages 17 on 02/22/2013