Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Hogs use talent from state and abroad
John McDonnell (left) spent 30 years as Arkansas' track & field and cross country coach.
FAYETTEVILLE With names like O’Shaughnessy and O’Mara, it seemed John McDonnell’s early Razorbacks track stars were even more Irish than Arkansas’ Irish coach from County Mayo.
Then as native Irishmen Niall O’Shaughnessy and Frank O’Mara were joined in the Arkansas track and field galaxy by such far-flung stars as Godfrey Siamusiye (Zambia), Brian Wellman (Bermuda), Jerome Romain (Dominica) and Michael Power (Australia), Arkansas track and field became as international as the U.N.
McDonnell’s quest to win - even if it took winning from anywhere and everywhere - never wavered. It has remained steadfast since 2008 under Coach Chris Bucknam.
This weekend, Bucknam’s Razorbacks are favored to win their sixth consecutive SEC men’s championship, which started with the 2011 SEC Outdoor meet. They won the 2011-2012 SEC cross country, indoor and outdoor titles and won the SEC cross country title again last autumn.
Arkansas Coach Lance Harter, whose women’s team along with LSU and Florida are most apt to win this weekend’s SEC women’s indoor at the Tyson Track Center, built his program with a similar international cast plus the best from all over the United States, just like McDonnell did and Bucknam does.
However, whether with McDonnell’s Irish brogue or Bucknam’s New England accent, Arkansas track has always had an Arkansas accent.
Some of McDonnell’s brightest stars shined directly from Arkansas, like NCAA champions Daniel Lincoln, Wallace Spearmon Jr ., Brian Baker, Jeff Pascoe and Kenny Evans.
Bucknam’s men, ranked No. 1 nationally, would not be No. 1 without Arkansas native sons nor would they have won their SEC indoor and outdoor titles in 2012.
Andrew Irwin, the reigning SEC indoor and outdoor and NCAA indoor pole vault champ, hails from Mount Ida.
Caleb Cross, ranked second nationally indoors in the 60-meter hurdles and who won the Commissioner’s Trophy as the high-point man at last spring’s SEC outdoor meet, hails from Newport.
Neil Braddy, who anchored Arkansas’ 1,600 relay to a 2012 NCAA championship, is a Fort Smith Southside alum.
Harter, too, cultivates the Natural State.
Among the eight Arkansans listed on Harter’s roster, Grace Heymsfield of Elkins leads the Razorbacks in the mile and 3,000 and ran on their fastest distance medley relay.
Arkansas fans should be proud of their teams’ international flavor, but they also should be proud that home cooking feeds into this weekend’s SEC meet and will again when Arkansas hosts the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 8-9.
UNLIKELY BOARDS CHAIRMAN
Little-used freshman reserve guard Anthlon Bell’s game-leading 17 points wasn’t the only stunning stat in Arkansas’ 62-60 victory over Georgia on Thursday night at Walton Arena.
Mardracus Wade, the 6-2, junior shooting guard with a paltry 1.5 rebounding average, was 0 for 4 from the field but led the Razorbacks with six rebounds.
Georgia had out rebounded Ole Miss by 15 the same Saturday that Arkansas eked by Missouri, 73-71, despite being out rebounded 47-31.
Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson fretted Georgia could erase Arkansas on the boards. Thanks to Wade, Georgia’s slim 37-33 edge on the boards wasn’t enough to deter Arkansas on the scoreboard.
Sports, Pages 20 on 02/23/2013