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.
No doubting UA’s Batchelor is back
Arkansas senior Tarik Batchelor competes in the triple jump Sunday, Feb. 24, 2013, during the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Tarik Batchelor’s old coach and his current coach expressed mutual awe for the ongoing comeback of the University of Arkansas senior and new SEC Indoor triple jump champion.
Batchelor, whose 2012 Olympic long jump dreams for his native Jamaica were shattered and his future track career on slim hope after he severely tore his left patellar tendon a year ago, set forth a nearly impossible medical comeback with his 53-8 1/2 and 53-9 personal bests in the triple jump, earlier this season at the Razorback Invitational and Tyson Invitational meets.
Sunday he bettered even those, hitting a 54-2 3/4 first jump to win the SEC Indoor triple championship at Arkansas’ Randal Tyson Track Complex and in the process defeating reigning national champion Omar Craddock from Florida.
Craddock came close at 54-1 1/4, prompting a pressed Batchelor to come back with another great jump at 54-2 before his day was done with his former coach, Dick Booth, and coach of the last four years, Travis Geopfert, looking on.
Booth, who is now at Alabama, recruited Batchelor and coached him one year at Arkansas before moving on to Florida where he coached Craddock.
Two schools later, he still thinks of Batchelor as one of his own, and is proud of how his protegee persevered through pain.
“It is great to see him come back,” Booth said after Batchelor hit the big jump off the bat. “He had a real tough injury. He didn’t give up when it got really, really ugly. The thing is your body heals about a year before your head does on a thing like that. Your body can do things but your head just doesn’t know you can do them. But it looks like to me that he is totally back. He has his confidence back to where he can do anything he wants to do.”
Geopfert, recalling the horror of Batchelor’s injury, said Sunday that nothing clouded Batchelor’s mind .
“He never doubted himself from Day 1,” Geopfert said. “He was on a mission to get back and he got it done. A personal best and a SEC championship. Words can’t express how proud I am of that guy.”
Batchelor beamed to have won a conference championship in front of the coach who recruited him.
“It’s a blessing to be back here again,” Batchelor said after Sunday’s triumph. “I am just giving God blessing for me to get well and represent Arkansas once again. I am really thankful to God and my coaches and my teammates and I worked hard. I am having fun again.”
He can’t wait this spring in the outdoor season to test his rehabbed leg in the long jump, his best event before the injury, but there is still one more indoor triple jump for the NCAA leader with the NCAA Indoor in Fayetteville on March 8-9.
“Two weeks, man,” Geopfert said. “This isn’t over, but we’re going to enjoy this one now.”
Sports, Pages 16 on 02/25/2013