Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers.
Track Hogs preseason No. 1
University of Arkansas runners Akheem Gauntlett (left) and Neil Braddy return from the 4x400 relay team that won the NCAA championship in 2012.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas' men are ranked No. 1 in the preseason indoor track & field rankings released Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
The Razorbacks, which begin the indoor season Friday with a dual meet against No. 3 Texas in Fayetteville, are the defending Southeastern Conference champion. Arkansas is one of three SEC teams ranked in the top four nationally in the preseason, alongside No. 2 Florida and No. 4 Texas A&M.
Coach Chris Bucknam's programs have won five consecutive conference championships in cross country and track & field dating to the 2011 outdoor season.
Arkansas returns 18 all-Americans from last year's indoor team, including national champions in two events - Andrew Irwin (pole vault) and 4x400 relay members Neil Braddy, Akheem Gauntlett and Marek Niit. Gauntlett was also national runner-up in the 200 meters last season.
The men's indoor team is one of two Arkansas teams ranked No. 1 nationally by at least one publication entering the spring semester. The Razorbacks' baseball program was ranked No. 1 by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper last month.
In women's rankings, Arkansas' indoor team is ranked No. 7 in the preseason poll by the USTFCCCA. Their season also begins Friday with a dual meet against Oklahoma State.
Arkansas will will host both the SEC and NCAA Indoor Championships this year at Randal Tyson Track Center.