Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll.
UA men, women tracking for titles
Robbie Hanner with The Sign Factory in Fayetteville, works on preparing an NCAA sign to hang up at the Tyson Indoor Track Facility. Arkansas hosted the 2013 NCAA Track and Field championships.
FAYETTEVILLE The Arkansas men’s track and field team will carry the favorite’s role into this weekend’s NCAA Indoor Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center, while the Razorbacks women’s team could be among a small group expected to challenge for the title.
The No. 1-ranked Razorbacks men have a meet-best 19 entrants, including top qualifiers in 800-meter runner Leoman Momoh and triple jumper Tarik Batchelor, as well as second-best qualifiers in pole vaulter Andrew Irwin and heptathlete Kevin Lazas. Arkansas crushed the field in the SEC indoor championships at the Tyson Center two weeks ago, but the NCAA meet provides different scoring dynamics and SEC runner-up Florida is primed to make a strong run.
NCAA Indoors Glance
WHERE Randal Tyson Indoor Track Center, Fayetteville
ADMISSION All sessions: Reserved seating $40, general admission $30. Single session: $25 reserved seating, $20 general admission. Youth/students: $10 (17 and younger or UA students with valid student ID). Family pack: $50 (2 adults and 2 youths single-day general admission; additional youth tickets $10 each).
FAVORITES Men: Arkansas, Florida,Texas A&M, Wisconsin, Oregon. Women: LSU, Kansas, Arkansas, Oregon and Texas A&M.
“We know Florida is a three-time defending champ and they are awfully good,” Arkansas men’s Coach Chris Bucknam said. “We have a battle on our hands. Any team can affect the scoring, so it’s hard to predict what is going to happen.”
While the Razorbacks have been taking care of business in SEC meets of late, with six consecutive conference crowns on the men’s side, they have gone seven years without adding to their stash of national titles.
“We just talk about keeping our foot down on the pedal,” Bucknam said. “That’s what we’ve been doing. We don’t want to change anything.”
On the women’s side, the No. 3 Razorbacks are expected to be in a tussle with No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Kansas, No. 4 Oregon, No. 5 Texas A&M and possibly others for the title.
The Arkansas women’s team’s hopes likely hinge on big outings from Regina George, the top qualifier in the 400 and anchor on the top-rated 1,600 relay team,and Makeba Alcide, the nation’s top pentathlete and the No. 4 qualifier in the high jump.
“Makeba and Regina are obviously very much keys for us,” Arkansas women’s Coach Lance Harter said. “Those are the ones Coach [John] Mc-Donnell used to call the bell cows. You need to have a bell cow that comes in and leads you and scores those major points and gets that momentum going for some of those that might not be in favored scoring positions to rally for the team cause.”
Arkansas held off LSU for the SEC title a couple of weeks back, but scoring at the NCAA Indoors will be more difficult. The Tigers boast top entrants like sprinter Kimberlyn Duncan, a double winner in the 60 and 200 at the SECs, and 800 aces Charlene Lipsey and Natoya Goule, who are the top two qualifiers in that event.
For Arkansas, Sandi Morris should collect points in the pole vault and Harter expects the distance medley relay team of Grace Heymsfield, George, Martine Borge and Dominique Scott to score well.
The Razorbacks men have 13 entries who are among the eight qualifiers in their event, including the 1,600 relay team of Akheem Gauntlett, Anton Kokorin, Travis Southard and Neil Braddy, 800 runner Tomas Squella and long jumper Raymond Higgs all in the No. 3 qualifying spot.
Sports, Pages 19 on 03/07/2013