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.
Arkansas running with fast crowd this weekend
Arkansas senior Stanley Kebenei makes the final turn in the one-mile run during a dual meet against Texas on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - The last time Arkansas’ men’s track and field team got together with Florida and Texas A&M, 6 1/2 points separated the SEC powerhouses atop the leader board at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last June in Eugene, Ore.
The Gators and Aggies tied for the national championship with 53 points while the Razorbacks took third with 46.5 after winning the NCAA indoor title.
No. 1 Arkansas, No. 2 Florida and No. 5 Texas A&M will be competing again this weekend in the Razorback Invitational, along with No. 6 Florida State, No. 10 Oklahoma State, No. 19 Texas and No. 20 Stanford.
The meet will begin at noon today and Saturday at the Randal Tyson Track Center, but most of the key events will be held between 7-8:30 p.m. today and 1-4 p.m. Saturday.
“I think it’s going to be a great spectator meet,” Arkansas men’s Coach Chris Bucknam said. “You’re going to see some world-class performances and some national qualifying marks, and on top of everything else it’s a team scored meet.
“It’s going to be a great meet across the board in every event.”
Arkansas isn’t hosting the SEC or NCAA indoor meets this year. The SEC meet is in College Station, Texas, and the NCAA meet is in Albuquerque, N.M.
“So this is an opportunity to see an SEC and NCAA-style track meet in Fayetteville,” Bucknam said.
Arkansas’ No. 7 women’s team also will be competing against No. 3 Texas A&M, No. 4 Florida, No. 6 Kentucky,No. 9 Stanford and and No. 17 Florida State.
“It’s kind of a clash of titans,” Razorbacks women’s Coach Lance Harter said.
Bucknam and Harter said they like competing against SEC teams before the conference and national meets, especially with the NCAA eliminating last-chance qualifying meets. There is added emphasis on getting top performances that will make the NCAA field of 16 in each event.
“All the variables are in place,” Bucknam said. “The fastest track in the world, we have the best collegiate teams in the country coming in, it’s going to be our third track meet, and we’re gathering steam physically with our guys and emotionally.
“They realize this is a big meet, so all the stars are aligning for this weekend.”
Harter said he is eager to see how the Razorbacks stack up against other SEC teams.
“I think it gives our young people a chance to see what the real world is like, especially the SEC, because it is so competitive,” Harter said. “If you can hold your own in our league, you can hold your own nationally.
“If our young ones don’t grow up fast, they’ll get run over because the competition is just so great.”
Leading competitors for Arkansas’ men’s team will be two-time national champion Andrew Irwin in the pole vault and All-Americans Jarrion Lawson in the long jump, Stanley Kebenei in the 3,000 meters and Anthony May in the high jump.
Bucknam said he expects to see significant improvement after more time for training and having last weekend off. He compared the Razorbacks to a high-performance race car that has been getting tuned up and is ready to leave the garage.
“I think you’ll see a big jump for us,” Bucknam said. “Our guys are ready to have some really good performances and compete hard.”
Harter said he’s excited to see Arkansas freshman Regine Williams, who is from Miami and has run 7.43 in the 60 and 23.37 in the 200, go against Florida’s and Texas A&M’s veteran sprinters.
“She’s surprised everybody so far,” Harter said. “Hopefully, that will continue.”
Razorback Invitational WHO Men: No. 1 Arkansas, No. 2 Florida, No. 5 Texas A&M, No. 6 Florida State, No. 10 Oklahoma State, No. 19 Texas and No. 20 Stanford. Women: No. 7 Arkansas, No. 3 Texas A&M, No. 4 Florida, No. 6 Kentucky, No. 9 Stanford and No.
17 Florida State.
WHEN Today and Saturday. Events start at noon both days. Main events will be from 7-8:30 p.m. today and 1-4 p.m.
WHERE Randal Tyson Track Center, Fayetteville TICKETS $5 general admission for adults.
Cash only at the door. Admission free for Arkansas students and youth (high school or younger).
Sports, Pages 24 on 01/31/2014