NCAA Outdoor Championships Report:

Winning standard for Hogs

By: Bob Holt
Published: Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Arkansas hurdler Omar McLeod competes in the 400 meter hurdles Thursday, May 29, 2014 during the NCAA Track and Field West Preliminary meet at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas hurdler Omar McLeod competes in the 400 meter hurdles Thursday, May 29, 2014 during the NCAA Track and Field West Preliminary meet at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Track & Field News is projecting Arkansas' men's team to finish a distant fourth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Oregon will win the men's title with 78 points, according to a form chart by the magazine, which promotes itself as "the Bible of the Sport since 1948."

On tap today

• Competitors at today’s NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships from Arkansas teams:

ARKANSAS MEN

ATHLETE;EVENT

Neil Braddy;400 relay (semis)

Eric Hawkins;400 relay (semis)

Andrew Irwin;pole vault

Jarrion Lawson;400 relay (semis)

Kevin Lazas;decathlon

Omar McLeod;400 relay (semis)

Patrick Rono;800 (semis)

Tomas Squella;800 (semis)

ARKANSAS WOMEN

ATHLETE;EVENT

Amethyest Boyd;javelin

Taylor Ellis-Watson;400 (semis)

Grace Heymsfield;steeplechase (semis)

Jessica Kamilos;steeplechase (semis)

Tamara Myers;long jump

ARKANSAS STATE WOMEN

ATHLETE;EVENT

Sharika Nelvis;100 (semis)

Florida is second in Track & Field News' projection with 72 points, followed by Texas A&M (58), Arkansas (35) and LSU and Arizona (30 each).

"Anything can happen, and we just have to take care of our business and do our thing and compete," said Coach Chris Bucknam, who led the Razorbacks to the 2013 NCAA Indoor title. "We're ranked fourth right now, but that's not our expectation.

"Our expectation has been handed to us. It's about winning, so that's how we have to approach it."

Arkansas' men's team has 15 athletes competing in 11 events, including three who have won individual indoor national titles -- two-time pole vault champion and junior Andrew Irwin, senior Kevin Lazas (last year's heptathlon champion) in the decathlon and freshman Omar McLeod (this year's 60-meter hurdles champion) in the 110 hurdles.

"We're in the mix, so we have to go and execute and do what we do best," Bucknam said. "It will be a tight race."

Arkansas finished third last year at the NCAA Outdoor Championship with 46 1/2 points, behind co-champions Florida and Texas A&M with 53. The Razorbacks were second at this year's NCAA Indoor Championship with 55 points behind Oregon, which won with 63.

"I don't think about the national championship we won," Bucknam said. "I think about the others that we came within a whisper of winning.

"We've just got to put ourselves in a position to win, and that's all about attitude, and that's about fight, and that's about believing that you can win."

Track & Field News projects Arkansas' top finishers will be senior Raymond Higgs (second in the long jump) and junior Stanley Kebenei (second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase).

"We need firsts and seconds and thirds," Bucknam said. "We don't need sixth, seventh and eighth places. We need to pile up some points."

The women's side

Track and Field News projects Arkansas' women's team to finish seventh with 25 points. It projects Texas will win with 70 points in a close race with Oregon (67) and Texas A&M (66).

Razorbacks junior Sandi Morris is picked by Track & Field News to finish third in the pole vault, with seniors Stephanie Brown (1,500 meters) and Grace Heymsfield (steeplechase) projected to finish fifth.

Arkansas' women's team has 17 athletes competing in 10 events.

"It's always nice to have lots of options and lots of bullets to fire," Razorbacks Coach Lance Harter said. "But the NCAA Championships, from first to eighth place to score, I mean, you've got be a major, major player."

Football help

Eric Hawkins, a scholarship receiver for Arkansas' football team, will run a leg on the 400-meter relay team today.

Hawkins joined the track team in late April after the end of spring practice and ran leadoff on the 400 relay at the NCAA West Preliminaries to help the Razorbacks advance to nationals.

"What a contribution he has made in a short period of time," said Arkansas assistant Doug Case, who coaches the sprints. "I see him, literally, daily getting better, moving into more of that ability to maintain a sprint speed over a longer period of time.

"I mean, for him to come out and be a guy that's on one of the top relays in the nation and leading that thing off, I think he's done an outstanding job."

Nelvis the choice

Arkansas State senior Sharika Nelvis is looking for her second national title this year.

Nelvis, who won the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoor meet, is Track & Field News' pick to win the 100-meter hurdles outdoors. She also is running the 100, where Track & Field News projects her to finish 10th.

Freshman Roelf Pienaar (long jump) and senior Chris Nicasio (hammer) will compete for Arkansas State's men's team this week.

Sports on 06/11/2014

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