Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Bucknam: 'We have got to regoup'
Arkansas men's track and field coach Chris Bucknam watches from the edge of the track Saturdray, Jan. 26, 2013, during the Razorback Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- At some schools, Arkansas' 2013-2014 accomplishments in track and field and cross country would be enough to vault the coach into the university's Hall of Fame.
Not at Arkansas.
Chris Bucknam, Arkansas' head coach for men's cross country and track, knew this in 2008 when he replaced retired Razorbacks coach John McDonnell, the best coach in NCAA history. McDonnell's Razorbacks won 40 national championships and 84 conference championships.
"They don't live in the Shadow," Bucknam said of other programs, after Arkansas' ninth-place at last week's NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore. "We know what the expectations are. When you look at our season ... we are in the mix. But I am disappointed. We have got to regroup."
Arkansas' men won SEC titles in cross country and indoor track and finished second outdoors. Nationally, Arkansas was 10th in cross country, 2nd at the NCAA Indoors and ninth Outdoors.
Even McDonnell would have been hard-pressed to contend for a national title if he brought four individual national champions to the NCAA Outdoor and they scored but one point.
The eighth-place point that Jarrion Lawson contributed with the 1,600 relay was all Arkansas derived in Eugene from Lawson, the 2014 NCAA Indoor long jump champ; Omar McLeod, the 2014 NCAA Indoor 60-meter hurdles champ; Andrew Irwin, the 2012 and 2013 NCAA Indoor pole-vault champ, and decathlete Kevin Lazas, the 2013 NCAA Indoor heptathlon champ.
Legitimate excuses abound.
Lazas competed despite a bulging disk in his back that sidelined him before the SEC Outdoor. He finished 12th at Eugene, and didn't score a point.
Lawson barely fouled on two huge jumps at the NCAA West Prelim meet, played it too safe on the third trying for a legal jump, and didn't advance to Eugene in that event.
Irwin, finally healthy after recovering from November surgery for a torn groin muscle, came in with his timing still off trying to catch up from missed training.
"He was literally 2 feet over" the opening height of 17-9, Bucknam said, but knocked the bar off below with his feet for a no-height.
McLeod pulled a quadriceps muscle the day before four-day meet began. He couldn't finish his 110-meter hurdles race and was scratched from the 400- and 1,600-meter relays, of which he is an integral part.
Bucknam could blame Murphy's Law but won't. Overcoming and learning from adversity are part of the game.
His Hogs couldn't entirely overcome it, so they must learn from it to the best of what still will be 2015 top-shelf abilities, Bucknam said.
McLeod, Lawson and Irwin return. So do Stanley Kebenei, second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at Eugene, and Patrick Rono, fourth in the 800 while NCAA 2013 Indoor 3,000-meter runner-up Kemoy Campbell returns after an injury required a redshirt for 2014.
Bucknam touts that 14 signees should cover a lot of bases in the distances, sprints, jumps, vault, throws and decathlon.
"We'll be back," said Bucknam, whose 2013 Hogs won the NCAA Indoor. "We are going to figure out the puzzle outdoors."
Sports on 06/18/2014