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: No shame in 2nd-place finish
Arkansas sophomore Jarrion Lawson competes in the long jump during a dual meet against Texas on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014, at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - Arkansas track coach Chris Bucknam yearned to win a second consecutive NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championship in Albuquerque, N.M. on Saturday, matching the one the Razorbacks won at home last year in Fayetteville.
It didn’t quite happen, but Bucknam seems as proud of his 2014 runner-ups as he was of his 2013 national champions.
Given their decreased manpower, the 2014 Razorbacks placing second with 54 points to Oregon’s 62 performed about as well as last year’s champions outscoring runner-up Florida, 74-59.
Florida, though outscored by SEC Indoor champion Arkansas again at the SEC Indoor three weekends ago, was nationally No. 1 to Arkansas’ No. 2 coming into Albuquerque but finished third with 35 points.
“We brought 15 guys with us and 13 of them scored,” Bucknam said Sunday afternoon.
One who didn’t, senior SEC Indoor long-jump champion Raymond Higgs, accounted for six third-place points at last year’s NCAA Indoor.
“Higgs hurt his hamstring on his first jump right at the beginning of the meet and couldn’t jump” Bucknam said. “But our guys responded knowing we were already down.”
Bucknam had counted on 18 first- and second-place long jump points. He lost eight with Higgs’ hamstrung.
Arkansas got the 10 first-place points Bucknam was counting on in the long jump from sophomore Jarrion Lawson, who won with a 2014 world best leap of 27-6 1/2.
Freshman Omar McLeod picked up 10 more points for Arkansas, winning the hurdles by running a Razorbacks record 7.57 in the prelims and 7.58 in the final, upsetting defending NCAA Indoor champion Eddie Lovett of Florida.
Lawson and McLeod also formed half of Arkansas’ 4 x 400 relay which placed third, earning six points.
“Holy smokes!” Bucknam said of his two champions.
Pole vaulter Andrew Irwin of Mount Ida and heptathlete Kevin Lazas didn’t reapeat the national championships they won last year but still performed admirably ( an18-0 1/2 vault for Irwin and 5,973 points by Lazas) to place fourth and third, especially considering that Irwin was coming off significant November surgery for a torn groin muscle and Lazas was competing two weeks after the death of his brother.
Patrick Rono ran an anchor mile at altitude for Arkansas’ seventh-place distance medley relay Friday just an hour after qualifying in the open 800 that he and teammate Tomas Squella placed third and fourth Saturday.
“I am so proud of our guys and I am not disappointed in any way, shape or form,” Bucknam said. “We battled. We had two national champions and great, great, great efforts by everybody.”
It would have been a meet for the archives at most places. But Arkansas, with Bucknam’s national 2013 championship making it an official 41 after the 40 won under retired track/cross country coach John McDonnell, isn’t just any place, Bucknam said.
“Our expectation is to win the title,” Bucknam said. “And we were just a little bit short. We will keep putting the pedal to the metal and better things will happen.”
Sports, Pages 16 on 03/17/2014