Lawson in line to be first Hog to win Bowerman

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, December 16, 2016
Arkansas' Jarrion Lawson, left, wins the men's 200-meter dash at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., Friday, June 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)
Arkansas' Jarrion Lawson, left, wins the men's 200-meter dash at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in Eugene, Ore., Friday, June 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Jarrion Lawson may not be finished winning for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Lawson completed his college eligibility in June at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, where he won the long jump and 100 and 200 meters, but there's one more prize he can claim.

At a glance

WHAT Bowerman Award presented since 2009 to the top male and female college track and field athletes for the indoor and outdoor seasons

WHEN Tonight

WHERE Orlando, Fla.

MEN’S FINALISTS Jarrion Lawson (Arkansas), Edward Cheserek (Oregon) and Donavan Brazier (Texas A&M).

WOMEN’S FINALISTS Courtney Okolo (Texas), Keturah Orji (Georgia) and Raven Saunders (Ole Miss).

The Bowerman Award -- given to the nation's top male and female track and field collegiate athletes -- will be presented tonight in Orlando, Fla.

Lawson is one of three finalists on the men's side for the 2016 indoor and outdoor seasons along with Oregon distance runner Edward Cheserek and Texas A&M middle-distance runner Donavan Brazier.

"This is the Heisman Trophy of our sport," Arkansas Coach Chris Bucknam said. "It's a great honor that Jarrion's a finalist, and it would be an additional plus if he won the award."

The Bowerman Award -- named for former Oregon coach Bill Bowerman -- has been presented since 2009. The winner is voted on by a panel consisting of past Bowerman Award winners, track and field media and statisticians, and NCAA coaches and administrators from 23 states.

"It's the biggest award you can get in college track and field, so I'm excited to just be one of the three finalists for it," Lawson said. "I'm definitely hoping to bring the trophy back home."

Lawson could become the first Razorback to win the Bowerman Award. The only other Arkansas finalist was women's pole vaulter Tina Sutej in 2011.

"So many things have been achieved at Arkansas with winning national titles, SEC titles, Southwest Conference titles," Razorbacks sprints coach Doug Case said. "We've had individual national champions, relay champions, Olympic champions, world champions.

"But this is maybe the last thing nobody at Arkansas has done, so it would be monumental for Jarrion to win the Bowerman."

Lawson won four NCAA titles in 2016, including the indoor long jump. He scored in six events overall, helping the 400-meter relay team to a third-place finish outdoors and taking fifth in the 60 meters indoors.

"If it comes together and Jarrion's fortunate enough to win the Bowerman, I think it really puts an exclamation point on the end of an unbelievable career as a Razorback," Arkansas field events coach Travis Geopfert said. "You look at him being a 19-time All-American, six-time NCAA champion.

"It's legitimate to mention his name with some of the Arkansas legends like Mike Conley and Erick Walder as far as their college careers."

Conley won 16 NCAA long and triple jump titles for the Razorbacks and Walder won 10, but neither won the long jump, 100 and 200 as Lawson did.

The only other athlete to accomplish that triple at an NCAA meet is perhaps the biggest name in American track and field -- Jesse Owens in 1936 for Ohio State.

Matching Owens' feat may make Lawson the favorite to win tonight.

"Obviously, we're biased, but what Jarrion did at the NCAA outdoors hadn't been done in 80 years," Geopfert said. "There's a reason for that."

Cheserek won five NCAA titles in the 2016 season as a junior for Oregon, sweeping the 3,000, 5,000 and distance medley relay indoors and the 5,000 and 10,000 outdoors. Brazier ran a collegiate record 1:43.55 in the 800 meters to win the NCAA title as a Texas A&M freshman and break Jim Ryan's 50-year-old record.

"I don't know if I'm a favorite," Lawson said. "The other finalists had great seasons, too."

Bucknam said what stands out most to him about Lawson's performance at the NCAA outdoor meet was that he competed eight times -- with preliminaries and finals in four events -- over two days.

"It's a 15-round championship fight," Bucknam said. "It's not three rounds, it's not six rounds, it's not 12 rounds. It's all 15 rounds.

"And at the end Jarrion's not only still standing, he's winning."

Sports on 12/16/2016

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