Hog Calls:

Weather could put damper on track meet

By: Nate Allen
Published: Wednesday, April 19, 2017
Arkansas' Lexi Weeks competes in the pole vault Saturday, April 23, 2016, during the John McDonnell Invitational at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas' Lexi Weeks competes in the pole vault Saturday, April 23, 2016, during the John McDonnell Invitational at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Used to be if Northwest Arkansas farmers needed rain, they could bank on a deluge the weekend the Razorbacks hosted the John McDonnell Invitational outdoor track meet.

Four years of beautiful McDonnell meet weather changed all that, but apparently not this year at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Friday's forecast looms so ominous that Friday's tentatively scheduled field events likely won't be conducted until Saturday. The two-day meet that Coach Chris Bucknam's men and Coach Lance Harter's women are hosting at John McDonnell Field likely will become a three-day event, with the men's decathlon and women's heptathlon likely spanning Saturday and Sunday.

"We'll keep our fingers crossed and hope the weathermen are wrong and make the best of it," Harter said.

Both coaches say their teams have much individual work to do at the McDonnell meet, with only the SEC Relays at LSU and the Twilight Invitational at McDonnell Field remaining before they defend their SEC Outdoor championships May 11-13 in Columbia, S.C.

"We're at the mercy of the weather, but we're going to have it," Bucknam said. "It's an important weekend for these guys."

Patience a virtue

Summing up Razorbacks Baseball Coach Dave Van Horn's style inevitably evokes adjectives such as "intense, demanding and no-nonsense."

You don't hear "patient," but you should.

The patience Van Horn has shown by sticking by first baseman Chad Spanberger and outfielders Luke Bonfield and Eric Cole through early-season slumps, and the career ups and downs of fourth-year junior Carson Shaddy, has paid off.

The Razorbacks lead the SEC West at 11-4 going into this weekend's SEC series at Auburn in large part because in SEC games Cole hits .364, Spanberger hits .354 with 6 home runs and 25 RBI, Bonfield hits .339 with 4 home runs and 14 RBI, and Shaddy hits .295 with 4 home runs and 16 RBI.

"He's super patient," Shaddy said. "You don't really notice that until it actually happens. He's really smart about how he plays people and when it's time to sit people and give them chances."

Bonfield concurs.

"He's really a player's coach in that aspect," said Bonfield, a junior who struggled in 2015 as a touted freshman then blossomed last season. "He's willing to let guys struggle a little bit to get them going. He knows what you need."

What you need, Bonfield said, sometimes is empathy and sometimes not.

"He kind of got on me after the first game at Louisiana Tech," Bonfield said of going 0 for 4 in a 4-3 loss. "That's kind of what I needed rather than feel sorry for myself. Kind of like a kick in the butt. The next game I hit a home run and I really got it going after that."

Sports on 04/19/2017

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