Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy and has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
Stars missing, but meets still continue
Arkansas track coach Chris Bucknam, left, talks with UA facilities director Scott Sargent during a meet Friday, Jan. 15, 2016, at Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas men's track coaches Chris Bucknam, Doug Case and Travis Geopfert still celebrate Jarrion Lawson becoming the Razorbacks' first to win The Bowerman, the track and field equivalent to the Heisman Trophy and named for legendary Oregon Coach Bill Bowerman.
They just wish they could celebrate with Lawson still jumping and sprinting for the Razorbacks as Arkansas' 2017 indoor season begins with Friday afternoon's Arkansas Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center.
"That's the blessing and the curse of having a guy like him," Bucknam said. "The curse is the next year when his eligibility is over."
An integral contributor to the Razorbacks' 2016 SEC Indoor and Outdoor team championships and NCAA Indoor and Outdoor runner-ups, Lawson's career ended historically. Last June in Eugene, Ore. he became the first to join Ohio State legend Jesse Owens' previously unprecedented 1935-1936 effort, winning the NCAA Outdoor 100- and 200-meter dashes and long jump. Adding his leg on Arkansas' third-place 4 x 100 relay, Lawson scored 31 1/2 of Arkansas' 56 points before advancing to the U.S. Olympic team.
"He is a special athlete no question about it," Bucknam said. "Thank goodness he was a Razorback and did all that stuff when he was here."
While wishing Lawson somehow had more eligibility, Bucknam laments there weren't other Arkansas winners of the award.
It wasn't conceived until after John McDonnell's time at Arkansas. From 1974, with his first Southwest Conference Cross Country championship, until his 2008 retirement, McDonnell coached Arkansas to an unrivaled 40 national championships and 84 conference championships.
"It's a shame they didn't have The Bowerman before 2009," Bucknam said. "Because I know there would have been a few other Razorbacks who would have earned that honor as well like Mike Conley, Erick Walder, Alistair Cragg and Daniel Lincoln ... all those good guys."
Embracing rather than be jealous of the McDonnell legacy, Bucknam said Lawson's Bowerman connects with Razorbacks past blending into Arkansas' future.
"It allows us to be in the conversation with those other great athletes," Bucknam said. "Like Jarrion says, 'It gets us into the group.'"
McDonnell's greats left voids when they departed but success continued.
The same for Bucknam and assistants Case and Geopfert.
"Hey, we've done it before," Bucknam said. "We've lost good guys before and recovered."
Bucknam's Hogs open the indoor season nationally ranked fourth and likely favored at the SEC Indoor and Outdoor to complete another triple crown having won the cross country title last fall.
The same goes for women's coach Lance Harter and assistants Chris Johnson and Bryan Compton, who coached Arkansas' reigning SEC triple crown and NCAA Outdoor champions. Harter showed a 2016 NCAA Outdoor championship photo of seven senior All-Americans, including Olympians Dominique Scott, a distance double winner in Eugene, and quartermiler Taylor Ellis-Watson.
The seniors are gone but Harter's Razorbacks are favored to complete another SEC triple crown and ranked nationally No. 2 indoors starting Friday's meet.
Sports on 01/11/2017
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