Hog Calls:

SEC track performances show strong conference

By: Nate Allen
Published: Monday, June 19, 2017
Arkansas coaches Chris Bucknam (left) and Lance Harter call the Hogs Saturday, April 22, 2017, with winners of the Fastest Kid in Fayetteville competition during the John McDonnell Invitational at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas coaches Chris Bucknam (left) and Lance Harter call the Hogs Saturday, April 22, 2017, with winners of the Fastest Kid in Fayetteville competition during the John McDonnell Invitational at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Had it been football, the SEC's publicity machine might spout superlatives through December.

But it's track and field. So it's up to coaches to prompt the public to keep track. Enter University of Arkansas, Fayetteville head track coaches Chris Bucknam (Razorbacks men) and Lance Harter (Razorbacks' women) blowing the SEC horn.

By previous standards, Harter's 2016 NCAA Outdoor champion women and Bucknam's 2016 NCAA Outdoor second-place men slipped in 2017.

But name another Razorbacks program that wouldn't crave nationally to finish fourth like Bucknam's men or sixth like Harter's women two weeks ago at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore.

That is particularly the case after Harter's Razorbacks' third consecutive SEC Cross Country-Indoor-Outdoor triple crown. And don't forget Bucknam's Razorbacks -- SEC triple crown winners in 2015-2016 -- winning SEC Cross Country and Indoor titles and an SEC Outdoor second place to then nationally No. 1 Texas A&M. The 2017 NCAA Outdoor enhanced Arkansas' SEC achievements.

Starting in NCAA Outdoor team standings with Florida, the champion, and Texas A&M, runner-up, an incredible eight of the top 10 men hailed from the SEC.

For the NCAA women, Oregon won it by 1.8 points over Georgia of the SEC. After Southern California of Oregon's Pac 12 finished third, the SEC nationally placed Florida, Kentucky and Arkansas through sixth. LSU tied Texas for seventh.

"Other than Oregon and USC [third-place Southern California] it was the SEC Women's Invitational," Harter said.

Given that Daina Harper, fourth in the 400 meters, and Leigha Brown, fourth in the heptathlon, were Arkansas' only women senior scorers in Eugene, Harter anticipates the 2017-18 Razorbacks in SEC triple crown, and even NCAA triple crown, contention.

Bucknam's Razorbacks won the John McDonnell Program of the Year Award, the Coaches Association award named for retired 40-time NCAA champion Arkansas Men's Coach John McDonnell. It's awarded to the men's program with the best composite for the NCAA Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Championships.

McDonnell's men -- respectively fifth, fifth and fourth -- won it 14-21 over McDonnell runner-up Oregon.

"Any award with Coach Mac's name on it is a good award," Bucknam said. "It's the closest to the triple crown of anybody and obviously in the DNA of what we are trying to get done."

Given that SEC Cross Country champion Alex George and NCAA 5,000-meter runner-up Jack Bruce return in cross country, Bucknam predicts great things for 2017-18. That is especially so given that other than senior triple jumper Clive Pullen, long jumper Andreas Trajkovski, and seniors Eric Janise and Josh Washington, all Arkansas scorers return from Eugene.

"I think across the board next year is going to be even better," Bucknam said. "We signed some studs."

Of course, Bucknam said, so did everyone else in the SEC.

"It's brutal, but I wouldn't want to be in any other league," Bucknam said. "Because it brings the best out of us."

Sports on 06/19/2017

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