Hog Calls:

UA track coaches have successful style

By: Nate Allen
Published: Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Arkansas track coaches Chris Bucknam, left, and Lance Harter pose with their SEC championship trophies won during the 2015-16 year.
Photo by Jason Ivester
Arkansas track coaches Chris Bucknam, left, and Lance Harter pose with their SEC championship trophies won during the 2015-16 year.

FAYETTEVILLE -- With 40 national team championships and 84 conference team championships in cross country, and indoor and outdoor track, retired University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Coach John McDonnell had a special formula for making individuals in individualistic sports compete as a team.

Chris Bucknam, McDonnell's successor as the head men's track and cross country coach, and Lance Harter, the UA women's head track and cross country coach, obviously have special formulas, too.

Harter comes into the NCAA Women's Indoor Championships on Friday and Saturday in College Station, Texas, with 30 conference championships and two national championships on his Arkansas resume.

Bucknam, succeeding McDonnell in the summer of 2008, has coached 20 SEC championships and one national championship going into Friday's NCAA Men's Indoor Championship at College Station.

Each brings the nation's No. 2 ranked team into the men's and women's meet in College Station, and each are ably helped by men's assistants Travis Geopfert and Doug Case and women's assistants Chris Johnson and Bryan Compton.

That their programs consistently win SEC track and consistently contend for NCAA team titles isn't necessarily an easy mesh. Conference championships are won on depth, which can spread thin the elite athletes concentration to place high in the NCAA meets.

Instilling team goals in a sport as individually different as pole vaulting and hurdling isn't easy either.

What's their approach bringing a team to the SEC and NCAA meets so oriented to individuals?

"It's the one time we bring all the individuals together wearing a common uniform together representing the University of Arkansas and that accumulation of points come together," Harter said. "It gives the kids even a little more incentive that they are in the team battle. I think they dig down a little bit deeper because they are not only representing their university and themselves but also their teammates."

What's Bucknam's formula?

"Just having bell cows, " Bucknam said. "The superstars. You need a combination of some bell cows and some depth behind it and the love to compete."

Obviously it has worked.

"The last eight [NCAA] Indoor and Outdoor championships we have been first, second or third," Bucknam said. "We've been on the top three the last four years."

Since 2012 at the NCAA Indoor, Bucknam's men have placed second, first, second, third and second.

Harter's women, fifth, fourth, sixth from 2012 through 2014 at the NCAA Indoor, won the NCAA Indoor in 2015 and were second in 2016 before winning the 2016 NCAA Outdoor.

Customarily winning the SEC Indoor inevitably boosts their NCAA Indoor cause.

"It's the best league in the country in almost any sport and for sure in track," Bucknam said. "You win that (SEC) meet, that's history. It does give us momentum going in."

Harter concurs.

"Winning the SEC complements everybody on the team that they have been tested by the best in the nation," Harter said. "They put out stats that the SEC has more scoring potential than the second best conference by double."

Sports on 03/08/2017

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