NCAA INDOOR TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS:

Razorbacks look for depth as edge over Ducks, Gators

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, March 10, 2017
Arkansas senior Clive Pullen celebrates Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, after winning the triple jump competition during the Tyson Invitational in the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas senior Clive Pullen celebrates Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, after winning the triple jump competition during the Tyson Invitational in the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.

Arkansas Razorbacks Coach Chris Bucknam figures it will take 55 to 60 points to win the men's team title at the NCAA Track and Field Championships held today and Saturday in College Station, Texas.

Oregon -- ranked No. 3 behind Florida and the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville -- can go a long way toward that total led by senior distance runner Ed Cheserek.

Cheserek has won 15 national titles in cross country and indoor and outdoor track and will look to add to that total this weekend when he runs the mile and 3,000 and 5,000 meters and on the Ducks' distance medley relay.

"Even with him doing all that running, it's hard not to put 40 points down for Oregon with Cheserek," Bucknam said. "That's hard to overcome."

The Ducks are trying to become the first men's team to win four consecutive NCAA indoor titles since Arkansas from 1997-2000.

Bucknam said despite Cheserek's ability to dominate the meet individually and Florida's top ranking, the No. 2 Razorbacks are in the championship hunt just as they have been the previous five years.

Arkansas won the NCAA title in 2013 and has finished in the top three indoors every year since 2012, including taking second behind Oregon last year.

Florida, led by KeAndre Bates in the long and triple jumps and Grant Holloway in the long jump and 60-meter hurdles, is trying to win its first title since 2012, when the Razorbacks also were second.

Arkansas has a national-leading 12 qualifiers, led by senior triple jumper Clive Pullen, the defending NCAA champion.

"If you're one of the 16 qualifiers, you've got a shot at scoring points," Bucknam said. "It's so hard to predict what's going to happen.

"I generally think that you have to score between 55 and 60 points to win this thing. No matter what it looks like on our form chart, we have to shoot for 55 points.

"But if there's chaos, it could be a little bit less. If one team runs away with it, it could be 65."

Along with Pullen, the Razorbacks are counting heavily on junior Kenzo Cotton the 60 and 200, sophomore Obi Igbobwe in the 400, junior long jumper Travonn White, senior high jumper Ken LeGassey and the distance medley and 1,600 relays teams.

"I think our competitiveness is our strength,"Bucknam said. "Just like at the SEC meet, it takes all hands on deck to win this one."

The Razorbacks won the SEC championship two weeks ago.

"It's the best league in the country in almost any sport and for sure in track," Bucknam said. "You win that meet, that's history.

"It does give us momentum going in into the NCAA meet. There's a sense of accomplishment."

Bucknam said a key to competing well at nationals is to be totally focused.

"It's all about being dialed in," he said. "If you are, good things will happen. If your mind's wandering, if you have any sense of doubt, you're not going to score.

"You just have to live in the moment. It takes a tremendous amount of concentration."

At a glance

WHEN Today and Saturday WHERE Gilliam Indoor Stadium, College Station, Texas DEFENDING TEAM CHAMPIONS Men: Oregon; Women: Oregon MEN’S FAVORITES Florida, Arkansas, Oregon WOMEN’S FAVORITES Oregon, Georgia, Arkansas

Sports on 03/10/2017

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