Hog Calls:

Team shouldn't be ashamed by finish

By: Nate Allen
Published: Monday, March 13, 2017
NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE
Former Arkansas coach John McDonnell (left) and current coach Chris Bucknam speak Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, during the Tyson Invitational in the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs from the meet.
Photo by Andy Shupe
NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE Former Arkansas coach John McDonnell (left) and current coach Chris Bucknam speak Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, during the Tyson Invitational in the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos to see more photographs from the meet.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Coaching staffs of every other University of Arkansas, Fayetteville sport would do anything but kill to finish a season ranked No. 5 in the country.

None of them coach indoor track and field.

Because of the precedents that retired Coach John McDonnell set and Coach Chris Bucknam continues in men's indoor and outdoor track and Coach Lance Harter set and continues in women's indoor and outdoor track, they and their assistants explained to their athletes Saturday that nationally finishing fifth is "nothing to be ashamed of."

"That's what I told the kids," Harter said. "Most of the time that's a career highlight for most teams and definitely most coaches. We've just been setting a precedent of always coming home with big trophies and we definitely were in the running but a little bit of issues here and there took its toll."

Bucknam expresses similar sentiments.

"We came out a point and a half short of being a podium top four finish," Bucknam said. "Half of our 12 had never been to any NCAA [Championship] meet and they still finished in the top five in the country. When you look at the accomplishments, an SEC championship and a top five finish is nothing to be ashamed of."

At the NCAA Indoor Women's Championships Friday and Saturday in College Station, Texas, heavy favorite Oregon prevailed with 84 points followed by Georgia, 51, Alabama, 37, Southern California, 35 and Harter's No. 3 SEC champions with 32.5 points and Kentucky, sixth with 26.

At the NCAA Men's Indoor Championships Friday and Saturday in College Station, Bucknam's No. 2 ranked SEC champion men finished fifth with 33 points while host Texas A&M, 46, Florida, 45.5, Oregon, 38, and Georgia, 33.5 finished first through fourth.

Bucknam's men, 2016 NCAA Outdoor and NCAA Indoor runner-ups and from 2012 through 2016, second, first, second, third and second at the NCAA Indoor, and Harter's women, the reigning NCAA Outdoor champions and champions then runner-ups at the 2015 and 2016 NCAA Indoor, compile repeated successes to seem automatic. They aren't automatic and never were.

"We have to remind ourselves sometimes that at this level of competition there is no automatic," Harter said. "Anybody that thinks it's automatic ought to have second thoughts because it doesn't work that way."

One aspect of this NCAA Indoor automatically should accompany both Arkansas programs, a greater appreciation for their SEC accomplishments.

Other than third-place Oregon, the top six men's teams came from the SEC. Four of the women's top six are SEC.

That speaks volumes. With May's SEC Outdoor Harter's women seek completing their third consecutive and Bucknam's seek completing their second consecutive SEC Cross Country-Indoor-Outdoor triple crowns.

"We have two SEC titles and a triple crown if we can win the Outdoor and a shot at a national title outside," Bucknam said. "We have a lot ahead of us to be excited about."

So do Harter's women defending SEC and NCAA championships in the great outdoors.

Sports on 03/13/2017

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