SEC OUTDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS: Buckram looking for reversal of '10

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, May 11, 2018
Arkansas track coach Chris Bucknam reacts during the men's distance medley relay during the National Relay Championships on Saturday, April 28, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas track coach Chris Bucknam reacts during the men's distance medley relay during the National Relay Championships on Saturday, April 28, 2018, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Chris Bucknam, the Arkansas Razorbacks' men's track and field coach, has returned this weekend to the scene of what he considers the low point of his 39-year career.

Bucknam is back in Knoxville, Tenn., for the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which begin today and run through Sunday.


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WHEN Today through Sunday

WHERE Tom Black Track, Knoxville, Tenn.

DEFENDING CHAMPIONS Men: Texas A&M. Women: Arkansas

FAVORITES Men: No. 1 Florida, No. 3 Alabama, No. 5 Texas A&M, No. 8 Arkansas. Women: No. 1 LSU, No. 4 Arkansas, No. 5 Kentucky, No. 6 Georgia.

INTERNET SEC Network-Plus Friday and Saturday.

TELEVISION SEC Network on Sunday.

The meet is being hosted by Tennessee for the first time since 2010 when Bucknam was in his second year at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville and the Razorbacks scored 64 points to finish tied for seventh with Mississippi State. Florida won with 124 points.

"It was the low point of my career as a track coach," Bucknam said. "I don't think I'd ever finished seventh in anything."

The previous year, the Razorbacks won the SEC title, continuing the success the program had enjoyed under John McDonnell, Bucknam's predecessor as coach.

"If you can remember when I first got here, there were a lot of fifth-year seniors," Bucknam said. "Those guys did a heck of a job. But after that year, the cupboard was kind of bare."

Bucknam redshirted several newcomers in 2010 because he believed it was best for Arkansas in the long term. He didn't anticipate the level of disappointment in what happened at the SEC meet -- which the Razorbacks had won outdoors 15 of the previous 18 years since joining the conference and never finished lower than third.

"It was a punch of the nose to be seventh," Bucknam said. "But it also was a defining moment for me. I kept saying to people around me, 'We're going to be better next year,' and we were. We got back to where Arkansas belonged."

The Razorbacks won the SEC championship in 2011 for the start of a three-year title run.

"We really had to dig hard to come out of that," said Bucknam, praising assistant coaches Doug Case and Travis Geopfert. "What I'm really proud about is that a year after finishing seventh, we came back and won the SEC meet."

Geopfert, who competed for Bucknam at Northern Iowa, was in his first year at Arkansas in 2010.

"I think what Coach Bucknam did and what our team did was respond to adversity in a positive manner," Geopfert said. "We took our lumps, but came back as a staff and got the guys energized and refocused for next year.

"That chip on our shoulder really catapulted us to where we got things rolling again."

The No. 8 Razorbacks are looking to win their 20th SEC outdoor title -- and fifth under Bucknam -- after finishing second to Texas A&M last year.

Four SEC teams are ranked ahead of Arkansas: No. 1 Florida, No. 3 Alabama, No. 5 Texas A&M and No. 6 Georgia.

"It's going to be a five-way battle," Bucknam said. "We've got to be dialed in and ready to go."

Arkansas will be led by Kenzo Cotton (100, 200 and 400 relay, Kemar Mowatt (400 hurdles, 400 and 1,600 relays), Jack Bruce (1,500, 5,000), and Cameron Griffith (1,500, 5,000), but Bucknam said it will take a total team effort to win the title.

"It's all hands on deck for us," said Bucknam, whose Razorbacks have won 21 SEC championships in cross country and indoor and outdoor track. "We're not holding anything back.

"We're going to give it our best shot and see if we can get our title back."

Sports on 05/11/2018


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