UA's SEC title grip loosened

By: Bob Holt
Published: Monday, May 14, 2018
Arkansas women's track and field coach Lance Harter watches during the Arkansas Open Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015, at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas women's track and field coach Lance Harter watches during the Arkansas Open Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015, at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.

There were Gator chomps at the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships instead of Hog calls Sunday night in Knoxville, Tenn.

Florida swept the men's and women's titles at a meet where the Arkansas Razorbacks traditionally have celebrated.

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Florida's No. 1-ranked men's team won with 111 points. Texas A&M took second with 100 points, and the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville settled for third with 99.

The Gators' No. 9 women's team won with 91 points to edge LSU, which was second with 88.5.

The Arkansas women's team finished tied with Kentucky for sixth with 70 points as the Razorbacks had their streak of SEC championships in cross country and indoor and outdoor track end at 12.

It was the first time the Razorbacks failed to win a conference title in four years since they took third at the SEC indoor meet behind Florida and Texas A&M.

"All good things come to an end sooner or later, especially in the SEC because every time you win, there's 13 other schools looking at the idea of, 'OK, what do we have to do to put them away?' " Arkansas women's Coach Lance Harter said. "If you're not at 100 percent, you're going to take your lumps, because this is the best conference in the United States and they'll push you down as fast as they possibly can."

The Razorbacks were missing several key athletes who are redshirting.

"The kids that we did bring fought the great fight," Harter said. "I thought if we could score 70 points here that we'd be right on target to take care of business, and that's exactly what we ended up with.

"The place we finished unfortunately is sixth, but right now we've got to take what we can as a positive. We probably left 50 points at home."

Arkansas juniors Lexi Jacobus and Tori Hoggard -- twin sisters from Cabot -- took 1-2 in the pole vault.

Jacobus cleared 15 feet, 3 inches to take the national lead and won her fourth SEC title with two indoors and two outdoors. Hoggard, who won the 2017 SEC indoor title and was runner-up to her sister at the NCAA indoor meet this year, cleared 14-9 to finish second.

Senior Taliyah Brooks anchored Arkansas to a third-place finish in the 400-meter relay in 43.26 -- along with Kiara Parker, Jada Baylark and Janeek Brown running legs -- and she took fourth in the 100 hurdles (12.94). Brown, a freshman, was third in the hurdles in 12.84.

Baylark, a sophomore from Little Rock Parkview, took seventh in the 200 in 23.11 and also ran on the Razorbacks' 400 relay and seventh-place 1,600 relay.

Arkansas senior Nikki Hiltz, running outdoors for the first time this season at the SEC meet after recovering from a knee injury, was fourth in the 1,500 in 4:22.17. Carina Viljoen (4:24.52) took fifth.

Senior Kemar Mowatt led the Arkansas men, winning his second consecutive SEC title in the 400 hurdles in 49.32. Mowatt also ran on the Razorbacks' 400 relay, which finished second to LSU by .05 seconds, and on Arkansas' fourth-place 1,600 relay team.

"Kemar had an outstanding meet," Arkansas men's Coach Chris Bucknam said. "He couldn't have done much more than he did."

LSU won the 400 in 38.755, with an Arkansas quartet of Roy Ejiakuekwu, Mowatt, Kevin Harris and Kenzo Cotton running 38.760.

"That's just been our year right there," Bucknam said of narrowly missing a victory in the 400 relay. "We're just so frustrated to come up short again."

Cotton, a senior and 16-time All-American, took seventh in the 100 (10.24) and eighth in the 200 (25.46).

Bucknam said Cotton suffered a strained hamstring in the 100 and ran in the 200 because he was assured of scoring at least a point as long as he finished.

"Hopefully, it's not too serious," Bucknam said. "But Kenzo just couldn't go full out in the 200."

Junior Cameron Griffith finished second in the 1,500 (3:47.02) and sixth in the 5,000 (14:09.21). Junior Obi Igbokwe took sixth in the 200 (20.52) and seventh in the 400 (45.88), and he also anchored the 1,600 relay.

"I'm proud of the way our guys competed," Bucknam said. "I don't know if we could have performed much better. Our kids left it all out there on the track.

"There's nothing wrong with the culture of what we're doing. We were just short a few bodies. Nobody laid down, nobody gave up. We fought to the end."

Sports on 05/14/2018

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