SEC OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS:

UA again track capital of the world for weekend

By: Bob Holt
Published: Thursday, May 9, 2019
Arkansas' Janeek Brown clears a hurdle Saturday, April 27, 2019, while competing in the 100-meter shuttle hurdles during the National Relay Championships at John McDonnell Field on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas' Janeek Brown clears a hurdle Saturday, April 27, 2019, while competing in the 100-meter shuttle hurdles during the National Relay Championships at John McDonnell Field on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Hosting the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships isn't as rare as seeing Halley's Comet every 75 years, but after this weekend the meet may not return to the University of Arkansas until 2033.

Razorbacks women's Coach Lance Harter, 69, and men's Coach Chris Bucknam, 62, both said they expect this to be the last time they get to coach their teams at home at the SEC outdoors.

SEC OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD CHAMPIONSHIPS

WHEN Today through Saturday

WHERE John McDonnell Field, Fayetteville

DEFENDING CHAMPIONS Men: Florida. Women: Florida

TICKETS $25 adults for all 3 days, $10 17-and-under for all 3 days. Daily tickets $10 for adults and $5 for 17-and-under. First 50 UA students admitted for free with valid ID.

SEC teams rotate the outdoor meet, so Arkansas may have to wait 14 years, though sometimes teams host out of turn.

Arkansas previously hosted the meet in 1994 and 2006.

"If somebody wants to have a taste of the Olympics that are coming to Tokyo in 2020, some of those athletes are going to be competing right here in our backyard this weekend," Harter said. "You might see some world-class performances because the track is super fast."

Bucknam said there's no doubt the SEC is the best track and field conference.

Eight of the top 10 nationally ranked women's teams are in the SEC, led by No. 1 Arkansas, No. 2 Texas A&M and No. 4 Kentucky.

The SEC has eight men's teams ranked among the top 20, led by No. 2 LSU, No. 4 Florida and No. 5 Texas A&M. The Razorbacks are ranked No. 20.

"It's not even arguable that the SEC is the best conference. We all know it's the best," Bucknam said. "If you count the top track meets in the world on one hand, I have to the SEC Championships as one of them."

Harter is in his 29th year at Arkansas, so he led the Razorbacks in both of the previous two SEC outdoors in Fayetteville, where the meet's 86th edition runs today through Saturday at John McDonnell Field.

This is the first SEC outdoors at home for Bucknam, who is in his 11th year with the Razorbacks since replacing McDonnell.

"I was 51 when I got the job here, and I wish I had been 41 so I'd be able to go through a cycle when we host the meet again," said Bucknam, who came to Arkansas from Northern Iowa and has won five SEC outdoor titles. "But I'm glad I've lasted 11 years to be able to coach in this meet here in Fayetteville."

Arkansas' women's team, which won the NCAA indoor title, is favored at home this weekend led by pole vaulters Lexi Jacobus and Tori Hoggard, sprinters Janeek Brown and Payton Chadwick and distance runners Taylor Werner and Lauren Gregory.

The Razorback won this year's SEC indoor title with 155 points. It was the 14th conference championship in the last 15 meets in cross country and indoor and outdoor track. They finished tied for sixth at last year's outdoor meet -- Florida won the title -- to stop a streak of 12 consecutive championships.

"I think there's a pretty good-sized target on our back," Harter said. "There's no doubt about it. What momentum we created indoors has carried over to the outdoor meet. That's very positive for us."

Arkansas is going for its sixth SEC triple crown for the women -- winning cross country and indoor and outdoor track titles in the same school year.

"Any SEC championship is obviously a prized possession, and to win a triple crown is even more special," Harter said. "We want to put on a good show, especially at home."

The Arkansas men, led by decathlete Gabe Moore and distance runners Gilbert Boit and Cameron Griffith, are going for their 20th SEC outdoor title and first since 2016.

"It's hard to predict the winner, but I have to give LSU the nod," Bucknam said. "I think we're all chasing them, and they're the team to beat.

"But I think we're right in the mix of teams with Florida, Texas A&M, Alabama and Georgia that also have a chance to win. You can't count any of us out. I don't think there's one super dominant team."

Bucknam and Harter both praised the preparation Arkansas' facilities staff has put in, not only at John McDonnell Field for the SEC meet, but also at the football team's indoor and outdoor practice fields that will be used as warmup areas.

"Our staff created sprint lanes down the middle of the Walker Pavilion with a Mondo surface on top of the football field," Bucknam said. "I'm appreciative of the time and effort it took to set that up so we'll have a first-class meet in every way."

Sports on 05/09/2019

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