Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a voter for the Heisman Trophy, has been inducted into the Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, and has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
UA women could win SEC Indoor without an individual champ
Arkansas' Kiara Parker smiles Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, as she sees her time in the finals of the 60 meters during the Razorback Invitational in the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas' nationally No. 1 defending SEC Women's Indoor Track and Field champions defend their SEC championship without an individually defending SEC champion.
Coach Lance Harter's Razorbacks women and Coach Chris Bucknam's Razorbacks men host the SEC Indoor Championships on Friday and Saturday at the Randal Tyson Indoor Track.
His Razorbacks have so excelled that it startled Harter when he realized only his team as a whole defends a conference crown.
"We are going in with no defending champions," Harter said. "That's interesting. We'll try to change that."
Returning senior Payton Chadwick, (Peyton Stumbaugh when she starred at Springdale Har-Ber) won last year's NCAA Indoor 60-meter hurdles but ran fourth at last year's SEC Indoor 60-meter hurdles.
Lexi Jacobus -- Lexi Weeks growing up in Cabot with pole vaulting twin-sister Tori Weeks-become-Tori Hoggard -- won last year's NCAA Indoor pole vault but was third in last year's SEC Indoor.
Hoggard, also returning as a former SEC champion, was second in last year's SEC.
Three All-American vaulters, a slew of sprinters headed by Chadwick, Kiara Parker, Jada Baylark and Janeek Brown, pentathlete Kelsey Herman of Crossett, and distance runners Taylor Werner, Devin Clark, Lauren Gregory and Carina Viljoen off Arkansas' SEC champion cross country team all are capable of winning.
Or none could in a field of great individuals from every team, especially No. 4 LSU, No. 6 Kentucky and No. 7 Florida.
Watching SEC talent today previews Olympics and World Championships tomorrow, Harter and Bucknam say.
Regardless whether any of Arkansas women wins a SEC individual title, expect Harter's crew to repeat as champions.
With 34 team conference championship and two national championships, upon coaching Arkansas track and cross country since 1990, Harter has coached some of the sport's greatest teams. This one on paper measures among his best.
"With our approach in the sprints, vault, multis (pentathlon) and the distances, with our depth we're capable of scoring in a lot of events," Harter said. "I think we'll be the prohibitive favorite, but at the same time we have to execute."
Bucknam, with 19 SEC championships and a national championship since succeeding 42-time national champion John McDonnell as Arkansas' men's track/cross country coach in 2008, also has coached some of the sport's great teams.
This isn't one of them in an obviously rebuilding year. Though nationally ranked below eight SEC teams with No. 3 Florida deeper on the conference level than No. 2 Texas A&M, Bucknam feels better about his Razorbacks -- led by Cameron Griffith tripling in the mile, 3,000 and anchor of the defending SEC champion distance medley relay -- now than at any stage this season.
"Clearly Florida has got the nod, but I'm not counting ourselves out," Bucknam said. "There's a path for us to win. We feel we are going to contend, but we are going to have to have a great meet. We are doubling and tripling and doing everything in our power to win a conference championship."
Sports on 02/20/2019
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.