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 Cross Country teams gearing up for SEC championships
Arkansas coach Lance Harter watches Saturday, April 27, 2019, during the National Relay Championships at John McDonnell Field on the campus of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- One Arkansas Razorbacks team will likely win a SEC Cross Country Championship.
One Arkansas Razorbacks team likely won't.
The SEC women and SEC men run their respective Cross Country Championship races Friday in Lexington, Ky.
Coached by 4-times NCAA champion track coach Lance Harter, who long ago should have been voted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame but still isn't, the Razorbacks cross country women nationally rank No.1. They are prohibitive favorites Friday seeking their seventh consecutive SEC Cross Country title.
Their biggie is trying to string the NCAA Cross Country Championship Nov. 23 in Terre Haute, Ind., with the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Track national championships won last March and June.
"We are No. 1 in the nation and have some great frontrunners that have done a fantastic job led by Taylor Werner," Harter said. "So if we just keep our wits about us and realize that this is a title that is very cherished, we'll use that race plan to make a statement and ultimately get us ready for Terre Haute."
Chris Bucknam, also a national championship coach with one NCAA Indoor, coached the Razorbacks men to eight straight SEC Cross Country titles from 2010-2017.
Ole Miss interrupted the streak, 36-44 last year. Much as Bucknam yearns to regain the SEC title, next year seems his time to regain it.
With Ryan Murphy, one of his top runners, not 100 percent from a foot injury that hasn't allowed him to compete this season, though Murphy likely will try Friday since he previously redshirted, and some recruiting help expected, Bucknam cross country redshirts senior Gilbert Boit saved for 2020. Boit is the 2018 SEC Cross Country champion and a 2019 SEC Indoor and SEC Outdoor champion. So Friday No. 2 man Matt Young becomes Arkansas' No. 1 minus Boit plus Murphy not 100 percent.
"We are going in with one hand tied behind our back," Bucknam said. "But I just feel for the long haul it's time to set the reset button with the program. Next year we'll have Gilbert, a healthy Murphy, Young and we're working on some other things where we really feel good about moving forward. And we're not going in laying down in Lexington. We'll compete. Anything can happen."
Harter's team took a hit when Katrina Robinson, his best 2018 cross country runner, had to redshirt this cross country campaign because of injuries compelling her to redshirt as a 2018 track freshman both indoors and outdoors.
Joining top returnees Werner, Devin Clark, Carina Viljoen, Lauren Gregory, Maddy Reed and Abby Gray, California Poly-San Luis Obispo transfer Katie Izzo has stunned right behind Werner.
"She came in and has exceeded anyone's expectations including her own," Harter said. "She says, 'Sometimes I wake up and think I'm in a movie!'"
Seems Izzo is Arkansas' second most impactful transfer from Cal Poly-SLO.
Long former Cal Poly-SLO coach Harter, coaching 33 Arkansas SEC championships with four Arkansas national championships, still ranks first.
Sports on 10/28/2019
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