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.
Arkansas women, men look to run away with titles at SEC Indoors
Members of the Arkansas women's indoor track and field team celebrates Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, after winning the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championship at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Coach Lance Harter’s Arkansas Razorbacks’ women’s program intends continuing history while Coach Chris Bucknam’s men’s program intends remaking history at the SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Friday and Saturday in College Station, Texas, Texas A&M hosts the SEC Men’s and SEC Women’s meets.
Harter’s Razorbacks, reigning NCAA and SEC champions from 2019 Indoor and Outdoor Track and Cross Country, defend the second jewel of their SEC triple crown. Out of the last 19 SEC Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor Championships, they have won 17.
“A lot of kids that are on this team have never not won,” Harter said. “That’s all they know. Hopefully some of our newcomers are willing to fight and battle like some of our predecessors. Our alumni established that type of tradition, and hopefully our young ones will follow suit by the example that has already been set up for them.”
Some eligible not just as past example setters but current major scorers won’t be scoring. They’re redshirting, either injured or as current seniors Harter wants eligible for the 2021 NCAA Indoor Championships that Arkansas hosts.
By themselves redshirting All-American distance runners Taylor Werner, Lauren Gregory and Katrina Robinson, injured since her 2018 All-American cross country season and this week returned to her Australian home, and All-American sprinters Jada Baylark and Keithlin Campbell might outscore several entire SEC teams.
“They’d probably push for the top half of the conference,” Harter said. “They definitely have some scoring firepower; there’s no doubt about it.”
Subtract them and so many Arkansas 2019 senior All-Americans propelling last year’s SEC and NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Track titles, how can Arkansas repeat its SEC Indoor title?
“Considering some of the decisions we’ve made to redshirt and save some of our people for this next year and also our outdoor season, we’re going to make it very, very close,” Harter concedes, though certainly not conceding the championship.
The Katie Izzo, Devin Clark, Carina Viljoen, Maddy Reed returnees from national champion cross country will double and triple as will sprinters striving again to keep Harter lonely.
“I don’t have a lot of friends in the SEC as far as in the battle of competition because we’ve been so dominant the past few years,” Harter said smiling. “So if there’s a person that stands alone a lot of the time at meets, it’s myself.”
John McDonnell, the retired 42 times national champion/84 times conference champion Arkansas men’s coach, and Bucknam, 19 SEC championships upon succeeding McDonnell, spent much meet time alone at the top.
So Bucknam hasn’t enjoyed recent company with no SEC titles since 2017.
After a rash of injuries and close but no cigars into last year overachieving just to be SEC Indoor and Outdoor runner-up, Bucknam and assistants Doug Case and Mario Sategna believe they have the across the board healthy firepower again truly to contend.
“We’re very diversified from sprints, jumps, hurdles, distance,” Case said. “The guys feel like we’re in it to win it.”
Have a comment on this story? Join the discussion or start a new one on the Forums.