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.
Even without great runner, Razorbacks roll on
FAYETTEVILLE — As Arkansas’ most frequent national championship coach south of retired men’s 40-times national champion track coach John McDonnell, Lance Harter has hatched many a master plan.
His latest just imploded. Somehow spectacularly successfully it seems.
Arkansas’ 5-time national champion head coach of women’s cross country, indoor track and outdoor track, Harter schemed in 2019 to peak his Razorbacks for hosting the 2021 SEC Indoor Championships and the NCAA Indoor Championships at their Randal Tyson Indoor Track Center.
For the 2020 indoor and outdoor season he would redshirt senior Taylor Werner, the former SEC Runner of the Year, two-time SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year, and distance linchpin to Arkansas’ 2019 NCAA and SEC triple crowns.
“When you have a master plan that we have Taylor coming back, (Katie) Izzo, Lauren Gregory coming back, we’ve got some other people coming back, we should, be really, really salty indoors and outdoors,” Harter said.
A great plan until covid-19 and the offer from Puma athletic apparel interceded.
Thanks to covid, shoe companies began making earlier professional offers to collegians nervous if they will compete. The NCAA cancelled the 2020 NCAA Indoor Championships the day before they were to begin last March in Albuquerque, N.M., then cancelled the entire 2020 Outdoor season.
Although allowing conferences to conduct 2020 cross country, with Arkansas again winning the SEC, the NCAA postponed the NCAA Cross Country Championships until March 15 in Stillwater, Okla., just two days after the NCAA Indoor here.
Little wonder Werner, now training at Puma’s base in North Carolina, accepted an offer “too lucrative to turn down.”
Losing Werner the eve of their apex would turn off most programs’ national hopes.
Harter’s crew runs on. Not only Izzo and Gregory, compiling times among world leaders, but young Harter coached distance runners keep emerging while sprints coach Chris Johnson’s quarter-milers lead the world in the 1,600-meter relay with national scoring potential from the 60 through 800-meters.
Field events coach Bryan Compton continues working his pole vault magic. It doesn’t seem to matter that his returning All-SEC vaulter, Bailee McCorkle of Greenwood, stands a generously listed 5-4 compared to the naturally vault inclined 5-8 of Sandi Morris, Compton’s prize past NCAA champion Arkansas pupil and Olympics silver medalist he still trains as among the world’s best.
The training set so differently for all these disparate Harter-Johnson-Compton coached pieces seemed to take a simultaneous team rise just knowing Werner’s points have fallen.
So even minus Taylor Werner, Harter believes this indoor team could rank among his best.
“It definitely has that potential," Harter said. “Everyone felt the loss of Taylor but every one of them took a step up in we all need collectively to help fill that void. If we can just keep our wits about us for SEC Indoor and NCAA Indoor, I think we’ll have a lot of positive results.”
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