Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year three times.
Hogs runners make quick turnaround from indoors
Arkansas men's track coach Chris Bucknam watches during the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championship on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Chris Bucknam, coach of the University of Arkansas men’s cross country and track and field teams, usually knows what to expect from the Razorbacks going into a major competition.
But that won’t be the case at today’s NCAA Cross Cross Country Championships in Stillwater, Okla.
“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Bucknam said. “This is an experiment I’ve never been a part of before.
“I don’t know if it’s going to blow up or make wine. I have no idea. I just know our kids want to compete.”
Arkansas’ No. 3-ranked men’s cross country team and No. 1 women’s team will compete today with several runners who also took part in NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on Friday and Saturday in Fayetteville.
The Razorbacks’ women’s team won the NCAA indoor title and the UA men’s team took seventh.
Today’s cross country meet usually is run in November, but was rescheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m not happy how we came to this point — where we’re running the indoor and cross country meets two days part — because every decision we make in our office is based on what’s best for the student-athletes,” Bucknam said. “I think the NCAA made this decision for the ease of the cross country and track and field committee, so they could do it all on one weekend.
“I’m not happy about that, but we have the opportunity to compete, and we’ve got to go with the flow and compete when they tell us.”
Lance Harter, coach of Arkansas women’s cross country and track and field teams, isn’t happy about the situation, either.
“We have some kids who are going to be emotionally and physically taxed from what they had to do on Friday and Saturday,” Harter said. “But this is what the NCAA decided to do.”
Today’s women’s 6,000 meters race will start at 11:50 a.m. at Oklahoma State’s cross country course. The men’s 10,000 meters race will start at 12:40 p.m. The races will be televised live on ESPNU.
The projected lineup for the Arkansas women includes four runners who competed indoors — Krissy Gear, Abby Gray, Logan Morris and Gracie Hyde — along with Corrie Smith. Kennedy Thomson and Quinn Owen, who both competed indoors, also are possibilities along with Isabel Van Kemp.
“If we’re in the top 20 with our lineup, that would be an exceptional performance considering all the factors that are against us, and that most of the teams are all going to be fresh and focused on just cross country,” Harter said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
The Arkansas men’s projected lineup includes Amon Kemboi, Gilbert Boit, Jacob McLeod, Matt Young and Ryan Murphy — who all ran indoors — along with Emmanuel Cheboson and Luke Meade. Andrew Kibet, who ran indoors, also is available.
“Our guys are ready to run their butts off,” Bucknam said. “The odds are against us, but our guys are hungry to see what we can do and we’re going to give it our best shot.”
Adding to the challenge for the Arkansas teams today is that the Oklahoma State course is hilly.
“We know that the second half of the race is going to be incredibly challenging physically, and we have to prepare for that,” Bucknam said. “Hopefully we can get ourselves in a good position by the first 3,000 or 4,000 meters and be able to hang on and finish well.
“We can’t tap the brakes too much in the first few miles, but we’ve certainly got to have something left for the second half of the race.”
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