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 four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Arkansas' Wilson could not be caught
Arkansas runner Britton Wilson set a school record in the 400-meter hurdles for the third time this season with a time of 54.23 seconds Saturday at the SEC Outdoor Championships in Oxford, Miss. Wilson also bested the Ole Miss Track and Field Complex facility record of 54.50, which was set in 2001.
FAYETTEVILLE — In the first 41 years of the women’s SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships from 1981-2021, no athlete won the 400 meters and 400-meter hurdles at the same meet.
University of Arkansas sophomore Britton Wilson changed that in a big way on Saturday in Oxford, Miss.
Wilson became the first female to win both events at the same SEC meet and did so in record-setting fashion.
First Wilson won the 400 in 50.05 seconds, which set Arkansas’ school record. She broke the mark of 50.25 run by Taylor Ellis-Watson in 2016.
An hour after the 400, Wilson won the 400 hurdles in 53.75 to break her own record of 54.23 she set in Thursday night’s preliminaries.
Wilson then anchored the Razorbacks’ 1,600-meter relay team — which also included Morgan Burks-Magee, Rosey Effiong and Jada Baylark — to a school-record 3:22.55, which was good for third behind Kentucky (3:21.93) and Texas A&M (3:22.01).
The Wildcats and Aggies both bettered the previous collegiate record of 3:22.34 by Texas A&M in 2021.
Wilson’s relay split was timed at 48.6 — faster than other anchor times by Kentucky’s Abby Steiner (48.8) and Texas A&M’s Charokee Young (48.9).
Both Wilson’s 400 and 400 hurdles times rank No. 6 on the all-time collegiate list. Her 400 hurdles time leads the world this season.
No male athlete has won the SEC 400 and 400 hurdles since 1977 when the conference changed from yards to meters. The only male who won the 400-yard dash and 400-yard hurdles before the metric change was Auburn’s David Atkins in 1966 — the year the 400-hurdles race was added.
“Britton Wilson, my gosh, that’s unbelievable what she just did,” Arkansas Coach Lance Harter said. “Unless you witness it, you think, ‘That’s impossible. That can’t happen.’
“But she and Chris Johnson just have this perfect formula and they did a phenomenal job.”
Johnson is the Razorbacks’ sprints coach and is set to succeed Harter, who will retire after the 2023 outdoor season.
Wilson has flourished working with Johnson since transferring to Arkansas this year from Tennessee.
“What Chris and Britton can do together is magic,” Harter said. “I mean, absolute magic.”
Wilson’s performance helped No. 5-ranked Arkansas score 103 points and take second in the team race behind No. 3 Florida, which won with 107.
Since the start of the 2013-14 school year, Florida is the only women’s team to win an SEC cross country or indoor and outdoor track and field title other than Arkansas.
The Razorbacks have won 23 of a possible 26 conference championships in that span with Florida winning three (2014 indoors and 2018 and this year outdoors).
“To have the string of championships that we’ve been able to put together since the fall of 2013, we’ll take that,” Harter said. “Every one of these SEC meets is a battle, so to do what our kids have over a long period of time is remarkable.”
Arkansas junior Amanda Fassold won the pole vault by clearing a personal-best 14 feet, 9 inches. Senior Lauren Gregory took second in the 1,500 and third in the 5,000; sophomore Isabel Van Camp was third in the 10,000 and fourth in the 5,000; and senior Logan Jolly was third in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and seventh in the 5,000.
“Our kids just fought their tails off,” Harter said. “We identified in our [Saturday] morning meeting that it could be a two- to five-point meet, and we could be on the sunny side of it or the dark side of it.
“Florida was able to score some points in events where we didn’t expect, and that was the difference.”
Wilson helped Arkansas score 26 points with 10 each in the 400 and 400 hurdles and 6 on the relay.
“I’ve been working for this,” Wilson said in an interview with the SEC Network. “I’m just really glad I got the opportunity to show everyone what I could do.”
Harter, in his 33rd year at Arkansas and 44th as a college head coach, said what Wilson did at the SEC meet was as good a performance as he’s seen from a collegiate athlete.
“It’s got to be No. 1,” Harter said. “What she did was absolutely phenomenal. I’d venture to say it compares to anybody in the history of collegiate track and field.
“I’m glad I was able to witness it, and I’m glad that she wears the Razorback uniform.”
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