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.
Razorbacks win SEC indoors for 26th time
Arkansas men’s head coach Chris Bucknam (left) celebrates with his team, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, following the Razorbacks’ championship sweep at the Southeastern Conference 2023 Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — University of Arkansas junior Ayden Owens-Delerme could have coasted in the 1,000 meters and still won the heptathlon by a comfortable margin at the SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships, but that’s not his style.
After Auburn sophomore Michael May took the lead, Owens-Delerme kicked it into high gear and won the 1,000 in 2 minutes, 36.45 seconds and finished with an SEC meet record 6,237 points on Saturday at the Randal Tyson Center.
“I’ve got to defend the home turf for the Hogs,” Owens-Delerme said. “Look, I’m not going to lose at SECs in the final event.
“Like I always say, the star closes the show. That’s what I wanted to do.”
Owens-Delerme, last year’s NCAA heptathlon champion, helped No. 1-ranked Arkansas win the team title with 100.25 points. Florida was second with 73 points.
It was the Razorbacks’ fourth consecutive SEC Indoor title and 26th overall.
“We got the job done,” Arkansas Coach Chris Bucknam said. “I’m really proud of the team. It’s a battle out there.
“I just love how our kids competed and how they fought.”
Arkansas also got a victory Saturday from freshman Jaydon Hibbert, who went a personal-best and collegiate-leading mark of 56 feet, 11/4 inches on his second attempt to win the triple jump.
Hibbert, who is from Jamaica, turned 18 on Jan. 17.
“Awesome effort by Jaydon,” Bucknam said. “He was really nervous about this meet. He knows how important it is for our program.
“I don’t think he’s been in an atmosphere like this until now, but he’s talented, no question about that.”
Hibbert said he felt grateful to win an SEC individual title and contribute to Arkansas’ team victory.
“As an 18-year-old, it’s crazy that I won today,” Hibbert said. “The SEC is one of the biggest conferences — if not the biggest — and to win, I’m really, really thankful for this.
“It feels surreal right now. I’m trying to soak it in.”
A Georgia athlete had won the SEC heptathlon the previous 10 years. That streak stopped with Georgia senior Johannes Erm taking second on Saturday with 5,935 points.
“I had no idea about Georgia’s streak,” Owens-Delerme said. “But they’re in my house, and I’m in the competition, so it’s game on.”
Owens-Delerme, competing in his first multi-event competition since taking fourth in the decathlon at the World Championships in June, broke the previous SEC meet record in the heptathlon of 6,047 points by Georgia’s Devon Williams in 2015. His total also ranks No. 6 on the all-time collegiate list.
“Ayden’s a phenomenal athlete with a great work ethic and will to win,” Bucknam said. “Just a tough, tough competitor and is a great example of what our team is all about.”
The highlight of this weekend’s heptathlon, Owens-Delerme said, was going a personal-best 25-31/4 in the long jump on Friday. His other marks on Saturday included 7.80 in the 60-meter hurdles and cleared 15-7 in the pole vault.
“It was a great season opener for me,” Delerme-Owens said. “So to put it together like that and come out healthy, I’m happy.
“I’m nowhere near my peak. If anything, we’re slightly behind. We’re building for the NCAA Championships, and especially outdoors.”
Arkansas scored 16 points in the shot put with senior Jordan West taking second (66-10), junior Roje Stona third (65-6) and sophomore Ralford Mullings seventh (61-7).
Razorbacks senior Chris Bailey took third in the 400 in 45.13 and sophomore Kason O’Riley cleared 7-13/4 to take fourth in the high jump.
Senior Lance Lang scored in the 200 (fifth in 20.62) and 60 (eighth in 6.82) for the Razorbacks.
Carey McLeod, an Arkansas senior, took sixth in the triple jump (53-81/4) after finishing third in Friday night’s long jump. Razorbacks senior Ryan Brown was seventh (52-51/2).
“We always want to win this meet, because it’s an important glue to our whole history,” Bucknam said. “It never gets old. We’ll try to keep winning them.
The Razorbacks scored 18 points in the heptathlon with Marcus Weaver, a junior transfer for the Razorbacks from NCAA Division III Wisconsin-Eau Claire, taking fourth with 5,760 points and junior Daniel Spejcher sixth with 5,602.
“Whenever my teammates make a mark, that just motivates me,” Owens-Delerme said. “It was a really kind of a relaxed environment and we had a blast.”
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