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.
UA track fully aware Florida looms
Chris Bucknam, Arkansas head men's track and field coach, reacts during a men's distance medley relay during the National Relay Championships at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Those same Florida Gators that Arkansas’ men’s and women’s teams vanquished sweeping the SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships Feb. 24-25 in Fayetteville nonetheless loom large as Arkansas aims sweeping the NCAA Indoor Championships Friday and Saturday in Albuquerque, N.M.
Chris Bucknam’s Razorbacks men nationally rate No. 1, but he warns Nos. 2 through 4 – Washington, Florida, Texas Tech – possess prevailing potential.
Bucknam’s men won the 2022 SEC Indoor and Outdoor but Florida won the 2022 NCAA Outdoor.
Harter’s women won the 2022 SEC Indoor but Florida won the NCAA Indoor.
Six-time national champion coach Harter explained contrasting a conference’s best overall team vs. the NCAA-qualified cream.
“The SEC meet is much more of a depth meet,” Harter said. “We had some younger people score with no chance to score at the NCAA.”
Harter has plenty Albuquerque bound led by SEC champion miler Lauren Gregory, also anchoring the distance medley relay, nationally leading SEC pole vault champion Amanda Fassold, four from the nationally leading SEC champion 4 x400 relay individually 400-meter dash qualified, and SEC 60-meters hurdles runner-up Ackera Nugent.
Yet nationally Harter’s Razorbacks rank third behind No. 1 Texas and Florida.
All seem so evenly matched that Harter estimated a possible 54-points triple tie.
“Florida claims they are much better than they were last year and they won the national title,” Harter said. “Texas is better than they’ve ever been. We feel we have one of the best teams that we’ve ever put together.”
Bucknam said his No. 1 ranked Razorbacks, No. 3 Florida and No. 4 Texas Tech collide often, but Arkansas’ Washington differential will be determined almost entirely by others.
“We match up with Washington only in the distance medley relay,” Bucknam said. “Every other team running against Washington has an Arkansas uniform as far as I’m concerned.”
Albuquerque’s 5,000-feet altitude and condensed schedule, the entire women’s meet cramming Friday and Saturday afternoons and the entire men’s meet Friday and Saturday nights, adds stress on those doubling.
“To me, altitude is only a factor if you talk about it,” Bucknam said. “We’re not talking about it.”
He prefers talking about Ayden Owens-Delerme, the reigning NCAA Indoor heptathlon champion/NCAA Outdoor decathlon champion, and recent SEC Indoor heptathlon champion, and heptathlete Yariel Soto Torrado, rested during the SEC meet, Razorbacks 400-meter record holder Chris Bailey and the nation’s leading 4x400 relay team, freshman triple jumper Jaydon Hibbert, the nationally leading SEC champion, Tennessee transfer/defending NCAA long jump champion Wayne Pinnock, Tennessee transfer long jumper-triple jumper Carey McLeod and Tennessee transfer/Razorbacks record-setting SEC runner-up shotputter Jordan West, SEC third-placer shotputter Roje Stona and Cross Country All-American Patrick Kiprop, 5,000 meters.
This seems Bucknam’s Hogs best national championship shot since winning the 2013 indoor.
“It probably is the deepest team we’ve had – shot put, distance, sprints, hep, both relays” Bucknam said. “All the guys we have going are ranked in the top 10.”
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