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 teams primary contenders at NCAA meet
Arkansas jumper Jaydon Hibbert competes during his first-place performance in the triple jump finals, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023, during the Razorbacks’ championship sweep at the Southeastern Conference 2023 Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — The University of Arkansas men’s team hopes to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its last title at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships with another.
Arkansas, which won its 20th national indoor title in 2013, is favored to win at the 2023 NCAA Indoor meet, which begins today and runs through Saturday in Albuquerque, N.M.
The No. 1-ranked Razorbacks have 13 entries in nine events, including two defending NCAA champions with junior Ayden Owens-Delerme in the heptathlon and sophomore Wayne Pinnock in the long jump.
Arkansas freshman Jaydon Hibbert is the national leader in the triple jump and the Razobacks have the nation’s leading 1,600-meter relay team.
Ten Razorbacks have scored points at previous NCAA Indoor meets, including several transfers.
“We have a good energy, we have a good vibe with our team right now,” Arkansas men’s Coach Chris Bucknam said. “Having that kind of experience really helps.
“There’s the new energy of being a Razorback with some of our guys, too. It’ll be the first time they compete as a Razorback at a national championship.
“From what I can gather, everybody’s dialed in to help this team make a run at a national title.”
Challenging Arkansas will be No. 2 Washington, No. 3 Texas Tech and No. 4 Florida. The Gators have won five NCAA Indoor titles since 2010 with their most recent in 2019.
“Florida is always a dangerous team, and let’s face it, they’ve been the program of the decade so far,” Bucknam said. “They have huge experience and have won a lot of national titles. They’re scary good.”
Two weeks ago when Arkansas won its fourth consecutive SEC Indoor with 100.25 points and Florida took second with 73, the Razorbacks didn’t have to overextend themselves with the coaching staff keeping an eye toward nationals.
“We were kind of in third gear, I guess, that whole meet,” Bucknam said. “We still had to compete hard in a lot of events.”
The Razorbacks have reached the NCAA Indoor meet with a team ready to peak.
“But nothing’s easy, and we don’t take anything lightly,” Bucknam said. “Now we just have to go get the job done and execute the best that we can.”
Buckman said Arkansas being favored to win the national title hasn’t been a topic of conversation with the team.
“We all know in the back our minds that we are the No. 1 team in the country,” he said. “But we also know this track meet is a little bit different than the SEC meet. It comes down to star power, and how your star power performs at this particular meet.”
Arkansas’ women’s team, which won its ninth consecutive SEC Indoor title with 103.5 points to 84 for runner-up Florida, is ranked No. 3 behind Texas and the defending national champion Gators.
Razorbacks senior Lauren Gregory, who will run the mile, has scored 23 points in six races in previous NCAA Indoor meets, including taking second and third in the 3,000 meters and helping the distance medley relay to a second-place finish.
“Any time you have senior leadership it helps a lot,” said Arkansas women’s Coach Lance Harter, who led the Razorbacks to NCAA Indoor titles in 2019 and 2012. “It gives you a little bit more of a calming effect for the newcomers the first time the lights get a little bit brighter at the NCAA meet. It’s always nice to have experience.”
Arkansas junior Ackera Nugent, ranked No. 2 in the 60-meter hurdles, won the event in 2021 when she competed for Baylor.
Junior pole vaulter Amanda Fassold is competing at her first NCAA Indoor meet for the Razorbacks, but she finished second outdoors last year.
The Razorbacks are loaded in the 400 with six entries, led by sophomore Britton Wilson and juniors Amber Anning and Rosey Effiong. They also have the No. 1 times in the 1,600 and distance medley relays.
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