Razorbacks

Hogs Sweep Track

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – Like Peanuts’ Lucy yanking the football just before a determined Charlie Brown can kick it, the other SEC Outdoor Men’s and Women’s track and field teams ended the championship meet Charlie Brown sprawled flat on their backs.

Again.

For again overwhelming on the 5,000 meters, the three-day meets’ second to last event, Coach Lance Harter’s Arkansas Razorbacks women and Coach Chris Bucknam’s Arkansas Razorbacks men won their SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championship meets Saturday at Texas A&M’s E.B. Cushing Stadium in College Station, Texas.

For both teams their Outdoor success completed SEC triple crowns each having won SEC Cross Country last fall and SEC Indoor Track and Field last winter.

With the 2020 SEC Outdoor not run because of the covid pandemic cancellations, Harter’s women completed their seventh SEC triple crown in school history and have compiled an amazing 21 team titles of the last 22 SEC Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor meets.

Bucknam’s men, traditionally SEC dominant, regained the SEC Outdoor they last won in 2016 but continued a SEC roll. Since 2019, Bucknam’s men stand SEC 5-0 with successive SEC Cross Country and SEC Indoor Championships and now the SEC Outdoor and his program’s fourth SEC triple crown since succeeding retired Arkansas legend John McDonnell in 2008-2009.

Amon Kemboi, third earlier Saturday in the 1,500, and Emmanuel Cheboson, fourth in Friday’s steelpechase, led an Arkansas one-two 5,000 meters 26-points charge. Razorbacks Gilbert Boit and Matt Young, registered fourth and sixth place finishes after would have been Alabama runner-up Vincent Kiprop and would have been sixth-place Razorback Luke Meade were disqualified for bumping each other.

Bucknam’s nationally 13th-ranked men surpassed nationally No. 1 ranked LSU and nationally 11th-ranked Alabama and added six third-place points in the 4 x 400 relay. Arkansas’ men totaled 129 teams points to Alabama’s 109 and LSU’s 108.

Arkansas’ women, with Katie Izzo second to Alabama’s Mercy Chelengat with Razorbacks Lauren Gregory, fourth, Devin Clark, sixth and Krissy Gear, Thursday’s surprising 3,000-meter steeplechase champions, seventh totaled 17 5,000-meter points and with five fourth-place points also outpointed contenders LSU and Alabama in the closing 4 x 400 relay.

Harter’s Razorbacks entered the meet nationally No. 2 to LSU’s No. 1 with SEC members Texas A&M, Georgia, Alabama and Florida nationally ranked third, sixth, seventh and 10th.

For the SEC meet, Harter’s women totaled 127 team points to LSU’s 120.5 and Alabama’s 116.

Dashing the wannabes hopes with 5,000 meters dominance from their SEC Cross Country teams is a tried and true Arkansas formula.

“At the team meeting this (Saturday) morning I told the kids as close this meet is going the 5,000 and the mile relay are going to determine who wins and who doesn’t,” Harter said. “Because LSU and Alabama both have a lot of weapons and we could be behind and having to play catch-up and sure enough that’s exactly what happened. I told the 5,000 crew, ‘I’m sorry, ladies, but we’ve got to do it again. And they were more than nodding with a smile going OK we know we’ve got to do.’ I told the 5K crew, ‘We need 12 points to tie them and anything over the top of that is as bonus and obviously we made it more.”

Bucknam’s men closed the SEC Outdoor with the distance dominance that closed SEC Indoor with their team title.

“Kind of an old school win wasn’t it?,” Bucknam said Saturday night. “I was really proud of the team. We got off to a little bit of a slow start on Thursday but guys really stepped up on Friday and did some good things with our qualifiers and then we just competed like crazy today. Our guys were dialed in.”

Harter and Bucknam coach the distance runners and certainly they went the distance.

For the women that started Thursday night with Izzo second to Chelengat and Clark fourth in the 10,000 and Friday with Gear, 9:38.62 shattering second-place favorite Joyce Kameli of Auburn, 9:47.32, in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

“Kimeli was the national leader and a phenomenal talent,” Harter said. “But Kimeli made a huge tactical error pace wise and basically just fried herself. Krissy is no slouch and was able to spot her (Kimeli) being in trouble with two laps to go and then reeled her in. That was a new school record and a huge step in the right direction.”

Arkansas’ women sprinters, coached by Chris Johnson and the Bryan Compton coached pole vaulters came through big time. Vaulters Nastassja Campbell, Lauren Martinez and Bailee McCorkle, first, second and seventh, totaled 17 team points.

Hamburg’s Tiana Wilson ran on Arkansas’ third and fourth place 4×100 and 4×400 relays and placed fifth and seventh in Saturday’s 200 and 400 meters while in Saturday’s 100-meter hurdles Daszay Freeman (12.81 for third), Yoveinny Mota (12.91 for fourth) and Jayla Hollis, 12.97 for seventh, all broke 13.0.

“Chris Johnson does just an absolutely amazing job and is able to do it over and over again,” Harter said Saturday. “The vault yesterday really made a statement to everyone. I think it created so much positive momentum that it was a huge springboard into today. Bryan Compton did a fantastic job of having all those kids ready.”

Bucknam’s distance runners, including a 22-point 10,000 meters Thursday paced by Boit’s runner-up, and Friday’s 17-points steeplechase paced by Andrew Kibet’s runner-up, and Kemboi’s 5,000 title as the the Arkansas men’s lone individual champion, were proficiently complemented by the Doug Case coached sprinters and the Mario Sategna coached field-eventers.

“It’s tough to win any event in this league and obviously that win at the end with Amon was clutch,” Bucknam said “ But we just got great performances across the board and it’s a testament to our staff whether it was Laquan (Nairn) in the long and triple jump (third in both) or Etamar (Bhastekar) in the pole vault (third) today, the 4 x 400, a great 100 meters from Roman Turner (sixth in 10.12) and of course the 110-hurdlers (Lemonious, Gilbert, Carl Elliott fourth through sixth 12 combined points in 13.32, 13.48 and 13.52). That was basically the NCAA finals (won by Alabama’s Robert Dunning in 13.15) in the hurdles and we scored some big points there.”

McDonnell before them and Harter and Bucknam piloted so many conference triple crowns to make them seem almost routine.

They aren’t, especially in the nation’s toughest track league and their 2019-2020 championship progress interrupted by covid and their 2020-2021 seasons covid menaced.

“We’ve been through a lot this year but we won three championships,” Bucknam said. “We won the triple crown!”

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