By Nate Allen
FAYETTEVILLE – With races from 2:30 p.m. to 7:50 p.m and field events from noon to 6:15 p.m, the Arkansas Razorbacks reigning SEC championship men’s track and field team and reigning NCAA champion/SEC champion women’s track and field team open their indoor season Friday hosting the Arkansas Invitational meet at the Randal Tyson Indoor Track.
A diverse field including Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Tulsa, Oral Roberts and Alcorn State, in state schools Arkansas-Little Rock, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and the University of Central Arkansas plus various junior colleges will compete.
Both Men’s Coach Chris Bucknam and Associate Women’s Head Coach/Sprints Coach Chris Johnson, pinch-hitting at Wednesday’s press conference for Coach Lance Harter, say this non-team scored season opener basically is a get your feet wait renewal of competition, especially for the sprinters, jumpers and vaulters who have been practicing since September but other than for some at a very small meet in early December haven’t competed since June’s NCAA Outdoor or earlier.
For distance runners it’s mostly the first test since ending the reigning SEC champion Razorbacks men and women ended their 2021 cross country season last November.
While NCAA qualifying marks aren’t a premium this early, Johnson said it’s possible one of the Razorbacks veterans could get on a roll early and pop a NCAA qualifier in the pole vault or the sprints.
Bucknam also said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if some of his men popped a national qualifier in a “ballistics event” including the sprints and long jump and triple jump.
Both Bucknam and Johnson said they’ll be checking the body language and competitive signs of their debuting newcomers.
The Bucknam and Harter coached distance runners begin building back from their grueling cross country season’s end.
“It’s an evaluation of what we need to improve upon,” Johnson surmised of Friday’s meet.
Upcoming, the Razorbacks men and women will attract “world class” competition, Bucknam said, hosting at Randal Tyson the Razorback Invitational Jan. 28-29 and the Tyson Invitational Feb. 11-12.