FAYETTEVILLE – By one-half a point over Brigham University, Coach Chris Bucknam’s Arkansas Razorbacks claimed the John McDonnell National Program of the Year Award in Eugene, Ore. the day after Arkansas’ 42-times national championship coach for whom the award is named was laid to rest in Fayetteville. McDonnell passed away last week at 82, 13 years after retiring from his 1978-2008 tenure as the Razorbacks’ men’s head track coach and 1972-2008 tenure as men’s head cross country coach.McDonnell’s men won his first national championship at the 1984 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships and in 1984-85 the first of five NCAA Cross Country-Indoor-Outdoor triple crowns in the same academic year.
Upon his retirement, the John McDonnell Program of the Year Award was nationally established by the United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association honoring the men’s program totaling the best composite finish (thus lowest total points) from the NCAA Cross Country, NCAA Indoor and Outdoor meets.
Since coming from coaching Northern Iowa University to coach the Razorbacks, Bucknam now has piloted Arkansas to three John McDonnell Program of Year Awards.
This one, even with a below Bucknam standards tied for 28th NCAA Outdoor finish completing it, is especially special, Bucknam said.
SEC Cross Country-Indoor-Outdoor triple champions but not nationally deep and physically spent after outpointing eventual NCAA Outdoor champion LSU winning the SEC Outdoor, Arkansas’ surprising fourth place tie in the because of covid delayed to March NCAA Cross Country Championships just two days after those same distance runners helped the track team tie for seventh at the NCAA Indoor, the Razorbacks won the John McDonnell Award with 40 points to 40.5 for runner-up BYU, seventh in cross country, tied for 16th at NCAA Indoor and 17th at NCAA Outdoor.
“That Outdoor finish is not where we we want to be and we’ll rally next year to have a better year,” Bucknam said. “But that was special to win that award this week. I am thrilled we came out on top, especially this year. It’s a beautiful award and epitomizes his career. I look forward to showing the trophy to Ellen (John McDonnell’s wife) and her family when we receive it.”
It was officially announced Wednesday by the USTFCCCA in New Orleans that Arkansas’ men won the John McDonnell Award and that for the Terry Crawford Program of the Year Award honoring the retired Texas and before that Tennessee, Women’s Coach, Coach Lance Harter’s Razorbacks women were runner-up to Brigham Young University.
Harter’s Razorbacks won the NCAA Indoor then two days later placed 10th in NCAA Cross Country and 15th at the NCAA Outdoor totaling 26 points.
BYU tallied 18 winning NCAA Cross Country after placing seventh at NCAA Indoor and 10th at the NCAA Outdoor.
Arkansas sprinter Tiana Wilson, scheduled to run four events at the NCAA Women’s Outdoor including legs on the 4 x 100 and 4 x400 relays, tore an Achilles tendon during her first prelim and had to scratch from the meet hampering 3-time Crawford Award runner-up from winning its first Crawford.
““We’re consistent and always in the conversation,” Harter said. “This season is the year I thought we would have a great chance at it. Unfortunately, when we lost our sprinter to an injury at the national outdoor meet that changed the opportunities for us as a team.
I’m proud that we are always in the top two or three, because there are a lot of universities out there trying to be program of the year.”