FAYETTEVILLE – Apparently it doesn’t take many, or even any, champions for track and teams repeating as SEC champions.
The Arkansas Razorbacks proved that repeating as SEC Women’s and SEC Men’s champions at the SEC Indoor Championships that the University of Arkansas hosted last Thursday through Saturday at its Randal Tyson Indoor Track.
Coach Lance Harter’s nationally No. 1 Razorbacks garnered only Krissy Gear’s championship in the mile and the 4 x 400 relay, listed as Paris Peoples (52.56), Rosey Effiong (52.58), Shafiqua Maloney (51.84), and Kethlin Campbell (52.02), notched the combined 20 first-place points among the whopping 141 that Arkansas’ women scored.
Arkansas’ women won by 60 points over runner-up Florida, 81 points. It marked the seventh consecutive SEC Indoor for the Razorbacks of Harter and assistants Chris Johnson and Bryan Compton who defend their NCAA Indoor championship when Arkansas hosts the women’s and men’s national championship meets March 11-13 at Randal Tyson.
Coach Chris Bucknam’s nationally No. 3 Razorbacks men netted no 10-points first finishes yet piled up the top eight scoring finishes (8 for second, 6 for third and then 5 through 1 descending order points for fourth through eighth) to outscore nationally No. 2-ranked/SEC runner-up LSU, 116-93.
“ I wish I would have had a couple (of SEC champions)n but there are a lot of home run hitters in this league,” Bucknam said. “It’s the best conference in the fricking country.”
And to beat the nationally No. 2 Tigers by 23 points without scoring any first-place points is a tribute to his team’s depth.
Or as Bucknam put it borrowing from baseball, winning without home runs.
“We might not have hit any home runs, but we hit a lot of doubles and triples and singles,” Bucknam said. “Our on base percentage was pretty good at the end of the day because we ended up winning the meet. It was a great team win. Twenty-four of our 27 athletes scored. And the ones that didn’t score missed it by a fraction.”
Bucknam likely sacrificed a home run, doubling Amon Kemboi in the mile and 3,000 ( second and third for 14 team points) rather than running him in the 5,000 which Bucknam knew the Hogs would dominate and did totaling 27 5K points placing second (Gilbert Boit) third, fourth, fifth, sixth and eighth.
Kemboi will double in the 3K and 5K at the NCAA meet.
“We sacrificed a few guys for the good of the team because we were going for the team title,” Bucknam said. “It was a great team win. Twenty-four of our 27 athletes scored. And the ones that didn’t score missed it by a fraction.”
While Bucknam with one NCAA Indoor championship on his Arkansas and his Razorbacks “ache” to win the upcoming NCAA Indoor here, he never forgets like John McDonnell before him the significance of winning the SEC.
Retired coach McDonnell waxes as proud or prouder of his 84 conference championships in indoor track, outdoor track and cross country than his 42 national championships in the three sports.
“They (SEC championships) are huge for our program,” Bucknam said. “John liked them because they involve more athletes than the NCAA meet. It’s just something we’ve got to do and we try to do it the best we can.
Harter never stops marveling that his Razorbacks continue dominating America’s best track league with SEC members Texas A&M and Georgia nationally ranked second and fourth to Arkansas’ No. 1.
“In a championship meet like this you really depend upon your stars to rise.” Harter said. “ It didn’t matter what event, our kids rose to the occasion.
Harter blanches at any notion of taking SEC team championships for granted.
“Heavens no!,” Harter said. “I was telling the commissioner (SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey attended the SEC Indoor) ‘It never gets old because every one of them is a different puzzle trying to figure out the pieces that fit together,” Harter said. “And sometimes it’s a different picture.”
This one differed from most.
“Two first places and the rest was all kids taking care of business as best they could,” Harter said. “An accumulation of people who will bang for anything they can get starts adding up.”