SEC Outdoor Track Advance

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – LSU rates No. 1 in the national men’s and women’s outdoor track and field rankings but only Arkansas could achieve SEC Cross Country-Indoor-Outdoor triple crowns when the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships run Thursday through Saturday at Texas A&M’s Cushing Stadium in College Station, Texas.
Winning 20 of the last 21 SEC Women’s Cross Country-Indoor-and Outdoor meets and likely SEC triple crown winners for 2019-2020 but for the covid pandemic canceling the 2020 outdoor season, Coach Lance Harter’s Razorbacks seek their seventh SEC triple crown upon winning SEC Cross Country last fall and SEC and NCAA Indoor last winter.

“We were well on our way last year and we’re going to try to get No. 7,” Harter said of Arkansas’ women’s conference triple crowns. “It does give us more incentive. That’s something that we’ll talk about in our first team meeting down at A&M.”

He tipped his hand what he he would tell his team.

“You guys worked so hard to get cross country and you got indoor,” Harter said. “And you had to fend off Alabama in cross country and A&M indoors and now you’ve got to fend off LSU outdoors. We’re probably the common denominator and then the rest of the SEC lines up against us.”

Inheriting the incomparable 20 men’s conference triple crowns that retired Arkansas predecessor and legend John McDonnell achieved in the Southwest Conference and SEC, Coach Chris Bucknam has kept the Arkansas men aloft. Arkansas has 24 SEC crowns under Bucknam including three SEC triple crowns and gunning for a fourth after fending off Ole Miss in cross country and LSU indoors.

Achieving the triple would just triple the achievement that would come with the nationally No. 12 Razorbacks outpointing nationally No. 1 LSU.

“It exemplifies the total strength of our program,” Bucknam said of the what-if his Hogs completed another triple crown. “We mentioned that this would be our fourth conference championship in a row (dating back to the 2020 SEC Indoor) if we win. Our guys are aware of it, that’s for sure, So we need to take care of business.”

On the conference level, where team’s 30-roster depth is a premium, Arkansas’ men stand a better chance against LSU in College Station than at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in June at Eugene, Ore.

“The conference rankings are different,” Bucknam said. “The Coaches Association has us, one and LSU, two. A&M, three, Tennessee, four, and Alabama, five. So that tells our story that we’ve been a good conference team.”

For both the men’s and women’s meets, Coach Dennis Shavers’ LSU Tigers rely foremost on the sprints and jumps.
The distance stars of Arkansas’ men’s and women’s cross country teams traditionally have more than offset the points compiled by track contenders LSU and Texas A&M but Harter notes, “On the women’s side a lot of teams have gotten into the distance business making our life tougher than in the past.”

Harter’s best bets for individual titles stem from Katie Izzo in the 10,000 meters and Nastassja Campbell, pole vault.
“Our mile relay has the fastest outdoor time (3:26.63) in the nation,” Harter said. “But Texas A&M broke the collegiate record indoors. It’s every event with a major player in our conference.”

Bucknam lists several major contenders but likewise describes major impediments.

“Our two hurdlers (Phillip Lemonious and Tre’Bien Gilbert) are really good even ranked fourth or fifth in the conference,” Bucknam said. “Because let’s face it that’s like a national final hurdles.

“Amon Kemboi has a shot running 1,500 and the 5K. Our two hurdlers (Phillip Lemonious and Tre’Bien Gilbert) are really good even ranked fourth or fifth in the conference. Laquan Nairn and Jon Baker are (long) jumping against the top jumper in the country in (LSU’s) JuVaughn Harrison.”

Decathlete Markus Ballengee and, if Arkansas’ SEC Indoor team formula is to repeat outdoors, distance runners Amon Kemboi, Gilbert Boit, Luke Meade and Andrew Kibet must excel.

“There’s a lot riding on our distance runners,” Bucknam said. “They are the ones that carried the big load for us indoors.”

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