Nate Allen Sports
FAYETTEVILLE – The nation’s nationally No. 1 women’s track and field team dominated the nation’s No. 1 women’s track and field conference.
Lauren Gregory led 1-2-3 mile finish and Payton Chadwick and Janeek Brown’s 1-2 60-meter hurdles finish picking up from Friday’s championships in the pentathlon, 5,000 meters and distance medley relay, then pouring it on with the SEC record setting 1-2 pole vault finish of Cabot twin sisters Lexi Weeks Jacobus Lexi’s SEC Indoor record 15-4 1-4) and Tori Weeks Hoggard (15-1) with Razorback Desiree Freier (13-11 for fifth, and Taylor Werner winning Saturday’s 3,000 meters after winning Friday’s 5,000 and Coach Lance Harter’s defending SEC Women’s Indoor champion Arkansas Razorbacks overwhelmingly defended their title in a 2-day romp at the SEC Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships they hosted at the Randal Tyson Indoor Track.
Harter’s Razorbacks, showing depth in all they entered, totaled a meet record 151 points, more than doubling the 70 scored by the runner-up Texas A&M Aggies.
For the SEC Men’s Indoor Track and Field Championship, Coach Chris Bucknam’s unranked Razorbacks, paced by Cameron Griffith Saturday winning his fourth race of the meet, the 3,000, after Friday running a mile prelim and a mile anchor placing the distance medley relay second Friday night followed Saturday by a second place mile that he just missed winning with a finishing kick, finished second to overwhelming favorite Florida.
Bucknam’s men, with Gilbert Boit a Friday night champion in the 5,000 meters and fourth in the 3,000, finished ahead of seven nationally ranked SEC teams for their 88 second-place points, 10 ahead of third-place LSU.
Favored Florida won the SEC Men’s championship amassing 103 points.
The Weeks sisters loving sibling rivalry, the two seniors between them now have won 6 of their 7 SEC Indoor and SEC Outdoor vaults, provided a show in itself. They pushed each other with Tori clearing 15-1 and Lexi struggling until Tori’s big vault.
“Honestly when Tori made 15-1 on her third attempt it made me put it in another gear,” Lexi said. “It kind of changed by momentum from there. And the meet record, awesome! Everything came together at the right time.”
Arkansas women’s vault coach Bryan Compton, noting each simultaneously surpassing 15-feet at a past SEC Indoor, said the two have “competed with yet supported each other all their lives.”
Tori had three tries at Lexi’s winning 15-4 1-4.
On the total team performance, both Lexi and Tori said “the coaches told us we have one of the best teams that’s ever been and if we do our job it will be an easy meet.”
Harter said, “Last night we qualified more than we thought would happen and the kids cashed in today.”
Friday night senior Kelsey Herman from Crossett opened Arkansas’ women’s championship weekend winning the pentathlon amassing 4,330 points.
Werner followed with an easy 16:18.30 victory in the 5,000 meters before Carina Viljoen anchored the victorious distance medley relay, 11:21.98, seven seconds faster than runner-up Florida.
On Saturday’s first running event, Razorbacks women Lauren Gregory, 4:39.08, Viljoen, 4:41.40 and Maddy Reed, a personal record 4:43.03, blew away the field with Auburn fourth-placer Presley Weems trailing Reed by four seconds.
“I think that startled them a bit after that 800,” Harter said of Gregory’s runaway with first Reed and finally Viljoen distancing themselves irrevocably. “I thought it would be more challenging but we’ll take it.”
The 1-2-3 finish accounted for 24 team points.
Razorbacks Chadwick, who actually ran faster, 7.98, in Friday’s prelims, ran 8.02 with teammate Janeek Brown, 8.09 for their Saturday first and second place 60-meter hurdles finish amassing 18 team points.
Chadwick, 23.01, and Kiara Parker, 23.50, came back to finish second and seventh in the 200 meter dash won by Alabama’s , 22.90.
Sprinters Parker, Brown and Jada Baylark had accumulated 12 team points placing fourth through sixth in Saturday’s 60-meter dash.
Alexandria Byrnes, fifth, added four Arkansas team points in Saturday’s women’s 800.
For Bucknam’s men Friday night, Boit, running the final 200 meters ‘the fastest I’ve ever seen him run,” Bucknam said, overtook Alabama’s Gilbert Kigpen by three-hundredths of a second, 14:09.84 to 14:09.87.
Kigpen was outkicked by Griffith in Saturday’s 3,000.
Griffith was closing fast in Saturday’s mile final but his runner-up 4:02.50 couldn’t quite catch the 4:02.47 of Ole Miss winner, Waleed Suliman.
“Inspirational,” Bucknam said of Griffith’s weekend. “Just really proud of the effort. He was disappointed in the mile though he ran a great race and today in the 3,000 he said he never felt good the whole but he said what he heck, I’ll give it a shot. He did a great job.”
While accustomed to his Hogs winning SEC team titles, Bucknam knew how the cards stacked against his rebuilding team and how hard they fought.
“We came in here unranked for the first time in quite awhile and our kids did a phenomenal job of competing,”Bucknam said. “We just have to get back on that top rung and that’s what we’re working for but our kids did their job today.”
In the grueling 2-day, 7-events men’s heptathlon, Razorbacks Gabe Moore and Derek Jacobus accounted for 12 team points placing second and fourth. Georgia’s Johannes Erm totaled 5,996 heptathlon points with Moore next at 5,908.
Laquan Nairn, sixth in Friday’s long jump, totaled nine team points with his third-place 52-7 1-4 Saturday triple jump.
Bucknam’s men closed with a third place in the 4 x 400 relay.
Nate Allen Sports