No. 1 Arkansas Looks to Defend SEC Title
The Arkansas men’s track and field team is set to defend its Southeastern Conference Indoor Championship this weekend.
They have won five consecutive indoor conference championships and 18 of 20 since joining the SEC in 1992.
“We want to keep it going. We pride ourselves in having a winning culture,” head coach Chris Bucknam said. “We look good on paper, but now it’s time to perform.”
Going into the meet, the Razorbacks are No. 1 in the country, 83.82 points and 126.4 points ahead of SEC foes No. 2 Florida and No. 3 Texas A&M, respectively.
Despite this large lead in the national rankings, Bucknam said he knows that doesn’t matter in the conference meet.
“(Texas A&M and Florida) are elite programs. Florida has great depth in some areas and Texas A&M is the same way,” Bucknam said. “We expect a tight battle.”
The Razorbacks will be favored in the seven events they own the top mark in the conference for this season. In the 800-meter, they own six of the top eight times in the SEC, including the top four. This is a “good problem” for Arkansas, Bucknam said.
“We are happy with our depth,” Bucknam said. “Unfortunately, we have a 27-man limit for our entries.”
Senior Tarik Batchelor is tied with Florida senior Omar Craddock for the NCAA lead in the triple jump this season with a distance 53-9.
In the 60-meter hurdles, senior Caleb Cross is tied with Florida junior Eddie Lovett for the second fastest time in the NCAA, with a time of 7.65 seconds.
The SEC also holds the top five distances in the long jump this season. Arkansas junior Raymond Higgs and freshman Jarrion Lawson own the No. 2 and No. 4 distances, respectively, while Florida sophomore Marquis Dendy owns the No. 1 distance.
“To win in this league, you need the guys that can go out there and perform at a national level,” Bucknam said.
The addition of Texas A&M into the SEC will add even more competition to the conference meet, as they have won three indoor national championships in their history.
“(Having Texas A&M) throws a whole new ambiance to the tournament,” Bucknam said. “They’re a big addition.”
Another side effect of Texas A&M and Missouri joining the conference is that there are more teams competing for the same number of points. This will cause the winning point total to “shrink a little,” Bucknam said.
The meet begins at 1 p.m. Friday with the men’s heptathlon at the Randal Tyson Track Center. It continues Saturday and ends Sunday.