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Bucknam: Sophomores to Lead 2016 Men’s Track

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Chris Bucknam

16-time SEC Coach of the Year Chris Bucknam will enter his ninth year as the head coach of the men’s track and field team this season.

With the 2017 indoor track season underway, the Razorback men’s track and field team will be without some familiar faces in what could be considered a rebuilding year for the No. 4 team in the country.

After seniors like Jarrion Lawson, the 2016 Bowerman trophy recipient, and Marqueze Washington graduated, the transition has been a difficult albeit typical one for head coach Chris Bucknam.

“Obviously we couldn’t be more proud of Jarrion on winning the Bowerman award,” Bucknam said. “I think this is the first time we’ve talked publicly with the local media since then but obviously it’s a huge honor for Jarrion and all the hard work he’s put in.

“He’s the consummate Razorback and did a great job for us. The 2016 team was one of the best we’ve had in a long time… but like Jarrion we have a great ability to compartmentalize and focus in on the futures to that’s in the books and we’re looking really hard with our guys to find those next great athletes.”

The loss of the 2016 seniors has left a hole Bucknam is looking to fill with his sophomore class this season.

“We have a group of guys who were freshmen last year now sophomores that are going to determine what kind of team we have,” Bucknam said. “There’s a lot of talent there, but now the spotlight is on them more than ever and we’ll see how we start to perform under the bright lights. We have a slew of them that we’re going to be counting on.”

Among those second-year standouts are 2016 Indoor All-Americans Obi Igbokwe (1,600 meter relay) and Carlton Orange (800 meter).

Orange will be looking to follow up his sixth-place finish at the Indoor Championships with a title and is already on his way to accomplishing that after taking first in his event at the Arkansas Invitational on Jan. 13.

Igbokwe finished second in the 200-meter dash with a time of 20.87 seconds.

Orange and Igbokwe are just two of the talented group of second-year runners, Bucknam said. For distance runners, Cameron Griffith leads the way along with Andrew Ronoh.

While Bucknam has said the team will go however the sophomores go, the Hogs still boast a multitude of talent among the upperclassmen in the likes of 2016 triple jump champion Clive Pullen and All-American Andreas Trajkovski.

The combo of the talented sophomore group and the senior leadership are a big reason the Hogs entered the season as No. 4 in the country.

“We’re used to being ranked, we’re used to be in this position,” Bucknam said. “It’s no different from football or basketball, it’s an early season poll. It’s a poll that kind of goes off that we were the No. 2 team in the country last year, both indoors and outdoors, so it gives a little street credibility when it comes to those polls.”

Bucknam said he did not know how accurate the rankings actually are and only time will tell if the Razorbacks are deserving of a high ranking, especially because the team is still looking for another star to take the reigns.

“It’s nice to be in the mix and it’s like the old adage,” Bucknam said. “It’s not rebuilding, it’s reloading and that's what we feel we’re doing right now.”

The team is still primed to be a contender this season and Bucknam says he doesn’t expect anything short of another title.

“We’re gunning to win an SEC and National Championship,” Bucknam said.

Alex Nicoll was the editor-in-chief of the Arkansas Traveler from 2017-2019. Before that, Alex was a sport designer, and he wrote stories for the news, lifestyles and sports sections.

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