Hogs nip Tide at fin­ish line

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE -

The men’s team race went down to the fi­nal event Satur­day at the SEC In­door Track and Field Cham­pi­onships in Nashville, Tenn., and the Ar­kan­sas Ra­zor­backs had just enough to hold off Alabama.

The Ra­zor­backs fin­ished fourth in the 1,600-me­ter re­lay to take the team ti­tle with 98 points.

Alabama was sec­ond with 93 points. Florida, Ole Miss and Texas A&M fin­ished in a three-way tie for third with 76 points.

“We were able to pull it out, but we had to go deep to the well,” Ra­zor­backs Coach Chris Buck­nam said. “I love how our guys com­peted. We kept our cool and got the job done.”

The Univer­sity of Ar­kan­sas at Fayet­teville’s 1,600 re­lay of Ke­mar Mowatt, Ja­marco Stephen, Eric Janise and Obi Ig­bokwe took fourth in 3: 04.94 to score the five points nec­es­sary to clinch the team ti­tle af­ter the Ra­zor­backs led the Crim­son Tide 93-87 go­ing into the event.

“We knew we had a good re­lay, but it’s dif­fer­ent when you’re be­ing chased as op­posed to be­ing the chaser, so there was a lot of en­ergy for Alabama and those other schools,” Buck­nam said. “Our guys hung in there and came through. They knew there was a lot on the line, and they ran re­ally well.”

Jack Bruce an­chored the Ra­zor­backs to a sec­ond-place fin­ish in the dis­tance med­ley re­lay be­hind Ole Miss on Satur­day af­ter win­ning the 3,000 Fri­day night.

Bruce won the Ra­zor­backs’ only in­di­vid­ual ti­tle of the meet, but the Ra­zor­backs scored in 14 of 17 events. They didn’t have any en­tries in the three events — the pole vault, weight throw and shot- put — in which they didn’t score.

“What a tes­ta­ment to my event coaches,” said Buck­nam, referring to as­sis­tants Doug Case in the sprints and Travis Geopfert in the field events. “To score in that many events at an SEC meet is pretty im­pres­sive when you think about it.

“It just goes to show how well our guys are coached and the ef­fort they put in. We’re a pretty unique pro­gram with our depth across the board.

“Guys re­ally bore down and got af­ter it. We’ve got a pretty self-aware team, and they knew ev­ery point counted.”

Ar­kan­sas se­nior Clive Pullen took sec­ond in the triple jump with a leap of 54-6. Ju­nior Kenzo Cot­ton took third in the 60 (6.66) and fourth in the 200 (20.65). Ig­bokwe took fourth in the 400 (45.73) be­fore an­chor­ing the 1,600 re­lay.

The Ra­zor­backs scored 12 points in the hep­tathlon with Gabe Moore (5,688) tak­ing fourth, Brad Culp (5,630) fifth and Derek Ja­cobus ( 5,485) sixth. An­drew Ronoh took fourth in the 5,000 (14:02.36).

Alabama was a sur­prise chal­lenger to the Ra­zor­backs. Buck­nam had ex­pected Florida and Texas A&M to press Ar­kan­sas, not the Tide.

“We pretty much nailed what we thought we were go­ing to do, but Florida and Texas A&M had some is­sues,” Buck­nam said. “It seemed like Alabama was the team that picked up their points, and all of a sud­den it got re­ally close there at the end.”

Ar­kan­sas won its 22nd SEC in­door ti­tle in 26 tries since join­ing the con­fer­ence. John McDonnell won 15 of 17 ti­tles be­fore re­tir­ing as the Ra­zor­backs’ coach, and Buck­nam has won 7 of 9.

“The league is pretty well balanced,” Buck­nam said. “They come at you from ev­ery other school, so to win an­other SEC ti­tle is a good feel­ing.”

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