FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – This weekend top-ranked Arkansas hosts the SEC Indoor Championships, which features five teams nationally ranked among the top 10 with another four schools ranked in the top 25.
Action inside the Randal Tyson Track Center this Thursday through Saturday will be another stellar showcase of talent within the conference, as the Razorbacks contend for a seventh consecutive indoor conference team title.
“The SEC meet is always a highlight, and in fact, it might be the best track and field meet in the United States,” noted Arkansas women’s head coach Lance Harter, who has claimed 10 SEC Indoor titles. “Because it’s not only your headliners, but also that person who can place seventh or eighth and pick up a point or two.
“Some of the elite teams are in our conference. You might be seeded No. 1 in an event and then all of sudden you find yourself fighting to score a point, because there is so much talent in our conference.”
The Razorbacks current streak of indoor titles is second to it’s current streak of eight consecutive cross country titles. Including this weekend among the past 20 SEC championship events held over the three seasons, Arkansas can claim its 19th title with a victory.
“We’re riding a wave right now,” stated Harter. “We were able to win cross country in the fall, now we’re into indoor and we are the defending champion. In fact, of the past 20 SEC Championships, we’re capable of possibly winning our 19th.
“Our kids understand we’ve got a big target on our back and that’s a deserved position. It’s an honor, but at the same time we also have the No. 2 team in the nation, the No. 4 team in the nation, and there’s a bunch of SEC schools in the top 10 and then there’s a bunch in the top 20.”
Attempting to challenge the Razorbacks are four teams who are ranked among the top 10 nationally – No. 2 Texas A&M, No. 4 Georgia, No. 6 LSU and No. 7 Florida, the last school to win an indoor SEC title other than Arkansas back in 2014.
Since returning to action during the cross country season, following a shutdown of sports during the pandemic, the Razorbacks are undefeated in any competition. That includes three cross country meets prior to the 2020 SEC Championship, along with five scored meets this indoor season.
“We don’t want to take anything for granted, but we’re in our home facility which has proven over the course of the season to be an unbelievably fast track,” said Harter. “So, we’re looking forward to doing bigger and better things than we have so far this season.”
With the team set on a mission to improve even more as defending champions, the Razorbacks quality and depth serves as its strength. This season, due to coronavirus protocol, the SEC Indoor meet will be held over three days.
The third day option allows for teams to run the distance medley relay on the first day with fresh runners, who don’t have another race that same day.
“I think the DMR being moved to the first night, being on Thursday, really gives the whole conference an opportunity to post great times,” noted Harter. “Because it’s so rarely run, and usually when others have to run other races on the same day, this will provide a fresh opportunity to have everyone step up and run a great time.
“We already have the national leading time and will not emulate that same crew with the other tactics involved in team scoring for some of our other athletes. But I think it will give an opportunity to some of our individuals to score at the SEC meet and possibly chase a title. So, we look forward to that opportunity for each and every individual.”
While the conference meet stretches out to three days, the competition time frame on Friday and Saturday is tight as each gender has its own session each day.
“The window of competition on Friday and Saturday is less than two hours, so some of the natural doubles people could have done, and done very well, unfortunately are not available,” explained Harter. “Our depth is going to be a key factor, be it in the sprints, middle distances, long distances, and obviously our vaulters.
“We have an opportunity to fire a lot of bullets and potentially score.”
Arkansas returns four individual medalists and are the defending champions in the distance medley relay. The individuals include double gold-medalist Katie Izzo (3,000m & 5,000m), silver medalist Krissy Gear (mile) and a pair of bronze medalists in Bailee McCorkle (pole vault) and G’Auna Edwards (pentathlon).
SEC leader Gear broke the school record in the mile this season, clocking 4:31.83 to better the 4:32.48 set by Dominque Scott in 2015. National records set in 2021 include a 2:04.65 in the 800m for Shafiqua Malone from St. Vincent & the Grenadines as well as an 8.17 for Yoveinny Mota of Venezuela.
Other league leaders among the Razorbacks include Katie Izzo in the 3,000m (8:57.78) and 5,000m (15:26.22), and the distance medley relay (10:53.77).
Arkansas’ depth is prevalent in various events such as the 200m (3 of top 6), 400m (5 of top 10), 800m (3 of top 5), mile (6 of top 7), 3,000m (6 of top 11), 5,000 (5 of top 10), and pole vault (5 of top 10).
USTFCCCA National Rating Index | SEC Schools (rating index score)
- Arkansas (289); 2. Texas A&M (211); 4. Georgia (143); 6. LSU (98); 7. Florida (92); 12. Kentucky (64); 13. Alabama (64); 17. Tennessee (42); 21. Ole Miss (37).
Conference Rating Index
1. Arkansas (618); 2. Texas A&M (326); 3. Georgia (260); 4. Florida (226); 5. LSU (212); 6. Alabama (189); 7. Kentucky (178); 8. Ole Miss (174); 9. Tennessee (141); 10. Auburn (91); 11. South Carolina (82); 12. Mississippi State (79); 13. Missouri (65); 14. Vanderbilt (56).