FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – As the track and field campaign reaches championship season with the SEC Indoor this weekend, for No. 3 Arkansas this time of the year is when the Razorbacks start defending team titles.
Winners of the past five consecutive indoor league titles, the Razorbacks will have a stern test with a speedy LSU squad in the team chase as Texas A&M University serves as host of the 2020 indoor championships inside Gilliam Stadium on Feb. 28-29.
“I think it will come down Arkansas, LSU and possibly Texas A&M, who always has a tendency to rise when they are at home,” noted Razorback women’s head coach Lance Harter. “LSU has the firepower, especially in the sprints and jumps, where they could be very formidable.”
Combining the conference titles Arkansas has accumulated during the three seasons of track and field in a year (indoor, outdoor and cross country), the Razorbacks have made an impressive haul in the past five years. With a total of 15 SEC Championship meets in that span, Arkansas has achieved 14 team titles.
“This is the start of the championship season and the SECs are always a highlight for our kids,” said Harter. “We’re looking forward to trying to sustain that series of championships that we’ve been able to get going over the last 15 conference championships. Everybody that we’re counting on that can be in scoring positions are healthy.
“A lot of kids that are on this team have never not won a conference team title. I think that’s all they know and hopefully some of our newcomers are willing to fight and battle like some of our predecessors. Because our alumni established that type of tradition, and hopefully our young one’s will follow suit with the example that has already been set up for them.”
Last season, Arkansas won seven events and added five silver medalists along with a bronze medalist among their winning team formula. Returning from that group are silver medalists Carina Viljoen (mile) and Devin Clark (3,000m) as well as bronze medalist Maddy Reed (mile).
Meanwhile, medalist from last year who are redshirting this indoor season include Taylor Werner, a double champion in 3,000m and 5,000m, as well as mile champion Lauren Gregory.
“Considering some of the decisions we’ve made to redshirt and save some people this next year, and also our outdoor season, we’re going to make it very, very close for the team title,” stated Harter. “LSU, right now, is No. 1 in the nation, Georgia’s No. 2 and we are No. 3.
“In fact, six of the top seven teams in the country are SEC schools. We are very top heavy in the national rankings and the SEC, traditionally, is an absolute battle to try to win.”
Leading the distance crew this indoor season is transfer Katie Izzo, who was a member of the national championship the Razorbacks accomplished during the cross country season this past fall. A member of the Bowerman watch list, Izzo leads the SEC in three events – mile (4:35.05), 3,000m (8:55.67) and 5,000m (15:13.09) – and anchored the distance medley relay to a conference-leading time.
There is also plenty of depth for Arkansas in the distance events. In the mile the Razorbacks sport the top five conference times, while at 3,000m they have six runners among the top 10 times. Viljoen ranks second in the SEC in the mile (4:35.33) and 3,000m (8:56.63) with Krissy Gear third in the mile (4:36.59) and fourth at 3k (9:14.39).
Another strong scoring event for the Razorbacks is the pole vault, where Arkansas has supplied the event champion 10 times over the past 16 years. With three vaulters ranked among the top eight in the SEC, more team points are a strong possibility.
Lauren Martinez leads the trio, ranking second in the conference with a 14-4 ½ (4.38), while Bailee McCorkle’s 14-2 ¾ (4.34) is fifth and Kaitlyn Banas is eighth with a 13-7 (4.14).
Tiana Wilson, who has set career best times at 200m (23.49) and 400m (52.77) in the past two meets, charges the sprint crew. Wilson is also part of the 4×400 crew that has the fourth best time in the conference. G’Auna Edwards will contest the pentathlon, where she ranks fourth in the SEC, while also competing in the long jump, entering the meet with the fifth best mark.
The SEC Indoor Championships will be streamed on SECN+ on Friday and Saturday, then re-aired Sunday on ESPN2.
Friday, Feb. 28 – SECN+ 5:10 p.m. to 9:40 p.m. (CT)
Saturday, Feb. 29 – SECN+ 3:55 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. (CT)
Sunday, March 1 – ESPN2 7 p.m. (CT)