FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – As defending team champions, Arkansas hosts the 2021 SEC Indoor Championships this weekend inside the Randal Tyson Track Center where the Razorbacks face a field which includes four other programs nationally ranked among the top 10.
LSU, ranked No. 2, leads the SEC contingent in the national rankings. They are followed by No. 3 Arkansas, No. 8 Florida, No. 9 Georgia, and No. 10 Ole Miss. Four other conference schools ranked among the top 20 include No. 12 Tennessee, No. 15 Alabama, No. 16 Texas A&M, and No. 17 Kentucky.
“This championship, there is nothing like it,” stated Razorback men’s head coach Chris Bucknam. “The SEC Championships in track and field is phenomenal. A lot kids want to come here and experience it. It’s a real meaningful event for us.”
Among the conference rating index, Arkansas is favored to claim the team title and add to it’s leading collection of 23 SEC Indoor championships. Following the Razorbacks in the SEC rating index are Ole Miss, LSU, Georgia, and Alabama among the top five.
“Winning is a lot of fun,” noted Razorback men’s coach Chris Bucknam. “That’s the goal, for us to win these meets. We look at track and field as a team sport and we feel like this is an opportunity to get as many athletes as we can get on the top podium.
“It’s a chance to get 27 athletes on that top podium. We feel like that success breeds success across the board with whatever we do. Every championship that we run, whether it’s cross country, indoor, or outdoor, we get a lot of worth out of that. It’s really important and helps our athletes develop more fully. We put a lot of emphasis on this meet.”
Returning medalists from the 2020 indoor team victory include a pair in the 5,000m with gold medalist Emmanuel Cheboson and bronze medalist Matt Young along with heptathlon silver medalist Markus Ballengee. In addition, Arkansas was a silver medalist in both the 4×400 and distance medley relays a year ago.
Conference leaders among the Razorbacks include Kieran Taylor in the 800m (1:48.32), Amon Kemboi in the 5,000m (13:38.95), and Ballengee in the heptathlon (5,827).
In leading the SEC 5,000m list this season, Kemboi is joined by a slew of Razorbacks who occupy the top four times with Gilbert Boit, Jacob McLeod and Young. Kemboi also ranks second in the 3,000m (7:52.70) and fifth in the mile (3:58.26).
Ballengee was part of a four-man heptathlon crew that combined for 20 points last season in the SEC Indoor. Also returning for the conference multi this season are Etamar Bhastekar (5,680) and Daniel Spejcher (5508).
A newcomer, Phillip Lemonious, leads a strong Razorback hurdle crew. A career best of 7.72 moved Lemonious to No. 5 on the UA all-time list and ranks him third in the conference behind a pair of LSU hurdlers.
While the meet covers three days this season due to covid protocols, the track sessions on Friday and Saturday make for a tight time frame.
“In addition to the mile and 3,000m being an hour apart, so is the 400m and 4×400 relay with the 200m only 30 minutes before the relay,” noted Bucknam. “It affects all those running events across the board. It’s made us really take a look at who can double.
“The triple of a DMR, mile and 3,000m was not uncommon. We had Cameron Griffith do it last year. Those things are close to being out the window. We have to do what we have to do in doubling some people, even though it’s only an hour apart.
“The big doublers for us include Jalen Brown and James Milholen as well as other guys in the 400m who will come back in the 4×400 relay. The only person we have in the mile and 3k is Amon Kemboi. Our other doublers are a day apart.”
USTFCCCA National Rating Index | SEC Schools (rating index score)
- LSU (170); 3. Arkansas (147); 8. Florida (92); 9. Georgia (91); 10. Ole Miss (87); 12. Tennessee (69); 15. Alabama (52); 16. Texas A&M (51); 17. Kentucky (51).
Conference Rating Index
- Arkansas (468); 2. Ole Miss (317); 3. LSU (300); 4. Georgia (239); 5. Alabama (210); 6. Florida (210); 7. Texas A&M (205); 8. Kentucky (203); 9. Tennessee (173); 10. Auburn (123); 11. Missouri (100); 12. South Carolina (95); 13. Mississippi State (48).