Hogs sweep NCAA meet
By Matt Jones
It is not easy to accomplish a first anymore in Arkansas track and field. Yet, the Razorbacks accomplished a big first on the night of March 11 inside the Albuquerque Convention Center when both Arkansas teams won at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. It was the first time the Razorbacks’ storied men’s and women’s programs won national championships at the same meet, and the first time any program swept the team titles since Oregon at the indoor meet in 2016. Arkansas’ women won with 64 points, which were four more than second-place Texas. The men had a much easier looking victory with a 23-point margin, 63-40, over runner-up Georgia. For Arkansas women’s coach Lance Harter, a seventh national championship came 3 1/2 months ahead of his scheduled retirement at the end of the outdoor season in June. Four of Harter’s titles have have come indoors, with this year’s trophy added to ones in 2015, 2017 and 2021. He has also won twice outdoors and once in cross- country. The latest title capped a memorable two-plus weeks that also saw Harter’s name added to the track surface at Randal Tyson Track Center during a banquet celebration of his 33 seasons leading the program. His team won the SEC championship by 48.5 points on Lance Harter Track later that weekend. From a conference perspective, Harter is overseeing the waning stages of a dominant decade that is on par with anything accomplished by the Arkansas men. Harter’s teams had a streak of nine consecutive cross country titles snapped last fall, won their ninth consecutive indoor title in February and will attempt to win their seventh outdoor title in nine tries at LSU in May. Harter had won 19 SEC championships when he celebrated his 62nd birthday in 2012. He will turn 73 in April with 44 SEC titles. He has also won all seven of his national championships during that time. Harter was a hall of fame coach before that stretch, but became one of the all-time greats to coach an SEC women’s sport alongside the likes of Pat Summitt, Suzanne Yoculan and Pat Henry. Foreshadowing what was to come in Albuquerque, Arkansas’ men also won an SEC trophy. It was the 33rd time that Harter and the men’s coach left the same SEC meet celebrating as champions. It happened 17 times with Harter and the late John McDonnell, and has happened 16 times since Chris Bucknam replaced McDonnell in 2008. Doubling up on trophies at the conference meet is one thing. Doing so at a national meet, where team depth is thinned, is another. Yet the Razorbacks were just as impressive in Albuquerque as they were in Fayetteville. At the NCAA meet, Arkansas rewrote record books at the world, American and collegiate levels. Arkansas’ women saved their best for the final event of the NCAA meet. The mile relay team of Amber Anning, Joanne Reid, Rosey Effiong and Britton Wilson finished in 3:21.76 – a world-best mark, besting a 17-year-old record held by a team of Russian sprinters. Wilson ran her 400-meter anchor leg in 49.20. Earlier that night she broke the American record with a time of 49.48 to lead a 1-4-6 finish in the 400 along with Effiong and Anning. Wilson was the first collegiate runner to run the 400 in less than 50 seconds. Ackera Nugent set a collegiate women’s record with a time of 7.72 seconds in the 60 hurdles. Jamaican Jaydon Hibbert, a freshman, broke the NCAA record with a men’s triple jump of 57 feet, 6 1/2 inches. Like the women, the men capped the night with a win in the mile relay as the team of Connor Washington, James Benson, Ayden Owens-Delerme and Christopher Bailey won in 3:02.09. Benson, who ran the second leg of the relay, took the baton in third place, but passed to Owens- Delerme in first after a 400 split of 44.91. Bailey ran the anchor leg in 44.15. Other individual winners for Arkansas were Carey McLeod in the men’s long jump (27-6 3/4) and Amanda Fassold in the women’s pole vault (14-7 1/4). The Razorbacks had second-place finishes from Owens-Delerme in the men’s heptathlon (6,518 points), Lauren Gregory in the mile (4:34.24), and the women’s distance medley relay team of Mary Ellen Eudaly, Paris Peoples, Lainey Quandt and Gregory (10:56.61). “In track and field we always compete as an individual, but when you add a team, the momentum just escalates dramatically,” Harter said of his women’s team, but a quote that was likely applicable to the men’s team, too. “I think this is the result of that where each and every one of our athletes rose to a level that no one expected except themselves.” Arkansas’ men reclaimed their position as the best team indoors. The Razorbacks won their 38th conference indoor championship – 12 SWC and 26 SEC – and won an NCAA title indoors for the 21st time. All are records. Bucknam’s team has won four consecutive SEC titles indoors. The NCAA championship was the program’s first since 2013, ending a run of near misses when the Razorbacks finished on the podium. “We lived to be in this position again and we just took advantage of it,” Bucknam said. “Our guys did a phenomenal job. My coaches did a phenomenal job. We just try to embrace it and enjoy it.” The meet ended with dual Hog calls – a familiar sight, but never before seen at the national level.