FAYETTEVILLE — It’s not Lance Harter’s intent snapping his Razorbacks’ streak at five of consecutive SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships to better Arkansas’ chances, winning it when both the SEC Women’s and SEC Men’s Outdoor comes to Fayetteville in 2019.
But that might happen, the coach of 33 SEC Cross Country, Indoor and Outdoor championships knows.
At the 2018 SEC Outdoor running Thursday through Saturday in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Harter’s Razorbacks, winning every SEC team championship since winning the 2014 SEC Outdoor, seek winning their fourth consecutive SEC Cross Country-Indoor-Outdoor triple crown but do so with some big guns holstered.
With NCAA Indoor 60-meter hurdles champion Payton Chadwick (nee Stumbaugh) and All-American pole-vaulter Desiree Freier otherwise only having 2019 indoor eligibility left, Harter redshirts them this outdoor season so they can compete in next year’s SEC Outdoor that Arkansas hosts at John McDonnell Field.
That’s especially locally important to Chadwick who as Payton Stumbaugh starred at Springdale Har-Ber and yearns to make up for lost time from an unsatisfactory freshman year at the University of Oklahoma before finding success first as a heptathlete and now, as a NCAA champion hurdler.
“For sure we owe that to her,” Harter said of enabling Chadwick to have a full 2019 senior track year during which Arkansas also hosts the SEC Indoor Championships.
Harter believes it’s owed to all of Arkansas for the Razorback to be at their 2019 SEC best in Fayetteville.
“We want to win it obviously at home,” Harter said. “It doesn’t get to come here very often and you want to get the chance to do it front of your fans.”
Without Chadwick in Knoxville, the Razorbacks lose not only a NCAA champion hurdler, but a SEC scorer in the long jump who has run a leg on Arkansas’ 4x400 and 4x100 relays.
Meanwhile, Freier was an All-American fifth in the NCAA Indoor vault.
Injuries have for this outdoor season cost senior All-American distance runners Nikki Hiltz, (third in last March’s NCAA Indoor mile) and redshirting Taylor Werner, the 2017 SEC Indoor 5,000-meter champion.
“We probably are leaving out 50 or 60 points,” Harter said of those and others either redshirting or injured. “That’s a lot of points.”
But they still have firepower led by the since married Weeks twins of Cabot, Lexi Jacobus and Tori Hoggard, vaulting one-two at the NCAA Indoor, NCAA Indoor champion pentathlete Taliyah Brooks and All-American sprinter Jada Baylark, hurdlers Janeek Brown and Morgan Brooks Magee and steeplechaser Devin Clark.
“We feel like we could be in the conversation to compete,” Harter said. “Georgia will be the favorite and then LSU , Texas A&M and us, maybe even Kentucky. It’s a situation where we’ve got to keep our national people healthy. Because we turn around a week and a half later and have the Regional (NCAA West Preliminary meet in Sacramento, Calif.) and that’s the gatekeeper to Nationals. So we are in that fine balance. Obviously, we want to be a factor in the SEC meet and for Nationals we’ve got some major players and we’d like for them to be fresh.”
Injuries also keep at home some of the best that Arkansas Men’s Coach Chris Bucknam otherwise would bring to Knoxville including former Razorbacks SEC Cross Country champion Alex George.
Bucknam says it’s all hands on deck and nearly all hands must score, if the Hogs, edged by just three points by Alabama for the SEC Indoor, are to prevail in a loaded and balanced SEC Men’s Outdoor.
“I think it’s a 5-way battle,” Bucknam said. “Just like indoors there is so much balance in the league. That’s the cycle we’re in. There’s 18, 19, 20 points separating five teams. Florida and Alabama look to be in the driver’s seat and then it’s us A&M and Georgia. We are just going to have to have a great meet if we are going to pull it off. I think we will be in contention.”
A couple of pluses for Arkansas indoors. Indoor track doesn’t run the 4x100, which the Razorbacks lead nationally outdoors clocking 48.59 at the National Relays they hosted April 27-28, nor does it run the 400-meter intermediate hurdles which Arkansas’ Kemar Mowatt won in 49.80 at the National Relays and finished fourth in the world representing Jamaica at last summer’s World Outdoor Championships.