FAYETTEVILLE - Injuries and deference to this year’s NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships and especially next year’s NCAA Outdoor that Arkansas hosts jeopardizes the Razorbacks nationally No. 4 women winning a fifth consecutive SEC Outdoor Championship.
But the Razorbacks men track full boar at regaining the SEC Outdoor title they won in 2016 but that Texas A&M won in 2017.
Both the SEC Men’s and SEC Women’s meets run Friday through Sunday at the University of Tennessee’s Tom Black Track in Knoxville.
The Friday and Saturday portions are Internet video streaming available via SEC Network +.
Starting at 5 p.m., Sunday’s events will be televised conventionally on the SEC Network.
Coach Chris Bucknam and his nationally No. 8 Razorbacks especially thirst for this SEC Outdoor because Alabama denied them by three points a third consecutive SEC Indoor title last March.
He may never stop second-guessing himself on that one.
“We were pretty irritated with happened indoors,” Bucknam said. “So we are not redshirting anybody outdoors that’s not healthy and ready to go. It’s all hands on deck.”
Especially since Derek Jacobus, the decathlete-heptathlete originally redshirting so he could have a 2019 outdoor decathlon season to follow his lone remaining indoor heptathlon season next winter, voluntarily shed his outdoor redshirt to compete in Razorbacks red at the decathlon in Knoxville.
“He called us up yesterday,” Bucknam said Tuesday. “He said, ‘Coach, I know the meet is really going to be tight. I’m willing to give my redshirt up to compete.’ So we pulled the redshirt to have him compete in the decathlon. He felt ‘I’m ready to go and why sit out? Let’s do this.”
Jacobus scored five team points placing fourth in last year’s SEC Outdoor decathlon.
Noting “every point counts” off the indoor loss to Alabama, Bucknam was encouraged that the shot put, hammer throw and javelin, seldom prime events for the Hogs, might peak net three to six points given last weekend’s personal bests by shot-putter Jeff Rogers, hammer thrower Erich Sullins and javelin thrower Alex Springer put them on the cusp of top eight SEC finishes which get two points for seventh and one for eighth.
Of course, it takes a big scoring base to make those fringe points team-winning points.
Even subtracting 13.79 110-meter hurdler Shakiel Chattoo still not confident he’s over a hamstring injury after pulling up at Twilight, and out with injuries Jah-Nhai Perinchief, a 7-5 high jumper and 53-plus triple jumper, Alex George, a former SEC Cross Country champion and All-American quartermiler, Rhayko Schwartz, Bucknam believes the base is there with Arkansas nationally ranking No. 1 in the 4 x 100 relay and fifth in the 4 x 400.
Two-time NCAA Indoor 200-meter All-American and SEC Indoor 60-meter dash champ Kenzo Cotton ranks nationally eighth in the 100-meter dash, while Kemar Mowatt ranks third in the 400-meter hurdles.
Jack Bruce, doubling in the SEC 1,500 and 5,000 nationally ranks 11th and third in those events while Cameron Griffith, the SEC Indoor 3,000-meter champion, also doubles in the 1,500 and 5,000 and All-American sprinter Obi Igbokwe doubles in the 200 and 400 and both relays.
It’s a strong group but about every SEC team has one.
Nationally, SEC men’s teams Florida, Alabama, Texas A&M and Georgia rank first, third, fifth and sixth with LSU and Kentucky 12th and 13th behind Arkansas’ eighth.
“We’re nationally ranked eighth,” Bucknam said. “There are four other (SEC) schools ahead of us. So it’s going to be daunting task.”
Winning the 2014 SEC Outdoor started Harter’s Razorbacks to 12 consecutive SEC championships in outdoor track, cross country, and indoor track.
However, with reigning SEC Outdoor heptathlete champion/NCAA Indoor pentathlete and national long jump leader Taliyah Brooks doing neither event in Knoxville because of a bruised heel, and All-American heptathlete Kelsey Herman, SEC distance champ Taylor Werner injured and NCAA Indoor All-American Nikki Hiltz trying to run her first outdoor race off a knee injury and NCAA Indoor hurdles champion Payton Chadwick and All-American pole vaulter Desiree Freier to save their final NCAA Outdoor for 2019 in Fayetteville, prospects for extending SEC championships from a dozen to a baker’s dozen looks bleak.
“Maybe it’s No. 13 working against us,” Harter said. “We’re probably leaving 50 or 60 points at home. Anytime you can score 100, you're going to win it, so I think right now we're in that 70, 80 type of format, which last year was second place.”
It’s a loaded SEC field of nationally No.1 LSU, No. 5 Kentucky, No. 6 Georgia, the NCAA Indoor champion, No. 8 Texas A&M and No. 9 Florida.
Still Arkansas can give it a go led by 1-2 NCAA Indoor pole vaulting twins Lexi Jacobus (nee Weeks) and Tori Hoggard (nee Weeks) steeplechase favorite Devin Clark, sprinter Jada Baylark and hurdler Janeek Brown.
“Out of the five teams that could contend we are one of those five, but it would take a lot,” Harter said. “But a lot of our young ones, they don’t know better. They think it’s another conference title and who orders the rings?”