Photo Courtesy: UA Athletics (Walt Beazley)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Univ. of Ark.) - The University of Arkansas men's track and field team garnered a pair of national awards Thursday from the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Chris Bucknam has been named the National Coach of the Year, while Travis Geopfert has earned National Assistant Coach of the Year accolades. The Razorbacks won the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships last weekend in Fayetteville.
In his fifth season as the Arkansas head coach, Bucknam guided the Razorbacks to the NCAA indoor team crown behind 74 points and three event titles. The win gave Bucknam his first national title at the helm of the program, which now has 20 NCAA indoor team titles and 41overall national championships. The Razorbacks also ran their streak of SEC titles to six with their victory at the indoor conference meet.
"To (win an NCAA title), you need to have a special group of athletes," Bucknam said after last weekend's win. "The coaching staff had everything in place. I'm really proud of how these guys got it together. We followed the plan, and we came in here and got it done."
Arkansas began the season as the No. 1 team in the country and held onto its position throughout the indoor campaign. The team racked up 19 national qualifiers for the NCAA Championships and picked up points from 14 of those entries, including national titles by Andrew Irwin in the pole vault, Kevin Lazas in the heptathlon and its 4x400-meter relay team. The Razorbacks' win at the SEC indoor meet gave Bucknam his 10th overall conference title in 14 tries since taking the position prior to the 2008-09 season.
Between the high jump, long jump, triple jump and heptathlon, Geopfert saw his athletes-six national entries overall-account for 28 of Arkansas' 74 points at the NCAA meet. The Razorbacks claimed their first multi-event national title with Lazas' school-record performance in the heptathlon. With his 6,175 points, Lazas posted the No. 4 score in collegiate history.
Under Geopfert's watch, Tarik Batchelor returned from a redshirt season in 2012 to win the SEC title in the triple jump, finish third in the event at the NCAA Championships and earn USTFCCCA South Central Field Event Athlete of the Year honors. The Razorbacks also benefitted from the scoring efforts by Raymond Higgs and Jarrion Lawson in the long jump and Anthony May II in the high jump.
When USTFCCCA All-America selections were announced Monday, Arkansas had collected 25 awards including a nation-leading 17 first-team honors. The Razorbacks 4x400-meter relay team of Neil Braddy, Caleb Cross, Akheem Gauntlett and Marek Niit broke the collegiate record with its time of 3:03.50 to cap the NCAA meet in front of its home fans at the Randal Tyson Track Center.
The Razorbacks will take a weekend away from competition before opening their outdoor season March 23 with the Texas State Quad in San Marcos, Texas.