No. 5 Razorbacks set to defend SEC outdoor title

    12:58 PM, May 8, 2013   |    comments
    Photo Courtesy: UA Athletics (Walt Beazley)
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    FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Univ. of Ark.) - After an open date in its schedule, the No. 5 University of Arkansas men's track and field team returns to competition with the 2013 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships, set for May 9-12 at Audrey J. Walton Stadium in Columbia, Mo. The Razorback men begin competition Thursday at 12 p.m. (CT) with day one of the decathlon.

    Overall, the Razorbacks have won 17 SEC outdoor team titles since joining the league in 1991-92. Last year, Arkansas scored 196 points and collected eight event titles on its way to completing the team's 2011-12 SEC Triple Crown campaign. Dating back to the 2011 SEC outdoor meet, the Razorbacks have won six consecutive SEC competitions. Arkansas has won three SEC outdoor titles under head coach Chris Bucknam.

    "We'd like to extend the streak but we're not looking ahead of ourselves," Bucknam said. "We still have a lot of work ahead of us to get the job done and perform. The Oregon dual meet was a good test for us in regards to head-to-head competition. We got tested by a very good team on their home track in front of a big crowd and we stepped up. We did a nice job there, but we need to go it again."

    Individually, Arkansas has racked up 107 event titles in its 21 years in the SEC. The Razorbacks have eight returning champions on its roster this year with Neil Braddy (4x100m/2012), Caleb Cross (400mH/2012, 4x100m/2012), Eric Fernandez (10,000m/2012), Akheem Gauntlett (4x100m/2012), Raymond Higgs (long jump/2012), Andrew Irwin (pole vault/2012), Kevin Lazas (decathlon/2012) and Marek Niit (200m/2011, 4x100m/2012).
    Arkansas has won at least 10 titles in six different events-1,500 meters, 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters, 3,000-meter steeplechase, long jump and triple jump-with a program-best 15 wins in the 10K, most recently won by Fernandez last year. The victory in the 4x100-meter relay and Lazas' win in the decathlon last year were the program's first-ever wins in those events.

    The Razorbacks have won an SEC event title in 17 of the 21 events contested at the outdoor meet. In 1994, the team had its largest single-season haul with nine event titles. Arkansas owns three SEC Championships meet records with Seneca Lassiter at 1,500 meters (3:37.29/1999), Alistair Cragg at 5,000 meters (13:41.04/2003) and Melvin Lister in the long jump (27-10.25/2000).

    Based on this week's release of the USTFCCCA national poll, the Arkansas men enter this weekend's meet as the No. 5 team in the country. The Razorbacks are one of seven ranked teams from the SEC, all of which are inside the nation's top 20. Following this weekend's conference meet, the rest of the schedule includes the NCAA West Preliminary (May 23-25) in Austin, Texas, and the NCAA Championships (June 5-8) in Eugene, Ore.

    The 2013 SEC Championships will be streamed live by ESPN3 on Saturday, May 11 from 3:40-6:45 p.m., and Sunday, May 12 from 2:50-6:45 p.m. Competition outside of the ESPN3 coverage windows will be made available on MUTigers.com. The 2013 SEC Outdoor Championships will air as part of a 90-minute show on ESPNU on Thursday, May 23 at 7 p.m.

    In addition to video coverage of this weekend's meet, an interactive blog will be available with the start of competition each day.

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