Arkansas women aiming for 1st title at NCAA indoors
Mar. 12, 2015
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas has won 41 national championships in track and field, coming in the cross country, indoor and outdoor varieties.
None of those titles have come from the women's program, and the Razorbacks hope to make it a first this weekend at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
Led by a meet-high 15 qualifiers, including Southeastern Conference champion runners Dominque Scott and Chrishuna Williams, the top-ranked Arkansas women face a difficult task in dethroning five-time champion Oregon as well as holding off familiar SEC foes such as Florida, Kentucky and Georgia.
The Razorbacks are also faced with the daunting task of living up to the wild success of the men's program, which earned its record 20th indoor championship when the national championships were last held in Fayetteville two years ago.
While the Arkansas women haven't had the same historical success of the men's program, their conference title last month gave them five SEC indoor championships under longtime coach Lance Harter.
Harter said this season's team is "by far" the best team he's had with the Razorbacks, whose best indoor result was a third-place finish in 2000 — along with four runner-up finishes in cross country.
"If we can duplicate what we've done in the weeks past, then I think the results will speak for themselves," Harter said.
The meet begins Friday with the first four events of the heptathlon as well as some field events and a host of preliminary sprint and distance races.
It ends Saturday with a flurry of track events, where Harter expects the Razorbacks to flourish as they try to win the school's first team national championship in any women's sport. They'll do so behind Scott, the South African and SEC indoor champion in both the mile and 3,000-meter run.
"I guess there are a lot of nerves," Scott said. "But because it's at home, it's also quite a comforting feeling, knowing that we're going to be competing on the track that we train on multiple times a week."
On the men's side, Oregon enters as the defending national champion and ranked second behind Florida — which had its streak of three straight indoor national championships snapped by Arkansas in Fayetteville in 2013.
The Gators ended Arkansas' three-year reign as SEC indoor champions last month at Kentucky, and they are led by conference champion Marquis Dendy in both the long and triple jumps. The senior is the first athlete to win both events at the SEC indoor championships since Olympic gold-medalist Christian Taylor in 2009.
The Arkansas men snapped a seven-year drought without a national championship two years ago, the school's first title under coach Chris Bucknam. The Razorbacks are ranked third, with Bucknam saying they are "lurking in the weeds."