Tough competition in Alabama


Just as college basketball reaches its peak in March, the indoor track season does as well. Starting on Friday, the top athletes in the country will compete in Birmingham, Alabama, in the NCAA Indoor Championships.

Oregon will try to win for the third-consecutive year, entering the meet atop the national rankings at the No. 1 spot. The Ducks will have some tough teams to overcome.

Looking at the national rankings, the top 10 slots are bursting with SEC talent; five of the first six spots are SEC teams.

Heading into this weekend second in the polls, Arkansas head coach Chris Bucknam is very pleased with the way his team has performed to this point but knows there is always room for improvement.

“I’m extremely proud of two things with this team: how hard they have worked since early September, both in the weight room and on the track, and how hard they compete. They have been dialed in all season, not just for the big meets but the small meets,” he said.

One of the Razorbacks competing in the national championship, senior Jarrion Lawson, leads the nation in the long jump and is tied for ninth in the 60-meter dash.

Bucknam said fans may get to see him in yet another event.

“If things work out for him this weekend, you will see him in our 4-x-4,” he said. “I can’t remember an athlete competing at this level in both the long jumps and sprints in the NCAA since the great Iowa athlete Anthuan Maybank and before him, Mike Conley from Arkansas.”

Another SEC team vying for the indoor national title, Texas A&M, comes in at No. 4 in the polls.

They key for the Aggies to come out on top is simple, head coach Pat Henry said.

“We need to compete at the level it took us to get here,” he said.

The Aggies are led by a dynamic duo in the 800 meters. Freshman Donavan Brazier is the top runner in the country in the event, running a 1:45.93 race, while senior Hector Hernandez follows at fifth in 1:46.32.

The two have learned and benefited from one another this season.

“Both use aspects of each other’s grace to help each other out,” Henry said. “Donavan has done a tremendous job. He’s a great competitor and works very hard. Hector has worked so hard to be successful, and he’s really helped Donavan.”

But while the SEC have the majority of spots in the top 10, one Big 12 team will challenge them all for a top finish.

Texas comes in at seventh but boasts an all-around robust team. The Longhorns command three of the top 16 spots in the 400 meters, including No. 1 runner Zack Bilderback, while possessing the nation’s best shot-put athlete.

“To have four guys in the top 16, it bodes well for the future of our program,” head coach Mario Satenga said. “They’ve done a great job. Zach he’s a guy who’s obviously flourished. He’s excited to do great things.”

Bilderback sits atop the rankings following a 45.27 finish at the Big 12 indoor championships.

The senior lets his times do the talking for him, earning himself a nickname.

“We call him the Silent Assassin,” Satenga said. “He does not talk a lot.”

Just like Bilderback, Longhorn thrower Ryan Crouser earned his season-best performance at the Big 12 indoor championships, throwing a distance of 71-3.5.

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