NEW ORLEANS – The recipient of the John McDonnell Program of the Year award in 2013, Arkansas men’s track and field heads into the outdoor season in a tight race for this year’s honor with Oregon. Following completion of the 2016 indoor season this past weekend in Birmingham, Ala. the Razorbacks trail the Ducks by a slight three point margin as both programs chase national outdoor title dreams.
The John McDonnell Program of the Year Award is named after USTFCCCA Hall of Famer and former Arkansas head coach John McDonnell. McDonnell’s Arkansas teams won a combined 40 National Championships and finished in the top ten in cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field in 24 of his 36 seasons in Fayetteville. Five of his teams won the NCAA Triple Crown. The first award was won by the Oregon Ducks for their efforts during the 2008-2009 season.
Teams must qualify for each of the NCAA Championships to be considered for the award. Points are based on how a team finishes at the national meet (1st = 1, 2nd = 2) with the lowest combined score between the three seasons determining the award winner.
Through two seasons Oregon leads with five points while Arkansas is a close second with eight points.
In 2012 the Razorbacks began their campaign for greatness at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Louisville, Ky. Former distance standout, Kemoy Campbell, paced Arkansas to a 10th place team finish as the 17th runner to complete the course. The Razorbacks continued to shine through the change in season, earning their 41st national title with a first-place finish at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championship. Arkansas boasted three individual event champions including: Andrew Irwin (pole vault), Kevin Lazas (heptathlon) and the former NCAA 4×400-meter indoor record holding team of Neil Braddy, Caleb Cross, Akheem Gauntlett and Marek Niit. Arkansas closed out the academic year with another podium performance placing third at outdoor nationals capturing the bronze with the help of 22 All-Americans. The successful finale propelled Arkansas past Wisconsin, who had led the race through the earlier competition seasons, giving the Razorbacks their first program of the year award with a score of 14.
The Razorbacks kicked off 2015 on even better ground than they had three years prior finishing in sixth place as a team at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. Arkansas had two runners (Jack Bruce and Frankline Tonui) finish inside the top 40 while all five student-athletes scored inside the top 100. Head coach Chris Bucknam’s team rolled seamlessly on into indoor competition shooting up the polls from No. 10 to No. 1 during the regular season. After a dominant team showing at the SEC Championships which saw the Razorbacks collect their 100th conference title Arkansas closed out the second leg of the program of the year race with a national runner-up finish at the 2016 NCAA Indoor Championship.
With their hearts set on claiming their second program of the year award the Razorbacks are fully prepared to attack their outdoor campaign head on. The path to Tracktown USA will begin at the Arkansas Spring Invitational on March 26 at John McDonnell Field. Arkansas will make some key stops which will feature tough tune-ups at: the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays (April 1-2), Mt. SAC Relays (April 15-16), LSU Invitational (April 30) and the Payton Jordan Invitational (May 1). Post-season action will begin with the 2016 SEC Outdoor Championship in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (May 12-14) and close with the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championship in Eugene, Ore. (June 8-11).
NCAA Division I Program of the Year Standings
1. Oregon 5
2. Arkansas 8
3. Stanford 11.5
4. Syracuse 12
5. Washington 14
For more information on Arkansas track and field including in-meet updates, follow @RazorbackTF on Twitter.