FAYETTEVILLE – The No. 15 University of Arkansas men’s cross country team have picked up a pair of year-end Southeastern Conference awards. Head coach Chris Bucknam was voted the 2011 SEC Men’s Coach of the Year while junior Eric Fernandez was named the SEC Runner of the Year. League honors were released Friday.
This marks the second consecutive season Bucknam was selected as the top cross country coach in the SEC. He led the Razorbacks to the 2011 team title Oct. 31 in Maryville, Tenn. The victory at the conference meet was Arkansas’ second in a row and 19th SEC team title in program history. The Razorbacks have now won six SEC titles under Bucknam’s direction with two each in cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field.
Fernandez is the eighth runner in program history to win the SEC individual title. His victory was the 11th overall for the Razorbacks. At the conference meet, Fernandez navigated the 8K course at the Lambert Acres Golf Club in a time of 24:10.60, nearly 12 second faster than his nearest competitor. The Ballwin, Mo., native is Arkansas’ first individual conference champion since 2005.
During the season, Fernandez has finished as the team’s top finisher through the first four meets of the year. He opened the 2011 season with a victory at the Razorback Invitational. Fernandez was also the Razorbacks’ top scorer at the Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Okla., and Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville.
"It was huge for Eric to get that championship," Bucknam said. "He’s a tough, hard-nosed kid that loves to race and loves to train. He has that overachieving gene in him and he just took off. He’s worked really hard this year and it couldn’t happen to a better guy because he really gets after it every single day."
Behind a 1-2 finish at the SEC Championship by Fernandez and Duncan Phillips, the Razorbacks collected 33 team points to clinch the conference title. Arkansas placed all five of its scorers-Fernandez, Phillips, Rick Elliott, Chuol Dey and Patrick Rono-inside the top 13 and finished ahead of runner-up Florida (66 points) and third-place Georgia (68).
The Razorbacks return to action Nov. 12 for the 2011 NCAA South Central Region Championship at the Cottonwood Creek Golf Course in Waco, Texas. For more information regarding Razorbackcross countryor University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.