FAYETTEVILLE – Head coach Chris Bucknam and freshmen Razorbacks Patrick Rono and Andrew Irwin have been recognized by the Southeastern Conference with Friday’s release of the 2012 SEC Indoor Track and Field Awards. Bucknam was named the SEC Men’s Coach of the Year, Rono was selected the SEC Men’s Freshman Runner of the Year and Irwin was voted the SEC Men’s Freshman Field Athlete of the Year.
Bucknam guided Arkansas to the 2012 SEC indoor team title last weekend in Lexington, Ky. The indoor win was the Razorbacks’ third under Bucknam. This marks the third indoor coaching honor for Bucknam and the seventh overall for the fourth-year Razorback head coach. Under Bucknam’s direction, Arkansas has won the last three SEC competitions, dating back to last year’s outdoor and cross country league meets.
Rono was the 2012 SEC champion in the mile, and was the only freshman to win an individual title at the conference meet. He was a double winner as the anchor of Arkansas’ distance-medley relay. Rono was the No. 7 individual scorer at the conference meet with 12.5 points. The Razorbacks’ win in the DMR helped clinch the SEC indoor team title. Rono currently owns the No. 4 time at 800 meters in the SEC.
"Patrick was certainly one of those athletes that came through for us," Bucknam said. "Those races were tactical and got very fast at the end. We know that Patrick has tremendous foot speed so we were confident that in both races, whether it was the mile or the DMR, he would have the upside with his foot speed. It was a nice job for him under some pressure conditions."
Irwin was the 2012 SEC champion in the pole vault with an NCAA- and SEC-leading clearance of 5.53m/18-1.75. His final clearance was also an improvement of his own school record. With his win, Irwin became the first SEC indoor pole vault champion in program history. He was the first SEC champion to clear 18 feet since the 2002 meet.
"What a job by Andrew Irwin last weekend," Bucknam said. "He was really dialed in all weekend. He did a phenomenal job all meet. We were in a facility he hadn’t been in before so he was dealing with some different conditions. I was really impressed with Andrew."
Rono is Arkansas’ second SEC Freshman Runner of the Year, and first since Chris Bilbrew won the award in 2008. Irwin is the program’s second SEC Freshman Field Athlete of the Year, and first since 2006 when Nkosinza Balumbu was recognized.
The Razorbacks’ indoor season comes to a close March 9-10 with the NCAA Indoor Championships at the Jacksons Track in Nampa, Idaho. For more information regarding Razorback track and field or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.