FAYETTEVILLE, Ark – After qualifying 15 individuals at the 2014 West Preliminary, the University of Arkansas men’s track and field team hit the track for a full week of practice leading up to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore. Head Coach Chris Bucknam talks about a strong week of practice and what to expect from the Razorbacks in Eugene.
The 2014 West Preliminary is behind you, NCAAs are ahead of you – talk about the week if practice in between the two meets. We have had a great week of practice. The team is extremely focused and they have been very business-like all week. There is a sense that we have not had our very best team performance yet, which in my opinion is the reason for such great focus. Out of the west prelim, you saw some expected performances and some surprises, talk a little bit about each of those and what those performances mean during Championship season. It’s always good to have some unexpected qualifiers, especially in events that are finals. For example, the high jump, Ken LeGassey and Noah Kittleson. If they get hot and make some early bars with no misses, they can score points. They are both outstanding athletes. Raymond Higgs in triple jump is another surprise. He is an unbelievable competitor. It just takes one jump to add important points to the team total. He is really excited to be jumping in both horizontal jumps. Having him on the runway on the final day in the triple jump could be huge, and a big psychological boost for our team. Anthony May is also in the long jump, an added bonus for us. Anthony is a multiple All-American, a very dangerous and talented athlete. Again, it just takes one jump! With 15 qualifiers, the Razorbacks have the third-highest number of entries in the nation, how does that effect your mindset heading to Eugene? Well, I wish we had more, but 15 is enough to win. We are in a lot of different events, so every day there is a chance for putting points on the board. Also, having such a big contingent gives us a physical presence on the track, which is also important to have, being that the meet is on Oregon’s home track. They have a ton a qualifiers as well, so having 15 qualifiers, including both relays, nearly matches their numbers. They know we are in their wheelhouse. What do you tell the team & how do you work with them during a week of training in between two big championship season meets? These last two weeks, a little sharpening and a lot of rest goes a long ways. We tell them to ignore the polls and predictions. Nobody knows our team better than us. We have a point total WE want to get to, and we told them what it is. If we line up and compete, good things will happen. Arkansas is always a threat this time of year & receives a lot of attention – how do you keep the athlete’s minds in the right place as you prep for Eugene – especially the first-timers & younger athletes? Being in the mix for a National Title is not an anomaly at Arkansas, it’s an expectation. We narrowly missed it indoors in March, finishing 2nd. Last year, 2013, we were NCAA Indoor Champions and third outdoors. In addition, we bring to Eugene this week four returning individual National Champions, a member of last year’s NCAA record-breaking national championship 4×4 team, and two individual national runners-up to the meet. So we feel comfortable in the chaos and pressure this meet creates!
The 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championships will take place June 11-14 in Eugene, Ore. For more information on Razorback Track and Field, follow @RazorbackTF on Twitter.
Complete List of NCAA Qualifiers Neil Braddy – 4×100, 4×400 Eric Hawkins – 4×100 Raymond Higgs – Long Jump, Triple Jump Andrew Irwin – Pole Vault Eric Janise – 4×400 Stanley Kebenei – Steeplechase, 5,000m Noah Kittelson – High Jump Ken LeGassey – High Jump Jarrion Lawson – 4×100 Kevin Lazas – Decathlon Anthony May – Long Jump, Triple Jump Omar McLeod – 110H, 4×100, 4×400 Patrick Rono – 800m Travis Southard – 4×400 Tomas Squella – 800m