Homeward Bound, Arkansas’ Perkins Returns to Missouri
Molly O’Mara, Arkansas Sports Information
Arkansas senior Adam Perkins’ collegiate career will come full circle this weekend when he travels with the Razorbacks to Columbia, Mo., his home state, for the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships.
“It’s amazing I haven’t run a track meet in Missouri since I have been in college, in my home state, especially being so close (at Arkansas),” Perkins said. “It’s a highlight and a pinnacle of my career as I end my collegiate season and now I can bring it back to my home state.”
Perkins, a native of Liberty, Mo. and a graduate of Liberty high school, will run competitively for the first time in his home state since graduating from high school in 2003. Perkins, a five-time state champion in cross country and track and field, stills holds the high school state record in the 1,600 meters (4:07.9, 2002).
Perkins opted to run unattached his senior season in order to run in the bigger national high school track meets that he was unable to run in while competing for Liberty high school. The governing body of Missouri high school athletics does not allow athletes to travel more than 250 miles form the Missouri state border for a competition.
“It’s ironic because I didn’t run my senior year of high school (for Liberty high school) and now here I am running in Missouri during my senior year of college in my home state,” Perkins added.
Perkins has mixed emotions heading into the event. While he’s excited to run in front of family in friends, he’s finding added pressure as a senior struggling with injuries.
“It’s very special for me to have regionals in Columbia since I’m so familiar with the area and I have a lot of friends of family who live around the area,” Perkins said. “It’ll be good to run at home one last time.”
“I do feel a little bit of added pressure running in front of a home crowd. I think I feel more added pressure because I’m a senior but also because I’ve dealt with injuries this whole season. I’m still battling every day, day in and day out. I’m taking days off here and there (trying to recover). That’s where the pressure is coming from. If I was healthy, I don’t think I’d have as much pressure. I’m confident in my abilities and I’m just going to go out there and get the job done and get ready for NCAA Championships.”
Perkins’ senior season, starting in January with the indoor portion, has been slightly rocky, including injuries to his Achilles’ tendon and calf muscle. Perkins also faced adversity when he learned he was the first athlete left out of the NCAA Indoor Championships in the mile run.
Despite the hardships, the five-time All-American and 2006 NCAA Distance Medley Relay Champion has battled through to the top. Perkins earned two runner-up finishes at the SEC Championships in 2007, the indoor mile (4:01.75) and the outdoor 1,500M (3:44.71).
“Coach (John McDonnell) and I definitely thought my races at the SEC Outdoor Championships were a confidence boost, just to prove to myself that (I could run a good race), without running for six days prior to that,” Perkins said.
Perkins doubted his own abilities before the SEC Outdoor Championships while experiencing unbearable pain in his Achilles’ tendon.
“(SEC Outdoor Championships) proved to me that I can (run well) no matter what the circumstances are. I was in a lot of pain that whole week. I didn’t even take a step running at all. I went out and got second but I really think I could have won (the 1,500 meters) it if things were better for me.”
Awaiting Perkins this weekend at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships is a grueling field of the nation’s best 1,500-meter runner and milers, hailing from top distance schools in Michigan and Wisconsin.
“The Mideast Region is not a pushover region by any means,” Perkins explained. “I think we have one of the tougher regions in the distance events. There are great Michigan milers, great Wisconsin milers and Vincent Rono (of South Alabama) is the defending NCAA Champion (at 1,500 meters). John Richardson of Kentucky just beat me at the SEC Championships. There are so many guys to look out for.”
A top five finish in Columbia will guarantee Perkins a spot in the 1,500 meters at the NCAA Championships in Sacramento, Calif., in June. If that doesn’t happen, Perkins can still earn an at-large bid with a finish in sixth, seventh, or eighth.
“Right now, placing in the top five is all that matters,” Perkins said. “Last year I was fifth. In 2005, I was first. I have seen both ends of the spectrum. It doesn’t make a bit of difference if you get first or fifth. I’m just trying to get to Nationals. The only thing that matters is getting there and getting to the finals.”
Perkins confidence is high after the SEC Championships and he doesn’t doubt his well-earned spot at the NCAA Championships. A solid race in his home state will only help his mindset heading into the NCAA Championships.
“Right now, I’m just taking it one day at a time,” Perkins said. “I’m just trying to get through the prelims without doing any further damage to my legs and then on Saturday, finish in the top five. My main focus is on NCAAs and I’m hoping I can stay healthy enough to get there and do the best that I can.”