Link Looking to Carry on Razorback Tradition a
BY ANDRES FOCIL
With track and field season ending in a little less than a month and graduation this weekend, University of Arkansas senior distance runner and seven-time All-American Murray Link will have to leave behind all that he has known and trained for the past five years. Even though the Hogs can not win another NCAA triple crown this year, Link still has high expectations for the rest of the season for both the team and himself.
“My first goal for the rest of the season is to win the SEC team championship,” Link said. “I have not been on a team that has lost a conference meet in my five years at Arkansas so it would be a shame to lose my last one now. In the long run, we need to get as many people qualified for the NCAA Championships so we can fulfill our ultimate goal of winning the NCAA team title. My goal for the NCAA Championships is to score in both the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters.”
Link is well on his way to having his individual goals come true by automatically qualifying in the 10,000-meter run at the Mount San Antonio College Relays and provisionally qualifying in the 5,000-meter run at the Cardinal Invitational this last weekend.
Heading into the conference championships this weekend, Link has some big shoes to fill. Link’s time of 28:48.00 in the 10,000 meters leads the conference and is one of the favorites to win the individual title. For Link, who won the 5,000 meter title at indoor in Lexington, Ky., in Feb., winning the 10,000 meter title would add to the tradition that he has come accustomed to at the University of Arkansas. If Link wins the 10,000 meters, he would be the ninth-consecutive Razorback to win the event at the SEC Championships.
“I have known about this streak for quite a while,” Link said, “and keeping it going has crossed my mind. It would be especially nice to win the 10,000 at conference not only to contribute the 10 points to the team but also to keep another longstanding Arkansas tradition going.”
Link has been a part of the six national championships but claims that the 2001 cross country national titles as one that he will always remember. The Razorbacks went into the meet not expected to win the title with only five true distance runners but managed to claim their 36th national title under harsh conditions in Ames, Iowa.
“This past cross country in Ames, Iowa, would have to be one of my favorites,” Link said. “I think that was one was the hardest to win because as a team we only had five legitimate distance runners and on that day we all did what we needed to do to win the NCAA title. I would have to say that it was one of the most satisfying because we were the underdogs.”
“I have six national championship rings and hope on getting another one for this year’s championships in Eugene.”
As one of the several foreigners on the team, Link moved to Fayetteville in 1995 and quickly adjusted to life in Arkansas. In spite of being miles away from his hometown, Link has found Northwest Arkansas to be a second home for his collegiate career.
“I did not have much trouble adjusting to Fayetteville,” Link said. “The United States and Canada are pretty much alike. I am from a small agricultural community so the south was not much different from where I grew up. As far as running goes, I was lucky because I already knew two of my teammates, Sean Kaley and Matt Kerr, both of whom I raced with when I was in high school.”
Making the switch from high school to collegiate competition was not all that difficult for Link either. The similarity in training regime made coming to Arkansas an easy choice for Link.
“The training philosophy was not much different from what I was doing in high school,” Link said. “It was a lot of grass work and only speed stuff near the end of the season. I also liked the idea of winning NCAA championships over and over again. I do not like to lose.
“I was recruited by Michigan, Villanova, Oklahoma State and Alabama but I wanted to run for Arkansas all through high school and there wasn’t much that could have been said or done to change my mind.”
Not only did he get to come to Arkansas and be a part of one of the best track programs in the country but he got to train under one of the best coaches in the country – UA head coach John McDonnell.
“Coach McDonnell has taught me that you can not get something for nothing,” Link said. “He has taught me that running is a simple thing. If you take care of business on and off the track than you can be successful. He has also taught me that you should not cut corners in what ever you are doing in your life, if you give 100 percent to whatever you are doing, you will lead a happy life.”
With outdoor season winding down, Link and the rest of the seniors will prepare to run their final meets but not without reflecting on what they will miss about being a Hog.
“I am going to miss putting on the jersey and knowing that you are a part of something that will never be repeated again in NCAA history,” Link said. “I am also going to miss just running with my teammates and training with them. It is nice to be a part of something where a whole group puts months of preparation in getting ready for the same result – a team championship.”
The Hogs are hoping to retake the team title in Oregon after finishing behind Stanford last year. Even though the Razorbacks did not claim the team title, Link’s proudest individual moment came at last year’s NCAA meet.
“I would have to say that the 5,000 meters at last years outdoor NCAAs would be my proudest moment,” Link said. “Going into the last day, we were down and not in high spirits and the pressure was on to perform. I was ranked 17th going into the event and finished third, not far behind the winner. Although we did not win the team title, I finally felt like I had contributed to the team.”
Next year, the Razorback squad will miss Murray Link’s consistency that has been a mainstay for the program for the past five years. Hopefully for Link, the season will end on a positive note with the Razorbacks winning another outdoor conference title and claiming the NCAA title.
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