By John ThomasArkansas Media RelationsChris Bucknam was named the 2009 SEC Indoor and Outdoor Men’s Track and Field Coach of the Year after Arkansas won both conference titles and picked up a team win at the 2009 NCAA Mideast Regional Championship. Bucknam was also named the 2009 NCAA South Central Indoor and Outdoor Regional Coach of the Year.
At the 2009 SEC Outdoor Championships, Arkansas student-athletes picked up six individual titles allowing the Razorbacks to top Florida’s 129 points with a score of 141 points. At the 2009 SEC Indoor Championships, the Razorbacks won four individual and relay events and earned seven runner-up finishes to score 130 points to Florida’s 102.MR: What is it you enjoy most about coaching here at Arkansas?CB: I love the athletic staff here. I love working with the people, that is first and foremost. I enjoy the athletic department and the people that I work for, so its been a great experience in that regard. MR: How great does it feel to come out to the different meets that we have here in Fayetteville and be able to compete in front of the fans that we have, who really show their love for track and field?CB: I love their expectation. I love what has been created here. I wouldn’t say that I love the pressure, but more of the expectation that people have for track here in building on the tradition. It’s great to have fans and the one thing that I have learned is that the Razorback fans love all their sports. That is what is really unique about this place. It doesn’t seem like they have one favorite sport and don’t support other sports.MR: Was there anything in the way Coach John McDonnell ran the program that you wanted to continue?CB: Well, the success of it of course. [laughing] As far as the nuts and bolts of the program, I think our philosophies were generally the same and how we looked at conference competition and national competition. You know, Coach McDonnell’s first line of defense was the SEC meet and then moved on to the national meet and that’s how I’ve always coached. I think our philosophies mesh that way. Obviously, we come from different eras with different styles, but I think for the most part, I see the overall look of the program hasn’t changed that much. I think our goals remain the same and we’re going to try to fulfull them. MR: When you go on the recruiting trail, is there anything specific you look for in a recruit?CB: First and foremost, we try to find the student-athlete whose main goal is to graduate. We do recruit some very talented athletes, but not all of them have that same goal of wanting to get a degree. So, that is the first thing we look at. Out of those talented kids, we look for the ones that are motivated to get a degree. You can’t pretend to want a degree, you have to have a want to for it. Also, we obviously look for the kids that want to compete at the highest level and the toughest conference and that is the SEC. With those two things, they are our staff’s first priorites. MR: Is there anything about your sport, and that includes cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field, that most people may not know about?CB: They may not know the fact that the maximum scholarship limit is 12.6 for all three sports combined and we have close to 60 athletes. What they might not know is the fact that a program like Arkansas has always had great balance between cross country, indoor and outdoor. It is a tricky thing to do to balance all three. Some programs choose to concentrate on one sport. Either indoor, outdoor or whatever and try to put all their eggs into that one basket. Here, we’re trying to win Triple Crowns. We want to win titles in all three sports. I don’t know if people know that we’re trying to go all the way in all three. MR: When the season ended last year at the NCAA Championships, your team showed a lot of promise heading into this season, with many guys returning. What is the most exciting thing about the team this year, that you are really looking forward to?CB: We’re excited about trying to improve upon last year. We want to move up in the SEC in cross country, we want to defend our indoor and outdoor SEC titles and we want to get on podium at the NCAA Championships. Just getting back to these competitions and seeing what we are made of. MR: What is it like to have top-notch facilities like we have here on campus with the Randal Tyson Track Center and John McDonnell Field?CB: It really is a blessing. There is no question about it. There is nothing better than bringing prospective athletes on campus and having them look at our facilities and seeing the expression on their faces. They know that this is something special. We’re blessed to have them, but it can be a little tough with as many meets that we host here, especially the national meets. With that brings a lot of pressure on our kids with a lot of people coming into town and wanting to watch them perform. It just presents a ton of distractions, so we just really have to be on top of our athletes to make sure that they stay focused.MR: So, coming from the east coast, you must be a huge New England Patriots fan?CB: [laughing] I’m a big Boston Patriots fan. That’s how I stay connected with my family back home. One of the athletes I had run for me at Northern Iowa, played for the Patriots at wide reciever. So, it was really fun to see that. I just enjoy all sports.MR: Even hockey?CB: I grew up a big Boston Bruin fan. If you ask me who the greatest hockey player of all time is, it would definitely be Bobby Orr. Not Gordie Howe, not Wayne Gretzky, its Bobby Orr. I even think ESPN backs me up on that. When I graduated high school in 1974, the Bruins were the big bad Bruins with Phil Esposito and Wayne Cashman. It was really fun.