FAYETTEVILLE – The No. 11 University of Arkansas men’s track and field team begins the championship portion of its schedule this weekend with the SEC Outdoor Championships. The league’s best will compete for individual titles and the team crown May 12-15 at the Spec Towns Track in Athens, Ga. Competition for the Razorbacks is set to begin Thursday at noon (CT) with the decathlon.
"Just like the indoor season, we’re coming on at the right time," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "I really like where the team is right now. The last two weeks have been our best performances, at Penn Relays and the Twilight. We have a lot of dogs in this fight heading into the SEC meet and we expect to perform like we did indoor. We’re going to have to be at our very, very best if we’re going to contend for a title."
Arkansas has three SEC event leaders heading into the conference meet with Marek Niit in the 200 meters, Duncan Phillips in the 1,500 meters and Eric Fernandez in the 10,000 meters. Other top-three league performers include Fernandez in the 5,000 meters, Caleb Cross in the 110-meter hurdles, Kevin Lazas in the decathlon and both Razorback relays.
In this week’s release of the USTFCCCA national poll, Arkansas moved up four spots to No. 11. The Razorbacks enter the SEC Championships with their highest ranking of the outdoor season; the team got as high as No. 12 earlier in the year. There are seven SEC teams within the top 25, including Arkansas, second-ranked Florida, No. 3 LSU, host and No. 14 Georgia, No. 18 Ole Miss, No. 22 Mississippi State and No. 24 Auburn.
Niit enters the weekend as the reigning SEC Male Runner of the Week after his performance at the Arkansas Twilight last weekend. The Kuressaare, Estonia, native won the 200 meters in a personal-best 20.46 and helped the 4×100-meter relay to a first-place time of 39.47, a season-best for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas has collected 15 SEC outdoor titles since moving to the conference in 1992 with the last coming in 2009. One of those team crowns (1999) came when the event was held in Athens, Ga., the site of this year’s championship. Overall, Arkansas has 24 league outdoor titles, dating back to its days in the Southwest Conference. The Razorbacks have collected 95 SEC event titles in program history, including Dorian Ulrey’s 1,500 meters win in 2009.
The 2011 SEC Outdoor Championships will be contested May 12-15 at the Spec Towns Track in Athens, Ga. In addition to meet coverage at ArkansasRazorbacks.com, the conference meet will be streamed live at ESPN3.com Saturday from 3-5:30 p.m. (CT) and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. A tape-delay broadcast of the SEC Championships will be aired May 25 at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.