SEC Outdoor title defense next challenge for No. 2 Razorbacks
COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Championship season starts this weekend for the No. 2 Arkansas Razorbacks as they seek to defend their title at the SEC Championships hosted by Texas A&M at E.B. Cushing Stadium this Thursday through Saturday, May 13-15.
Arkansas enters the meet as the defending champion from 2019, when they completed a sixth conference triple crown. The 2020 SEC Outdoor meet was canceled along with the entire outdoor collegiate season due to the pandemic.
Nine SEC schools are ranked among the top 25 in the women’s national poll. LSU leads the group at No. 1 heading into the conference weekend and are followed by No. 2 Arkansas, No. 3 Texas A&M, No. 6 Georgia, No. 7 Alabama, No. 10 Florida, No. 18 Auburn, No. 23 Kentucky, and No. 25 South Carolina.
Conference rankings have Arkansas in the top position followed by LSU, Texas A&M, Alabama, Ole Miss, Kentucky, Auburn, and Georgia among the top eight.
“The competition has just exploded in the conference over the past year, and I think part of that is due to covid with all the carryover and we have a double senior class now,” noted Razorback women’s head coach Lance Harter. “The depth is across the board.
“The SEC will really make a statement this weekend nationally as far as the quality with the performances. Now, it’s time to compete head-to-head, and those wins and losses are going to dictate the championship.”
Of the past 20 SEC meets held in cross country, indoor and outdoor track and field seasons, the Razorbacks have won 19 league titles and Arkansas has completed four SEC triple crowns during that span.
In returning to competition this past fall, the Razorbacks claimed an eighth consecutive cross country title, and then added a seventh consecutive indoor title. Arkansas has won five of the past six SEC Outdoor titles and a successful title defense this weekend would garner a seventh conference triple crown.
“In our situation we’re probably a co-favorite with LSU, and they have the best team they’ve ever had,” stated Harter. “During the cross country season, we have to hold off the likes of Alabama and Ole Miss, indoors we have to hold off Texas A&M, and now outdoors we have to try to hold off LSU.”
Texas A&M serves as an outdoor conference host for the first time since 2001 when they held the Big 12 Championships on the Frank G. Anderson Track Complex. Cushing Stadium will also serve as host for the NCAA West Preliminary round this season.
Coverage of the SEC Championships will be streamed on SEC Network + during Thursday (5:40 to 9:45 p.m. CT) and Friday (4:35 to 9:45 p.m. CT). Saturday’s finals will air on the SEC Network (5 to 9 p.m. CT). Live results are available (https://flashresults.com/2021_Meets/Outdoor/05-13_SEC/).
Arkansas men and women have previously swept SEC titles in cross country (2015) and indoor track (2020) in College Station, and this weekend marks the Razorbacks’ first opportunity in outdoor track and field.
The top-end quality of competition in the conference is displayed with SEC athletes having a NCAA leading mark in 10 events, with a pair each for Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, and Texas A&M.
National leaders among the Razorbacks include Nastassja Campbell in the pole vault (14-9 ½), as well as the 4×400 relay (3:26.63). Both marks were set during victories at the Texas Relays in late March and have maintained that position throughout the outdoor season.
Additional conference leaders heading into the meet for Arkansas includes Tiana Wilson in the 400m (51.21), and Krissy Gear in the 1,500m (4:09.00).
Sporting the second-best times in the conference are Kennedy Thomson in the 1,500m (4:12.38), Gear in the 3,000m steeplechase (9:45.10) with Gracie Hyde third (9:57.88). Katie Izzo is second in the 10,000m (33:18.62) and third best in the 5,000m (15:41.33) with Devin Clark third in the 10k (33:48.90).
In the 2019 SEC Outdoor meet Devin Clark claimed gold in the 3,000m steeplechase while silver medalists included Carina Viljoen (1,500) and Lauren Gregory (5,000). The Razorback relays were silver medalists in the 4×100 and 4×400.
Returning scorers from the previous SEC Outdoor meet also include Clark in the 5,000 (5th), G’Auna Edwards in the long jump (6th), and Meghan Underwood in the 1,500 (7th).
Thursday’s schedule includes the 10,000m final, start of the heptathlon and prelim races for the Razorbacks. Friday’s events for Arkansas include the long jump and pole vault, a 3,000m steeplechase final and the conclusion of the heptathlon along with prelim races. Saturday will feature 10 running finals to conclude the meet.