Wooo Pig Classic features collection of nation’s top teams
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas hosts the Wooo Pig Classic on Friday, another team scored event that features a collection of top track and field talent from around the country. The Razorbacks play host to Kentucky, LSU, Missouri, Oklahoma State, Southern California, and Texas inside the Randal Tyson Track Center.
“The meet this weekend ramps up quite a bit in terms of competition,” noted Arkansas men’s head coach Chris Bucknam. “It’s going to be a really good track and field meet. Having that first meet out of the way now we take another step forward this weekend, hopefully, and get a little better.”
While talent abounds in various events being held on Friday, with field events starting at 11:30 a.m. and running events beginning at 2 p.m., some disciplines will stand out due to the abundance of national caliber athletes entered.
“It’s what or facility is all about,” stated Bucknam. “One of the things that makes our facility good is that it’s world class on the oval and for the jumping events. In addition to some strong field events, we will see some of the best sprinters and hurdlers in the country.
“Already with the new surface it feels good with the renovation and new Mondo.”
Even though its still early into this indoor campaign, having a scored meet among the quality of teams competing in the Wooo Pig Classic can offer insights into how the team is progressing.
“Every scored meet tells a story about your team,” explained Bucknam. “Can you win with a different kind of lineup, shifting your line-up around? It tells you how you match up with certain teams.
“We’re testing some people in other events, like running Gilbert Boit in the mile. But that doesn’t mean the score doesn’t count. The other schools are probably doing the same thing. We’re all kind of doing the same gig, we’re trying to prepare our team two weeks, four weeks down the road for bigger races.”
LSU’s Damion Thomas, the 2020 SEC bronze medalist, tops the hurdle entrants where the Razorback enter a foursome of Markus Ballengee, Carl Elliott III, Tre’Bien Gilbert and Shaka Bogan. Ballengee finished ahead of his teammates by the narrowest of margins last week with a career best 7.87.
In the 400m, Jalen Brown joins teammate James Milholen, who won a week ago with a career best of 46.85. The field includes Jonathan Jones of Texas, who holds the national record for Barbados with a 44.53 outdoors and an indoor best of 45.38, as well as Kentucky’s Dwight St. Hillaire, the SEC Outdoor runner-up in 2019.
Featured jumpers include 2019 Pac-12 high jump champion Ernie Sears of USC, who has cleared 7-6 ½ (2.30), and Missouri’s Ja’Mari Ward, the 2019 NCAA Outdoor long jump champion.
A pair of Razorbacks challenging Ward in the long jump include Ryan Brown, who won the triple jump last week, and John Baker, who recently claimed a victory in his first ever indoor long jump competition and was recognized as the SEC Freshman of the Week.
Five sprinters are entered in the 60m with times under 6.75, including the Razorback tandem of Kristoffer Hari and Roman Turner. They square off against the USC duo of Brendon Stewart and Eric Allen, Jr. as well as Kentucky’s Lance Lang.
The talent isn’t limited to sprints and jumps, however, as Bucknam notes some distance events offer an opportunity for fast times.
“In our mile field, I think there is a shot of going under 4 minutes,” noted Bucknam. “That’s going to be a good race and we’ll have a good 3,000m and 800m, too. Across the board it will be a great meet.”
After setting a career best at 1,000m with his victory last week, Amon Kemboi races at the mile distance with a Razorback crew of Gilbert Boit, Jacob McLeod, Matt Young, Tommy Romanow and Josh Shearer.
Racing in the 3,000m are Ryan Murphy and Myles Richter. Leading the Hogs in the 800m are Kieran Taylor, Reese Walters, Andrew Kibet and Luke George.
Throwing events include noteworthy talent with Adrian Piperi of Texas, 2019 NCAA Outdoor shot put champion, and LSU’s Jake Norris, the 2020 SEC Indoor silver medalist in the weight throw.
One adjustment the Razorbacks went through in its opening meet last weekend was competing in a venue with no fans in the arena.
“We miss the fans,” Bucknam said. “I was impressed with how our guys responded without the fans. Track has this ability to have an intrinsic motivation. I’m impressed with how our athletes handled everything last week. It’s amazing how they can get themselves ready to compete at a high level even without the fans.
“We had team sections in the stands, so that created some atmosphere for the races. There will be more teams this weekend and a little higher energy level. These kids adapt and figure it out. The highly motivated ones are enthusiastic about competing at the highest level and they are going to find a way to run fast and do their thing.”