Arkansas men’s track and field team returned to prominence in a big way, capturing the school’s 20th indoor national title with a dominating performance Saturday at the Tyson Track Center.
The Razorbacks had three individual or relay champions and finished with 74 points, easily outpacing runner-up Florida’s 59. The Gators entered the meet as the three-time defending champion but couldn’t keep up with Arkansas.
Arkansas’ winning point total was the most scored since the Razorbacks scored 94 points in the 1994 meet. Florida’s runner-up total would have won every national indoor competition since 2003.
It is Arkansas’ 41st official national championship in cross country or track and field, and the first earned under coach Chris Bucknam, who took over the program when John McDonnell retired in 2008 after winning 40 titles.
Sophomore Andrew Irwin started the onslaught of points when he won his second consecutive national indoor title in the pole vault with a clearance of 18 feet, 8 1/4 inches on Friday. Junior Kevin Lazas won the heptathlon, the Razorbacks’ first in that event, on Saturday with 6, 175 points.
The Razorbacks had clinched the team title before the final event of the meet, the 1,600-meter relay, but Arkansas not only won that race but did it in a collegiate record time of 3 minutes, 3.50 seconds.
“We followed the plan, and we came in here and got it done,” Bucknam said. “We just hope our alumni are proud. We look at all the national championship banners in the ceiling, and our number one goal was to make them proud and show them that we were back. With the 4×400-meter relay, we just wanted to finish it off right, and we got that collegiate record this time.”