COLLEGE STATION, Texas – No. 22 Arkansas competes in the NCAA South Central Region meet on Friday, November 11, on the Dale Watts Cross Country Course seeking an automatic berth into the NCAA Championship field.
“Nothing is easy, and we don’t take anything for granted,” noted Arkansas men’s head coach Chris Bucknam. “We have to finish in the top two and I figure that’s a very doable task for us. We only run seven athletes and we’ll bring an alternate or two.”
Teams will race over a 10,000m distance with a start time of 10:15 a.m. The top two teams and first four individual finishers in the race, not associated with the top two teams, will advance to the NCAA Championships, which will be held on Saturday, November 19, in Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Admission to the meet is free. Live results will be available through flashresults.com at the following link: https://www.flashresults.com/2023_Meets/xc/NCAASC/
The top two teams from each of the nine regions contested automatically qualify for the NCAA Championship field. In addition to the 18 teams who auto qualify, the rest of the 31-team field will be completed with 13 at-large selections.
“As of now we’re running our top guys,” said Bucknam. “For the most part you have to treat this race as the final until you have it in hand. With a mile or two to go you can kind of do some quick math in your head and pull the reigns back, kind of what we did last year. Because winning it makes no difference, you need to be in the top two.”
The Razorbacks enter the region meet after tying for second place in the SEC Championships, where Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Ole Miss were separated by six points.
“I think it just calluses them and hardens their shell mentally,” stated Bucknam of the SEC battle. “We’ve been through the ringer, with four teams separated by six points in the SEC Championships. It was an all-out brawl. We did everything we could to try to catch Alabama and we just came up a little bit short.
“Any tough competition like the SEC, I feel you’re better off for it coming out the other side. I believe we’re a better team because of it.”
Patrick Kiprop, the SEC Outdoor champion at 5,000m and silver medalist at 10,000m last spring, leads the Arkansas crew. He recently finished fifth in the SEC Championships and will be one of the favorites for the individual title this weekend.
“We’ll have a specific race plan for our team and for Patrick, specifically, to stay with our group and get our team qualified,” noted Bucknam. “Then we can let it all hang out at the national meet.
“Our plan is to run as a group this Friday and stay together. You want to win every meet, and that will be in back of our minds, but again it’s just a preliminary race where we need to finish in the top two.
Other top individual returners from the 2021 South Central Region meet include defending champion Haftu Knight of Texas and his Longhorn teammate Rodger Rivera. Knight placed eighth in the recent Big 12 Championships, while Rivera finished 10th.
Bradley Makuvire of Southeast Louisiana placed 11th in the region meet last fall. He recently finished fourth in the American Athletic Conference and won the Arturo Barrios Invitational on the Dale Watts course with a 23:25.5 clocking a month ago.
Razorbacks with previous experience in the 2021 South Central Region meet includes Myles Richter, Ryan Murphy, and Jacob McLeod as they placed 12-16-30 a year ago.
Previously, in the 2019 South Central meet, Murphy and Richter finished second and fourth among the Razorbacks while earning All-Region honors in placing 13th and 15th overall. McLeod placed fourth in the 2019 South Region in earning All-Region with Belmont.
The rest of the Arkansas squad who have raced in this postseason will be racing in their initial region meet. Included in that group are Elias Schreml, Ben Shearer, Josh Shearer, Jack Williams, Reuben Reina,
“This meet may not be quite as competitive, so hopefully they will feel a little more at ease and we can go into this race and not expend a whole lot of energy, but get the work done we need to do and move forward,” stated Bucknam.
“It’s just a short period time, with just eight days, until the next 10k race at the NCAA Championships. I’m a believer that you can only go to the well so many times throughout the whole year.”
In addition to the Razorbacks, No. 30 Texas is the only other nationally ranked team among entries in the South Central Region.
Over the past 21 years, Arkansas and the Longhorns have claimed the pair of automatic spots 17 times from the South Central meet, with UA holding a 14-3 advantage in placing first with UT runner-up.
Last season was the third time in the past 21 region meets for Texas to claim the team victory over Arkansas. The teams were separated by four points, 35-39, with the Longhorns taking the edge in Waco.
During the 2013 version of the South Central Region meet held in Waco, the Razorbacks edged Texas by three points, 34 to 37. In the 2019 South Central meet held at Agri Park, the Longhorns defeated Arkansas, 39 to 67, to snap a Razorback six-year winning streak in the regional.
Overall, Arkansas has claimed 38 region titles dating back 1976, and since 2000 has won the South Central Region team title 16 times.
South Central Region Rankings
1. Arkansas, 2. Texas, 3. Texas A&M, 4. Arkansas State, 5. Tulane, 6. Incarnate Word, 7. Lamar, 8. UTA, 9. New Orleans, 10. McNeese State.
Individual Winners | Arkansas (21)
2014 – Stanley Kebenei, 2013 – Stanley Kebenei, 2009 – Dorian Ulrey, 2004 – Josphat Boit, 2002 – Alistair Cragg, 1999 – Michael Power, 1998 – Michael Power, 1997 – Ryan Wilson, 1996 – Godfrey Siamusiye, 1995 – Godfrey Siamusiye, 1994 – Jason Bunston, 1993 – Niall Bruton, 1992 – David Welsh, 1991 – Eric Henry, 1990 – Eric Henry, 1989 – Reuben Reina, 1985 – Chris Zinn, 1984 – Roland Reina, 1982 – Tony Leonard, 1980 – David Taylor, 1978 – Mark Muggleton.