Arkansas captures SEC championship
Fernandez wins individual title to propel Razorbacks to crown
MARYVILLE, Tenn. -- For the 19th time in program history and the second consecutive year, Arkansas captured the SEC team title with a first-place finish on Monday morning at the Lambert Acres Golf Club. The Razorbacks were paced by SEC champion Eric Fernandez, who took home the 11th individual title for Arkansas since joining the conference.
Behind a 1-2 finish by Fernandez and Duncan Phillips, the Razorbacks collected 33 team points to secure the conference championship. The SEC crown is the second for Arkansas under head coach Chris Bucknam. The Razorbacks placed all five of its scorers inside the top 13 and finished ahead of runner-up Florida (66 points) and third-place Georgia (68).
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"Obviously, we're very happy," Bucknam said. "This is our first line of defense when we go into the championship season. I'd have to say this is our most important meet of the year. I'm thrilled to watch our guys perform the way they did. I'm proud of them. We got good competition from Florida and Georgia, and hats off to them. They ran a tough race, and we came out on top."
Fernandez is Arkansas' first individual champion since Josphat Boit completed back-to-back title runs in 2004 and 2005. Running away from the lead pack late in the race, Fernandez navigated the 8,000-meter course in a time of 24:10.60, ahead of second-place runner and teammate Duncan Phillips. The Razorback senior clocked a time of 24:22.57
"We come to SECs for the team title, and the best way to help out your team is to score as low as possible," Fernandez said. "Winning is always fun but looking at the grand scheme of things, one point is always better than two. Then Duncan (Phillips) got second. That was so sweet. That made me even happier than when I crossed the line because I knew that meant with that one-two punch and how the other guys were racing, that we had it in the bag. It was fun."
Seniors Rick Elliott and Chuol Dey were Arkansas' third and fourth scorers, respectively. Elliott ran to a sixth-place individual finish, crossing the line in a time of 24:29.59. He was followed by an 11th-place result from Dey who posted a finishing time of 24:39.64. Patrick Rono, the only freshman in Arkansas' lineup, rounded out the team's scoring with a time of 24:41.89, good for 13th place overall.
The Razorbacks' sixth runner was Layne Nixon. He finished in a time of 24:56.36, good for 20th place overall. Nixon was immediately followed by Aaron Hamilton who finished in 21st place and clocked in with a time of 24:59.28.
Arkansas' remaining runners were Tom Cattin-Masson (25:15.84) in 31st place overall, Omar Abdi (25:26.32) in 37th place and Cameron Efurd (25:41.79) in 47th place.