FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Arkansas will begin its 2013 campaign as the No. 1 team in the country with Tuesday’s preseason release by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA). The Razorbacks begin their season Friday with a dual meet against preseason No. 3 Texas.

USTFCCCA POLL
Check out the full rankings.

“We’re excited about this team and the hard work they’ve put in,” head coach Chris Bucknam said. “With 18 returning All-Americans, we’re coming off a great campaign last year so it’s nice to have that experience on the roster. In this week’s practices after the break, we can tell there’s an urgency to get this indoor season started but there’s also some maturity with these guys. You can see calmness and the confidence from our guys because they’ve been there before but this is a brand new season so we’ll see how it plays itself out.”

Arkansas’ 2013 roster features 18 All-Americans—including 13 from last season—and four NCAA champions with Andrew Irwin in the pole vault and 4x400 meter relay members Neil Braddy, Akheem Gauntlett and Marek Niit. Gauntlett was also the national indoor runner-up at 200 meters last season.

Other returning national scorers are Caleb Cross in the 60-meter hurdles, Kevin Lazas and Gunnar Nixon in the heptathlon and the distance-medley relay team of Anthony Lieghio, Leoman Momoh, Patrick Rono and Travis Southard. As a team, the Razorbacks were the national runner-up in 2012.

Bucknam (distance) returns for his fifth season at the helm of the Arkansas cross country and track and field program. Assistant coaches Doug Case (sprints, hurdles, pole vault) and Travis Geopfert (field events, multis) are in their fifth and fourth seasons at Arkansas, respectively.

The Southeastern Conference placed the largest number of teams in the men’s preseason top-25 projections with seven, including four in the top 10. Overall, the SEC leads the preseason Conference Index Top 10 with its seven teams and near 300-point lead over the Pac-12 which has five teams in the rankings.