FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Lance Harter doesn’t buy into the theory that Arkansas has an advantage this weekend for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
While the coach of the No. 1 women’s track team in the country is glad to be competing on his home track at the Randal Tyson Track Center on Friday and Saturday, he doesn’t necessarily see it as a huge difference maker.
Harter has been the women’s track coach at Arkansas for 25 years, winning more than 20 conference titles and annually earning top five finishes. The one prize that has eluded him is the Division I championship. He is hoping to cross that off his impressive list this weekend.
Arkansas will look to athletes like top-ranked Dominique Scott in the 3000 meter run, pole vaulter Sandi Morris (ranked second and will likely compete in a heated battle with Demi Payne of Stephen F. Austin this weekend), Tamara Myers in the triple jump and Taylor Ellis-Watson in the 400 to provide the points needed to give Harter the team title.
“No doubt we are glad to be competing here this week,” he said. “This is regarded as one of the fastest tracks in the world. A lot of records have been set here. We just have to make sure we are in the right frame of mind.
“We’re glad someone somewhere feels excited about our program. But the season begins again Friday and it’s time to step up.”
Florida coach Mike Holloway has the top-ranked men’s team and the No. 2 women’s team heading into the meet. Holloway credited his coaching staff with building the two programs into an elite level.
“I have a great staff,” he said. “I think the thing is recruiting. No matter how good we are as coaches, you better have the athletes. But I don’t put a lot of stock in rankings.”
The Gators are led by Kyra Jefferson, who has the top time in the 200 meters at 22.81. Bridgette Owens is also a favorite in the 60 meter hurdles. Jefferson will also be a member of the Gator’s 4x400 meter relay team, which is ranked second behind Texas coming in.
Georgia coach Wayne Norton will rely on several top athletes primarily in the field events to make a run at the team title.
“We’re not looking for miracles,” Norton said. “As a man of faith, I believe in miracles, and I will accept miracles, but we’re not looking for miracles. We’ve been consistent all year long, and we want to come in here and just be consistent.”
Norton said whatever it takes to get to the top of the podium Saturday night is his team’s approach.
“We’re trying to win any way we can,” Norton said. “When you get to this point, it’s about trying to get on that podium and climbing to the top of the podium. Our team has been built in a different way. We don’t look at that as unique or special, really that’s just who we are right now. We’re comfortable in our own skin.”
Georgia will be looking to top high jumpers Leonitia Kallenou and Tatiana Gusin to provide points, along with pole vaulter Morgan Leleux and Keturah Orji, a favorite in the triple jump and long jump.