Kemoy Campbell dropped the baton on the Arkansas distance medley relay Friday night. He picked up the Razorbacks on Saturday night to clinch the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Tyson Track Center.
Campbell was the No. 15 qualifier in the 3,000, the next to last event. But he kicked early for a surprising second to clinch the team title, unseating three-time defending champ Florida.
It gave fifth-year head coach Chris Bucknam his first NCAA title and the school's first since 2006. It's the 41st in school history -- the first 40 by John McDonnell, an excited member of the crowd Friday night.
The Hogs closed the victory in style with an NCAA indoor record in the 4x400 relay to end the night. It gave them 74 points, besting Florida's 59. The Gators scored more than in any of their last three NCAA triumphs.
The UA women -- with big performances from stars Regina George in the 400 and 4x400 anchor -- got on the medal stand with a fourth-place team finish. Oregon won with 56 points, followed by Kansas (44), LSU (43) and Arkansas (42.5).
Lance Harter's team could have finished second except for a strange new ruling that split points in the pentathlon where Makeba Alcide tied for second, but was awarded third based on head-to-head event matchups.
Campbell was poised to anchor a good DMR on Friday night, possibly scoring as many as five points for the Hogs when the baton was knocked from his hand from behind with two laps left.
"It was disappointing, but coach told me last night to turn disappointment into motivation for tonight," Campbell said. "I wanted to prove myself. I wanted to win, but I think I did pretty well. This is redemption.
"I didn't know if that clinched it, but I knew it was pretty good points. I wasn't on the list of original entries, but some scratched and that got me in."
There were two scratches two weeks ago to put Campbell in the 3k. The irony, the 3k is where McDonnell clinched so many of his indoor triumphs with big points. No doubt, Bucknam knew that.
"Kemoy came in ranked 15 on the form chart," Bucknam said. "Man, I hope our alums are proud of us because that's important to me. That was a big run. It was a big run.
"Then, did we break the NCAA record? That was a designed play right there. We knew if we were going to have a chance to win we had to have a dog in the fight in the 4x4. I've talked about it for the last couple of years. Coach (Doug) Case put together a phenomenal team. They got it done. Sealed the deal."
Bucknam got a victory shower. He said it cooled him off on a hot night, but the victory felt better.
"It feels good," Bucknam said. "I just wanted to bring a national championship back to our alums. Coach Mac and our alums. And I hope they're pleased with how we got the job done and I hope they're happy for us because we worked hard for it. It was one of our top priorities, make our proud program feel good about where we're at today."
It's always good to win at home.
"For sure it is," Bucknam said. "This is an iconic facility. It's the fastest track in the world. It's our home track. And we were glad that we were able to do it in front of hog fans. It was great to be able to do it all weekend. We had big crowds. I appreciate all their support and coming out and watching us compete."
Bucknam said he wasn't looking for big points from Campbell in the 3k.
"He was down last night," Bucknam said. "But he rallied and got back in there. I went into the green room and I said, 'Dude, we just need a couple points.' He took it to heart and got us eight. Coming back from fighting adversity is what it's all about. I think our guys did that and we're reaping the benefits of it now."
Bucknam and his assistants were hugging each other in joy as Campbell finished. They knew the team title was clinched.
"We're just really proud of him," Bucknam said. "What a great effort. These kids really laid it on the line this weekend. So, I mean, we're just happy for him. He's a Division I All-American. He was at a junior college last year and he nearly broke the collegiate record. Great effort."
Campbell said he's usually a strong final lap kicker, but decided not to wait.
"I went with two and a half laps left," he said. "I usually have a little more left at the end and I didn't have that tonight. But I wanted to make sure that I scored some points for our team.
"I came here a couple of semesters back and Coach Bucknam gave me a goal sheet. I wrote down NCAA championship. We got it."
McDonnell was beaming.
"It was great," McDonnell said. "We had many fights like that where you thought you had it in the bag and then something bad happened, and to bounce back like that they had a great team performance. They beat a good team. Florida is a good team.
"This meet never comes out like you think it will, but once you get enough points it doesn't matter where they come from. This is nice. We needed another flag up there."
The Hogs started the day with a victory in the heptathlon by Kevin Lazas, crashing to the finish line out of gas with his legs failing. Lazas won by 10 points, the difference of one second as he trailed the runnerup in the 1,000.
They put the icing on the cake with the NCAA indoor record in the 4x400 with Marek Nitt, Neil Braddy, Caleb Cross and Akheem Gauntlett in 3:03.5. In between, they got a big third-place from Tarik Batchelor in the triple jump. Batchelor was out last year with a ruptured patella tendon when Florida nipped the Hogs by five points.
Harter was pleased with the women's place.
"We had one great performance after another," Harter said. "Tamara Myers got fourth in the triple jump and that was an upset.
"I'm so proud of the men. We want to stay in their shadows and let them tow them with us."
Hogs Win Indoor Track Title
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