Indoor champ Andrew Irwin will try to get the Hogs off to a good start when the pole vault final opens the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships Wednesday at Eugene, Oregon.
The pole vault is the first final of the day at 4 p.m. Irwin helped the Hogs to the Indoor championships in March with a first-place finish as the team rolled to a big victory.
Arkansas won the indoor crown with 74 points, pulling away from defending champ Florida (59) with Kemoy Campbell's runnerup finish in the 5,000 followed by the team's win in the 4x400 relay in the final two events of the night.
Arkansas qualified an NCAA leading 20 athletes in the men's championships two weeks ago in regional competition in Austin. It was an almost flawless trial with two unlucky qualifiers, both on problems out of their control.
"It went pretty well," Arkansas coach Chris Bucknam said as he prepared to head to the airport Monday for trip to Oregon. "We are healthy and have had good workouts leading up to the meet. I think we are in good shape to perform well."
The track coaches association has put the Hogs in the No. 2 ranking, just behind Texas A&M. Oregon and Florida are the other top contenders.
But the Hogs may be tough to beat. They carry momentum from the indoor meet and were awesome in wrapping up their second straight SEC triple crown last month in Columbia, Mo.
Irwin is poised for another big meet. The key might be getting his poles to Eugene. They were lost earlier this spring when the Hogs traveled there for a dual meet. Storms hampered delivery and they didn't make it back to Fayetteville until one month later.
"You learn from your mistakes," Bucknam said. "You try to in coaching. So we shipped them a little differently this time.
"Andrew never ceases to amaze me. At the SEC meet, they were going into a 10 mph head wind and he switched poles for a key vault. It was a must vault for him to get to the next height and he nailed it.
"I think he's ready to go higher this week, get a really big vault if the conditions are right."
One of the national track publications predicted the Hogs point total in Eugene at 65, probably a winning total.
"Usually, in this meet, 50 to 60 is the in the magic range," Bucknam said. "I didn't think we'd score 74 in the indoor meet. But who knows when a team catches fire. Track and Field News has us with 65. I'd take that any day of the week. That seems like a lot to me."
The emotion of a team event in track sometimes sets things up for special performances. Who knows what happens when a team title is on the line, just like what the Hogs saw with Campbell late in the indoor meet. It may not be clear how many points are needed until 3:50 p.m. Saturday when the 4x400 closes out the meet.
"I think when you look at the form charts and figure points, you don't look at the team emotion that takes over sometimes," he said. "You don't include the emotional part of the sport of running for a team.
"A lot of track is running as an individual. But we run for a team. It's a team sport at Arkansas. You compete for each other as well as yourself. When you add that to the mix, you have a potent concoction."
As far as the team title is concerned, Bucknam tries not to talk about it. That was his take before the Hogs won the indoor title for their 41st national crown. What would No. 42 mean?
"I haven't thought about it," Bucknam said, trying to hold back a smile.
He said he talks more about contending for a title. He thinks the Hogs can do that.
"Contend for a title," Bucknam said. "I think we've got a good group going to Eugene. It's going to be a matter of executing and getting the job done. There's one intention, and that's to compete for a title."
Bucknam said his coaches and athletes have done a nice job of focusing on each daily workout and meet in preparation for the outdoor title.
"We've done well at eliminating the distractions," he said. "We maybe haven't had some sexy big outdoor meets (on the road) to focus on getting ready for this meet. We've been careful about how we've built our performances and we've been careful about how we have gone about our entries for this meet."
For example, coaches have stepped away from the urge to double some athletes in events this week in hopes of getting maximum performances in single events.
"We have tried not to get greedy and put our athletes in the best possible position to be successful in their best event," he said. "We want them to focus on a particular race and try to nail it. There were a number of potential doubles, but we didn't do that."
There is a hope that the Hogs are full speed. Indoor multi-event champ Kevin Lazas battled a groin injury in April, but is full speed now. Long jumper Raymond Higgs, the 16th qualifier, has been nursing an injury, but seems healthy.
"Higgs has been injured all year, but he has had his best workouts this week," Bucknam said. "We let him have only one jump at Austin. We didn't want to risk it. And it may pay off."
The Hogs will be going back to the scene of a dual event victory over the Ducks to start the outdoor season.
"I think it's important that we were on that track already this year," Bucknam said. "It's important to know how those runways feel, how the stadium is set up. The wind swirls or blows different in each stadium. We did well there and we look forward to going back. I think familiarity helps.
"We have a lot of irons in the fire on the first day Wednesday. There's the pole vault and a bunch of prelims. Our guys know they have to come out on fire and that everything hinges on that first day. We don't want to be coy or fancy, just attack it like they are all finals." familiarity helps.