Arkansas Guns for Two Track Titles

Arkansas has the number one ranked women's team as the NCAA Track & Field Championships are set to begin Friday in Fayetteville.

Lance Harter once called Dominique Scott “the shuffler.” The nation's top 3,000-meter runner is an elite athlete now with a stride that is more akin to a sprinter.

Scott could provide the final kick that gives Harter his first Division I national crown as the Arkansas women's team hits the stretch Saturday night at the Tyson Indoor Track and Field Center in Fayetteville. The Razorbacks are favored to win the women's title and could be part of a double with the men prepared to challenge, too.

“This is our best team,” Harter said Wednesday. “We've had some good ones, but we have a lot of places to score and we have some very good athletes at the top end.”

Scott is ranked first in the 3,000. Harter and Scott laugh about that “shuffler” description that was the description for her running style when she arrived from South Africa.

“She got here at midterm and we ran her in the SEC meet, at 10,000,” Harter said. “Her style, well, it was like she scooted or shuffled. I had someone tell me, 'You made a mistake. I hope her parents have enough money to fly her home.' She did shuffle. She could do it for a long time, but we had to change her.”

It didn't take long for Harter's coaching skills to begin the transformation. He taught Scott to lift her knees, lengthen her stride and the seconds peeled off her times. She went from a good distance runner, to someone with power and the ability to close.

“She looks like an elite athlete is supposed to look now,” Harter said. “She told me she didn't want to be labeled as a 10k runner. She wanted to be a miler.”

Scott will have top competition in the 3,000, but she expects to win. In fact, winning is her vision.

“I know my parents are coming from South Africa to watch me win,” she said. “When I workout in the Tyson building, I look to the podium and picture myself there and I look to where my parents will sit and picture them watching me step up there. You must have confidence. I am confident.”

Arkansas enters as the top rated team and has been there most of the winter.

“We don't feel a target,” Scott said. “We feel the rankings are correct.”

Harter said the Razorbacks are ready to race and win.

“We are healthy and excited,” he said. “I told our athletes, we don't have to re-invent the wheel. They are super excited and I told them, just do what they have been doing. We like that we are at home. We don't have to worry about getting to Oregon or Idaho like in the past. We are here. We are in the Metroplex of Northwest Arkansas, where we live and it's exciting.”

Harter has quality in lots of events, including the pole vault where Sandi Morris is ranked second. She's capable of setting records on her home runway.

“We can score in eight places,” he said. “I think we have the potential to score 50 to 55 points and that can win. We are good in the pole vault the 3,000, the 400 and the mile relay. We can attack from a lot of different angles.”

Men's coach Chris Bucknam sees quality in Harter's team.

“We work out next to them every day,” Bucknam said. “Hats off to them for what they've done this year. They blew away the SEC field. They have power, depth and class. There is nothing better than to work out next to class every day. They are phenomenal and classy.”

Bucknam's squad can win, too. Andrew Irwin is among the favorites in the pole vault. Omar Mcleod has run the second fastest hurdle time in NCAA history. Kemoy Campbell is a threat in the 3,000 and 5,000. Jarrion Lawson is a threat in the horizontal jumps.

“We are geared up for a great meet,” Bucknam said. “We'll be right in it. We have nine scoring chances. Florida has eight and Oregon and Texas A&M have five.

“There is great balance, like in the women's meet. I like that we are here. Our guys will tell you that running here when we won it last was the difference. It's huge.

“We matchup with Oregon and Florida in several events. So we can impact their scoring with what we do. I like that.

“We are like Lance's team, excited to race. You have to qualify and we did that. Now it's about racing and we like that.

“It's going to be a fun weekend. We've got two home teams capable of winning. How unique is that?”

There are some field events early in the day on Friday, but most should be in their seats by 6 p.m. Friday when the men's pole vault begin. The women's pole vault starts at 5:30 p.m. Friday with three top entries for Harter's team.

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