Scott MacPherson Q&A

Arkansas senior distance runner Scott MacPherson revived his career during his senior season. The Plano, Texas, native became a top competitor nationally in the 3000-meter Steeplechase, finishing first at the SEC Championships in May and fifth at the NCAA Championships in June.

This week MacPherson will try his hand again at the event at the USA Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore.

Before he left he sat down with Hawgs Illustrated for a one-on-one covering a number of topics. Among them, MacPherson talked about his frustration with the lack of national championships during his tenure, the school's historic coaching change and what it means to be an athlete in the most storied program in all of college athletics.

Hawgs Illustrated: The NCAA Championships just ended. Your senior class has only won one of the 40 national championships at Arkansas. How disappointing is that?

Scott MacPherson: We won the NCAA Indoor my freshman year and that was almost worse because if we hadn't have won one, I'd still be hungry. Now we're hungry obviously, but it's extremely disappointing. We had one of the greatest recruiting classes ever and we just haven't put it together when it counted. We can point fingers all day long but really it's our own fault because we had the talent. It's unfortunate that's happened, but at the same time I wouldn't pass up my three years with Coach McDonnell or my new coach who probably saved my career - Coach (Chris) Bucknam. We're doing what we can do. We're still winning SEC championships and still setting goals and going after them.

HI: Being a senior this year you had the opportunity to be a leader and watch over an historic transition from John McDonnell to Chris Bucknam. What was that transition like?

MacPherson: It was very interesting. It was a terrain no one had ever been on before, especially at Arkansas. Coach McDonnell is the greatest coach that ever lived and all of a sudden they kind of handed me a new coach and I thought, 'This is weird. I don't know what to do.' But I knew that my loyalty first and foremost was to the University of Arkansas; that's who I came to run for and who I'd been running for three years. If they picked a new coach, I was going to give him 110 percent. When Bucknam came in I was at the press conference and met him, and liked him immediately. I knew he was a good guy. He looked really nervous the first time I met him and that's understandable. Slowly we've gotten to know each other. He's got to know me as a runner, I've got to know him as a coach and we've got to now each other as people. I care so much about that guy and respect him more than anything, and think he really knows what he's doing. Obviously he's got me to perform like I've never done before, so I'm happy with the change. Leadership-wise, I knew the guys coming in it would be their only coach so they'd have an easier time with it. I was trying to help him out with the guys already on the team because I knew how difficult it must be for a coach to come into such a prestigious program. I let him know if he needed anything or had any questions that I was here for him. He understood that and knew if we worked together, we'd figure it out and have a good year.

HI: What are the big differences between the two coaches?

MacPherson: Bucknam is definitely a little more laid back. Coach Mac was a good guy and he could relax and have fun, but when you were on the track it was business. Bucknam's difference between on the track and off the track is a lot. When he's on the track he's serious, but when he's off the track he's like, 'Don't think about running. Get your mind off it,' that kind of thing. The biggest difference might be experience. Coach Mac had 30 years worth of national championships and Bucknam will eventually be the one winning national championships, but he's not there yet.

HI: That hits on my next question. Arkansas is obviously still an upper-tier program, but not the powerhouse you signed a letter of intent for anymore. What does the program have to do to get back to that point and do you think it can get back to that point?

MacPherson: Absolutely. I think they recruited us and we were a great class but we weren't the type of runners Arkansas had in the late '90s or early 2000s. Runners like Allistair Craig are dominant in anything they run. We haven't had a runner, a jumper, a thrower that has been dominant lately and in order to win the national championship as a team, you need the individual champions and that's what we've lacked the last couple of years. Bucknam has the ability to create national champions and our recruiting class coming in this year is phenomenal. The next great one might be in that class and hopefully in the indoors when I get to run again. I think this program will get back to its prowess and we will be winning national championship after national championship again. It's just a matter of getting the right guys in there. One problem with my class is that some of the guys didn't really care, I think. They kind of got here and said, 'You know what, I'm here and that's all that matters.' I think they lost what it meant to be a Razorback. We need to figure that out again. I think the tradition the school has will help other runners in the future realize that it still means something.

HI: It sounds like you relish in the opportunity to be a torchbearer for the younger guys when you come back next season. Is that right?

MacPherson: Absolutely. Dorian Ulrey got his All-American in the indoors and he got his Razorback tattoo for doing it. It was fun because now all the freshmen want one so bad. You can see in their eyes that it means something to have a Razorback on their arm and means something to have 'Arkansas' on your chest. I've always wanted to be that type of guy that can pass it on but I knew I couldn't be that guy unless I won my fair share of titles. Hopefully next year I'll finish the job and maybe have a little more influence on the younger guys.

HI: You've got USA Track and Field Championships coming up this week. What are you looking for from yourself in the Steeplechase?

MacPherson: I haven't been to a USA Track Championship ever, so I really don't know what to expect. I'm going to go out there and run my butt off and hopefully I'll be happy when I walk off the track.

HI: Where do you think you might end up?

MacPherson: I'm seeded 13th right now and I think I can do better than that. If I make the final I'll be pretty confident. I haven't really thought where I want to finish but once I get there I'll figure it out.

HI: You're eligible for next year's indoor season after redshirting this year, but questions remain about your cross country eligibility. What's the hold-up?

MacPherson: I tried to medical redshirt (Achilles) my freshman year in cross country and some school protested that I ran at the Chile Pepper when I didn't. So for some reason they protested and got my medical redshirt taken away. Right now we're going to appeal it and right now I would say I won't get it back, but there's a slight chance I could…I ran the first meet in Iona and after that couldn't walk for two weeks. I had to start over in training and at the Chile Pepper kind of jogged around to see if I could run - not in a race or anything - but someone thought I was.

HI: You said Coach Bucknam has helped save your career. Are you happy with where you are now as a runner?

MacPherson: The first three years here I was real disappointed and never did what I thought I was capable of doing. Finally I'm starting to see glimpses of what I know I can do and this outdoor season was a step in the right direction.

HI: Even with the fifth place finish at the NCAA Championships, you finished first in the Steeplechase at the Penn Relays and SEC Championships. Have you found your stride in that race?

MacPherson: The SEC took a little bit out of me, but I needed to do it there because if I hadn't we wouldn't have won the team title. Running three events is hard and it definitely took a little bit out of the end of my season. But at the same time you can't argue with fifth place. It was my best showing by far. Nationals were bittersweet because we really wanted the team title and we didn't get it, so that was a bummer. I wanted to win individually because it was Bucknam's first year and I wanted to give him a national champion. I had the ability to win, so I was disappointed, but I set a personal best, so I can't be too disappointed.

HI: In the prelims you were right on the edge of the qualifying. Were you holding back for the finals?

MacPherson: I had never run prelims before really, so I didn't know how to do it. My problem in the prelim was I went out way too hard. At the end of the race guys started coming past me and I was like, 'No, you've got to be kidding me! I'm going all out and guys are running past me. This can't be the end of my season.' It was a pretty nervous nine minutes sitting in the mix area, waiting for results from the second heat. Once I noticed that heat was going pretty slow I had a little sigh of relief that maybe I would make it in. Luckily I did. It was good that I took the race out fast in my prelim because if I hadn't, who knows if we would have made it to the finals?

HI: Did you learn from the prelims what you needed to do in the final race?

MacPherson: Once I get into the finals it was just a matter of relaxing. The race doesn't start until about three laps to go. Any runner can run eight or nine laps of a steeplechase, but a good chaser can run the last three laps hard.

HI: You redshirted the indoor season this year. Do you think that helped you in the outdoor season?

MacPherson: For three years I tried to run all three seasons and as a runner it just wears down your body. So I asked Coach Bucknam if I could take indoors off and come back and run it again next year. He told me that sounded like a good idea. I was struggling with some injuries in the winter break; my Achilles, groin and hip were all acting up at the same time so I wouldn't have been ready to race anyway. By the time outdoor season rolled around, my body was ready to race and wasn't tired. I felt fresh all year through the SEC and stuff. I think it helped a lot.

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