Photo Courtesy: UA Athletics (Robert Black Photography)
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (Univ. of Ark.) - The University of Arkansas men's track and field team will begin its 2013 outdoor campaign as the No. 2 team in the country with Tuesday's release of the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) preseason poll. The Razorbacks open their outdoor season March 23 at the Texas State Elite meet in San Marcos, Texas.
Among other potential entries, this weekend's competition is schedule to include Texas, UCLA and host Texas State. Field events begin Saturday at 9 a.m. (CT) with running events slated for a 1 p.m. start at the Bobcats' home facility. The Razorback men's home opener is set for March 30 with the Spring Invitational at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville.
The Razorbacks are one of eight teams from the Southeastern Conference positioned inside the preseason top 25, and one of five in the top 10. The SEC leads the country with its eight entries in this week's poll. Arkansas is joined in the preseason rankings by top-ranked Texas A&M, No. 3 Florida, No. 5 Auburn, No. 10 LSU, No. 11 Ole Miss, No. 14 Mississippi State and No. 24 Georgia. Preseason projections are based on marks for the 2012 outdoor season and the early portions of the 2013 season.
Individually, Arkansas has 12 top-10 event rankings including No. 1 spots for Andrew Irwin in the pole vault and Raymond Higgs in the long jump. Irwin is the two-time defending NCAA indoor champion in the event while Higgs was the SEC champion in the long jump last season. Other top-five event rankings belong to Tarik Batchelor (No. 2, long jump), Akheem Gauntlett (No. 4, 400 meters) and Kevin Lazas (No. 3, decathlon).
Last season, the Razorbacks finished eighth at the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. During the national meet, the team collected 26 points. Based on those performances, Arkansas returns seven outdoor All-Americans in Cross, Gauntlett, Higgs, Lazas, Neil Braddy, Marek Niit and Travis Southard.
USTFCCCA Preseason Outdoor Rankings (top 10)
1. Texas A&M - 328.71 points
2. ARKANSAS - 306.75
3. Florida - 220.46
4. Texas - 214.91
5. Auburn - 211.74
6. Oregon - 198.23
7. Wisconsin - 183.97
8. Southern California - 182.79
9. Florida State - 175.32
10. LSU - 165.97