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Razorbacks Win NCAA Women’s Track National Title in Coach’s First Year


The Razorback has long been a feared mascot in the collegiate track and field world. John McDonnell and Lance Harter constructed legendary careers in the Ozarks as longtime championship coaches in men’s and women’s track and field and cross country, respectively.

Current Arkansas men’s track, field and cross country coach Chris Bucknam has also had his share of success since taking over from McDonnell in 2008.

However, as storied as their careers were and are, none accomplished what first-year Arkansas women’s track and field coach Chris Johnson did over the weekend. His Razorbacks swept the NCAA track and field titles in 2024, winning the indoor title in March and capturing the outdoor title Saturday held at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. in his first year as head coach.

That’s an incredible feat. It was Arkansas’ ninth women’s track and field national title combined in cross country, indoor, and outdoor track and field, and their third in the outdoor title, also winning in 2016 and 2019 under Harter.

Certainly, Harter left a thriving program in Johnson’s hands, but he and the Razorback women took that baton and never looked back.

The Razorbacks’ 1,600-meter relay squad of Amber Anning, Rose Effiong, Nickisha Pryce, and Kaylyn Brown set a collegiate record by running a blistering time of 3:17.96 to lock up the championship Saturday, nudging SEC rival out of the way for the title 63-59 in the team tally.

The Florida Gators held a 53-49 lead over Arkansas going into the 1,600, the day’s final event. The Hogs were expected to leapfrog the Gators in the event, but they had to actually do it, knowing what was at stake.

The quartet set the school record by running 3:21.92 on March 25 at home, the sixth-fastest time in the world. They blitzed that time on Saturday to win the event and edge past the Gators, who did not field a team. The Tennessee Vols finished about 6 seconds behind the Hogs with a time of 3:23.32.

It was a dominant display of power in a clutch situation.

That performance came on the heels of the quartet dominating the 400-meter run with an astounding 1-2-3-4 finish by Pryce, Brown, Anning, and Effiong to lock up 29 points in the event. Pryce set a new collegiate record by covering the distance in 48:39, while her teammate Brown equaled Arkansas’ old record in the event of 49:13, accomplished last year by Britton Wilson.

Rachel Glenn’s third-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles added 6 points for Arkansas. The Hogs 400-meter relay team of Airane Linton, Effiong, Brown, and Anning added 5 points. Laura Taborda collected 4 points in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Destiny Haven gained 3 points in the 100-meter hurdle. San Jallow garnered 3 points in the 800-meter run. Sydney Thorvaldson earned 2 in the 10,000-meter run.

Unfortunately, Bucknam’s Razorbacks fell short of their goal of bringing home similar hardware on Friday with a seventh-place finish in the NCAA Men’s Track and Field Championships, also held at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.

The Razorbacks totaled 30 points, which was a solid showing, but conference rivals Florida and Auburn battled it out for the title until the bitter end, with the Gators topping the Tigers by the slimmest of margins, 41-40. USC placed third with 35 points, followed by Alabama at 32, Texas A&M at 31, and Houston at 31.5, just ahead of the Hogs.

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Terry Wood is a writer with 25 years experience covering sports and entertainment. He lives in Springdale and is a lifelong sports fan, movie buff and comic-book reader.

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