2013 NCAA Track & Field Championships: Day 1 – Arrival Day in Fayetteville: Chris O’Hare’s Incredible Look, The Pre-Meet Press Conference, and A Free History Lesson With A Haircut

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Tulsa’s Chris O’Hare Makes Waves Before The Meet Even Begins

By Robert Johnson
March 7, 2013

Fayatteville, AR – After arriving at the Northwest Arkansas airport this afternoon (note to future travelers it’s listed on airport screens under N for Northwest Arkansas and not F for Fayetteville) and grabbing a rental car, I got to the football stadium just in time for the perfunctory press conference with the coaches of the top team contenders (I’ll recap that in a minute).

After that, I decided it was critical that I try to squeeze in a quick hair-cut prior to attending the coach/athlete banquet as I got off the plane looking like a long-haired Northeast liberal and figured it was best to try to fit in. (Ok really, I was fearful about seeing my brother tomorrow as he might tell my mom.) I got my haircut at Craig’s Hair Care.

LetsRun's favorite barbershop in Fayetteville.

LetsRun’s favorite barbershop in Fayetteville.

Now the photo doesn’t do the place justice at all.

The hair-cut was great but the conversation was even better. Did you know that George Washington wasn’t the first president of the US? He was only the first Constitutional President. There were lots of others including a John Hanson, who served a year, and is the one my barber cited.

I then hurried off to a Best Buy to try to buy a camera and then just made it to coach/athlete banquet. The problem is everyone was in a hurry to eat and get back to their respective hotels and nearly everyone was seated by 7:00 pm sharp so I didn’t get that many pictures of everyone dressed up in their Sunday best as I only got there at 6:55 pm. Thankfully, a few teams stayed around to get their pictures taken after the banquet. (Hopefully we can get them up in the next day or two. Let me apologize in advance for their poor quality as a. I didn’t really know how to use the camera as I didn’t have time to read the manual and b. since it was purchased only 30 minutes before the banquet, the battery ran out and I ended up using a phone to take half the photos.)

The banquet to everyone’s surprise was over in a record 51 minutes. That’s pretty incredible considering they had to eat dinner and hand out 72 awards (male and female head and assistant coaches of the year, and male and female field event and track athletes of the year).

Maybe it ended in record time because there was a pretty cool live music festival going on outside in the city square – just outside the banquet – so the administrators likely wanted to enjoy that. Hopefully no teams got sucked in.

The #1 take-away from the evening???

Very simple.

Tulsa’s Chris O’Hare is going to win the mile yet again this year.

What makes me say that? His awesome attire.

Admittedly, I didn’t attend the banquet last year but if you dress like this for the banquet:

Chris O'Hare full of Scottish pride at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Track and Field banquet

Chris O’Hare full of Scottish pride at the 2013 NCAA Indoor Track and Field banquet

then you are going to blow everyone away in the mile, particularly if you are already the collegiate record-holder in the event thanks to your 3:52.98 pb. End of story. Now that we have that event settled, I’ll move on.

Actually before we move on, I imagine some of you might be saying to yourself, “Big deal, you said the favorite is going to win.” But what people don’t understand is that pressure gets to a lot of people. A lot of people don’t do well when favored. O’Hare isn’t scared at all and seems to be relishing the opportunity to display his fitness.

As for the action earlier in the day at the press conference, not a whole lot happened. You can watch highlight videos below but the coaches all repeated over and over that they weren’t worried about the other teams, they were only concerned about maximizing their own performances.

One of the more interesting moments came when a local reporter tried to get Arkansas coach Chris Bucknam to either talk about the pressure he feels to win a first NCAA title at Arkansas after taking over for a guy, John McDonnell, who won 40 (42 at point before the NCAA took two away). When asked both that and what it would mean to him if he did win, Bucknam refused to go there.

I haven’t thought about that,” and “I haven’t thought about that either,” were Bucknam’s two responses which resulted in a bit of a chuckle from the small press corps.


Mike Holloway and Chris Bucknam Talk About The 800 – The Danger Event

In terms of information, I think the most relevant information came out after a question asked by yours truly (video on the left). I asked the Florida and Arkansas men’s coaches about the importance of the men’s 800 to the team title and how confident they were about that event.

I asked the question as it could be a critical event. On the men’s side of things, when I scored the descending order lists the other day, Arkansas comes in as the projected winner with 69 points with 3-time defending champ Florida second with 53, but that includes a 17-0 whitewashing in the men’s 800 which simply isn’t happening. Thus according to the descending order list if Arkansas doesn’t outscore Florida by at least 5 in the 800, then they don’t outright win the meet. And at the SEC Meet, Arkansas outscored Florida by only one, 11-10, and Florida’s Sean Obinwa was the winner and thus more likely to score big here. By comparison, Arkansas’ Leoman Momoh, who ended up as the #1 seed here thanks to his 1:46.07 last week at a last chance meet, only scored one point at SECs.

“I’m very confident in Sean’s ability, (but) I’m not going to go out and say, ‘Sean, you’ve got to find a way to beat the guys from Arkansas in the 800 and turn the team title around.’ That’s not fair to Sean,” said Florida coach Mike Holloway. “That’s good for you Internet guys to have something to talk about. but it’s not something we concern ourselves about.”

(Since tone is often lost in print, for the record, Holloway wasn’t ripping LetsRun or Internet websites. Earlier in the press conference, in talking about how Florida tries to focus on Florida he said he tells his athletes to stay off the Internet and he doesn’t score the meet himself so I introduced my question as one coming from an Internet guy who has scored the meet.)

I then asked Bucknam for his feeling for the 800 and asked him if he thought that Patrick Rono might be his #1 800 guy even though he’d run the mile at SECs. I asked that, as a month ago Rono spanked Oregon’s Elijah Greer (1:47.66 vs. 1:48.42).

“I always call the 800 a danger event”
“We have four chances to score some points. Now I remember a conference meet a couple of years ago where we had four athletes in the 800 and three of them fell down. I always call that 800 a danger event. You don’t know who is going to get through. It’s a highly competitive. 16 guys all within a second or two of each other. I can’t even come close to predicting what’s going to happen except for the fact that we have guys I think are fit,” says Bucknam.

“As regards to Rono, right now, he’s not our top 800 guy. I think Leo has run a little faster than him, but anything can happen in the 800. There is a reason why we put all four of them in. Hopefully we can get someone through (to the final) but you can’t predict (it). (At SECs) , Sean showed up and won, I’ve seen him race many times – he’s a formidable guy so we had to put four in there just to keep up with him,” added Bucknam after which both he and Holloway chuckled.

In terms of other good news/info, not much more to report except I can say that I asked Penn State mid-d coach John Gondak if Cas Loxsom would be running in the DMR and he refused to bite. He said they would pick their relay team and order after the mile prelims and 800 prelims were over.

That’s about it. I guess some drama queens might find it interesting that I gave Mitch  from flotrack a ride back to the track as he was stranded at the press conference. Not news to me as we’ve never considered them to be a rival of ours.

Oh yeah, one more thing, Texas A&M coach Pat Henry was asked off camera about Natosha Rogers and he clearly didn’t want to talk about it and said she wasn’t going to be running again for Texas A&M.

Below you can see additional press conference video highlights.


Chris Bucknam responds to being asked about the pressure he feels to win NCAA title #1. A six-second clip of him responding to a similar question can be found here.

Opening statements at press conference from Chris Bucknam (Arkansas men), Lance Harter (Arkansas women),  Mike Holloway (Florida), Stanley Redwine (Kansas), Dennis Shaver (LSU), Robert Johnson (Oregon), and Pat Henry (Texas A&M).

Chris Bucknam on what he’s had to do to turn the program into his own after John McDonnell.


Dennis Shaver on the dynamic between the #1 and #2 seeds in the 800, Charlene Lipsey and Natoya Goule.

 


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