Hard not to cheer for Lance Harter, his championship UA track program

The Arkansas Razorbacks track and field programs closed out the 2015-2016 athletic year in fantastic fashion with Lance Harter’s women’s team capturing its first NCAA outdoor national title and Chris Bucknam’s men placing second to Florida.

Harter’s Razorbacks have flirted with capturing an outdoor title since he began coaching Arkansas’ women’s program 26 years ago. In 2015, his Razorbacks knocked the championship door down, winning the indoor title, and now he has added an outdoor title to his program’s ever-growing collection of hardware.

Obviously, the athletes actually combined to win the title on the track and in the field, but Harter and his staff assembled and guided the squad of 21 women who qualified for nationals and then accomplished the task.

This title has been a long time coming for one of the truly fine coaches in the sport. Harter is respected far and wide for his knowledge and skill as a coach. How could he not be? Harter is the most successful women’s track, field and cross-country coach in Southeastern Conference history. He is already a member of the USTFCCA Coaches Hall of Fame.

As great a coach as Harter is, he’s also a heck of a good guy. He always treats the media with respect, and in many cases put up with some ignorance that many coaches wouldn’t let slide.

I personally always appreciated that he would take time to explain details that only coaches would know or notice. By doing this, he educated reporters covering his program without making them (me) feel stupid.

In similar instances, other coaches have doted on embarrassing a reporter or blowing them off, but Harter would take the higher road. As a result, he not only helped the reporter become better at his job, but also garnered more knowledgeable coverage for his program.

Harter also takes the time to ask questions of his own about the news business or other news events of interest. He helped foster the coach-reporter relationship himself instead of it just being a one-way street with the reporter attempting to build the bond or the connection that makes professional relationships beneficial for both parties.

I have to believe he bonds similarly but to a much greater degree with his athletes, staff and co-workers at the University of Arkansas, and I have no doubt that it plays a role in the success he’s achieved over the course of his tenure at Arkansas.

Harter’s success speaks for itself, but during much of his career at Arkansas, he stood in the long shadow cast by legendary Arkansas men’s track, field and cross country coach John McDonnell. But then again, every one of McDonnell’s contemporaries stood in his shadow.

Some coaches would have resented that and possibly even run away from it, but Harter embraced the success of the men’s program. He was self-assured enough to do so with no qualms whatsoever. Others could have grown resentful or jealous, but Harter never was.

In fact, Harter often offered up some of the best quotes about McDonnell and the men’s team, particularly in a news conference setting. As great a coach as McDonnell was, he wasn’t the best quote in a news conference. In a one-on-one setting, McDonnell was great. He was comfortable, candid, funny and fiery.

It seemed Harter always had a great observation about John’s teams that few in the area could have made because of his uncommon expertise.

Harter had a loaded team this year with a special talent in senior Dominique Scott, who won the 10,000- and 5,000-meters titles to score 20 of Arkansas’ points. She’s a rare talent that’s difficult to replace, but here’s hoping Harter’s first outdoor national title is the first of several more for his Razorbacks.

Lawson scores school-high 30 points

If you have a classic vinyl collection, don’t let Razorbacks track star Jarrion Lawson know. He specializes in breaking records. Well, at least he did last week when he scored an amazing 31.5 points for the Hogs in the NCAA Men’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Lawson, a five-time national champion and a 19-time All-American, placed first in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and in the long jump. He’s the first competitor to win three individual national titles in one championship since the great Jesse Owens. His 31.5-point individual performance also topped the 27.5 scored by Mike Conley Sr.