FAYETTEVILLE - He came from Down Under with Arkansas on top of SEC Men's Indoor Track.
But as Australian Cameron Griffith rose to the top winning the SEC Indoor 3,000 meters in 2018 and 2019, Arkansas dipped down under.
Not far down under. But second place, a rarely down under spot in the conference tradition that retired 84-times conference team champion Coach John McDonnell established in Razorbacks cross country, indoor and outdoor track and Coach Chris Bucknam continues with 23 conference crowns since 2008-2009.
Last Feb. 28 and 29 in College Station, Texas, Arkansas and Griffith together climbed the SEC Indoor mountain. Arkansas outpointed runner-up LSU, 106-88.
Fifth-year senior Griffith scored most. Day One he qualified in the mile prelim then on the anchor mile salvaged second for the distance medley relay. The next day he nearly won the mile tallying another second place and another eight team points. For his SEC finale Griffith added 10 first-place points winning his third consecutive SEC 3,000-meters.
Bucknam said the three years between team championships felt like "three decades."
Even longer for Griffith. An appendectomy redshirted him indoors in 2017 when the Hogs last won.
Griffith tasted a SEC Indoor team title only in 2016. As a true freshman he posted an All-SEC seventh-place mile and ran on the fourth-place distance medley relay.
So Arkansas regaining the team title in his final SEC meet with his college outdoor track eligibility ended last spring, "that was "really special," Griffith said.
"Being my last SEC and with such a new, young team it was really motivating me so we could win," Griffith said. "That was more motivating than any individual title. Definitely one of the most memorable meets I've ever run."
One that Bucknam will never forget.
"Friday night he runs a prelim in the mile and makes the final," Bucknam said. "Then he anchors the distance medley relay and when he got the stick he might have been in fifth place. He did a phenomenal job of nearly winning it with his grit. He put a 4-minute anchor leg for second place and a much needed eight points."
"Saturday on the mile gun lap he had passed the leader on the homestretch thinking he had the win," Bucknam said. "And then the kid from Missouri (Martin Prodanov) came up on the outside and he got caught at the line."
Griffith assured no more settling for second.
"He always gives you a thumbs up," Bucknam said. "Going into his fourth race, he said, 'I'm going to get this 3K, Coach.' And he went out and won it. He was a beast. He'll always be remembered as one of the outstanding Hogs from here on out."
The already UA grad and three-time All-American has two more Arkansas memories to make.
Before returning Down Under to Australia's Olympic Trials, Griffith anchors Arkansas' distance medley relay and runs the 3,000 at next weekend's NCAA Indoor Championships.
Sports on 03/07/2020