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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

In Fayetteville, Ark., the New Year doesn't mark the end of football season, it signals the start of track and field.

When the Gators arrive at the Randal Tyson Track Center on Friday for the Southeastern Conference Championships, they will be greeted by a strong contingent of loud and loyal Razorback fans proudly adorned in red and white.

The chants of "Woo Pig Suey" will sweep through the track as the Gators step into the starting blocks.

They will enter a cathedral of collegiate track and field with an atmosphere virtually unparalleled anywhere else.

It's the type of environment one expects to find on Football Saturdays in the fall.

Last season Arkansas' men finished seventh at the NCAA Indoor Championships, and the Razorbacks are almost always among the nation's elite.

"We're going to be in Arkansas's back yard. Everyone knows the history of that program. There are going to be a lot of people up there and they will be screaming 'Woo Pig Suie' and all that stuff," UF track coach Mike Holloway said. "We are going to need to block all of that out and just stay focused on what we do."

The Tyson Center, a state of the art complex that cost $8 million to build in 2000, is one of the nation's premier indoor track and field facilities. It will also play host to the NCAA Indoor Championships on March 14.

The atmosphere in Fayetteville is atypical when it comes to the world of collegiate track and field.

"When you go to Fayetteville, they love their Hogs. They cheer for everything they do good," Assistant Coach Rana Reider said, "and they cheer for everything that you do bad."

"They cheer for failures and fouls. They want to see us fall apart."

Holloway said the team is looking forward to the challenge.

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UF has been gearing up for this since the start and is ready to show the rest of the conference what it's all about.

"We prepare for this time of year,' Holloway said. " It is always our goal to be at our best for the championship meet."

Bolstered by a recent string of strong individual performances, UF carries a great deal of momentum into the meet.

This is especially true of the men, who have captured 16 first-place finishes this season.

"The men, we think, have a legitimate chance to challenge for the title," Holloway said. "We are taking 27 guys and every one of those 27 young men feels the same way that I do."

The men have racked up five consecutive top-three finishes in the SEC championships dating back to 2003

Holloway does not feel as confident about the women, however.

"I don't think that it is realistic right now to think that the women have a legitimate shot at winning a title," Holloway said. "I think that we probably have a better national team right now then we do a conference team on the women's side."

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