FAYETTEVILLE — They don’t call The Woodlands, Arkansas South, though some alums of that Texas high school just might start.
The Woodlands, the high school of former Lady Razorback NCAA golf champion/and current LPGA icon Stacy Lewis, has supplied athletes to many Arkansas sports, especially Razorbacks’ men’s track. Danny Green and Juris Green, Juris succeeded his father, Dan Green, as The Woodlands coach, and All-American Eric Henry all ran from The Woodlands to Arkansas for since retired Coach John McDonnell.
All-American seniors Eric Janise and Ken LeGassey and sophomore All-American sprinter Obie Igbokwe compete for Coach Chris Bucknam’s Razorbacks as did recent former Razorbacks All-Americans sprinters Ben Skidmore and Travis Southard.
Janise, 400-meter dash, and LeGassey, high jump, won at Friday’s UA hosted Twilight Invitational Outdoor meet, the last tuneup before Arkansas defends its SEC Outdoor Championship Thursday through Saturday in Columbia, S.C..
Before making their Arkansas mark, the sprinters erased each other’s 400-meter dash marks at The Woodlands.
“Obi was a freshman in high school when I was a senior,” Janise said. “I had just gotten the record and then he started improving like crazy and broke my record. And I broke Ben Skidmore’s high school record You’ve got us three and Travis Southard. Travis had a bunch of knee problems in high school, but when he came here he ran fantastic.”
Janise fantasizes a Woodlands 4 x 400 post Arkansas revival.
“The Woodlands 4 x 400 would be pretty fantastic,” Janise said. “If we had a reunion we could be smoking people.”
Now for this Arkansas’ SEC 4 x 400 it’s just The Woodlands twosome, Igbokwe and anchorman Janise, joined by junior All-American Jamarco Stephen and sophomore junior college transfer Rhayko Schwartz.
The quartet, with outdoor intermediate hurdler Kemar Mowatt instead of Schwartz, ran a 3:04.98 for fourth in the 2017 SEC Indoor and 3:05.34 for third at the 2017 NCAA Indoor. Janise ran 46.76 for an eighth-place 400-meter team point towards Arkansas winning the 2016 Indoor then stunned the national field with an All-American sixth-place indoor personal record 46.33 at the NCAA Indoor.
His ever improving indoor season marked the first in the fifth-year senior’s UA career that Janise wasn’t dogged by a recurring groin injury.
That condition flared recently but Janise’s personal outdoor best 46.39 last Friday indicates he’s primed for his final conference meet as Arkansas men seek completing their second consecutive SEC Cross Country-Indoor-Outdoor triple crown.
“This year has definitely been my best year,” Janise said. “I’ve struggled through a lot of injuries. Last year I could practice just once a week then backed off to race. But I’ve been lucky enough to have a full offseason and a full season and everything has been going pretty well.”
Better than pretty well running his best-ever final NCAA Indoor hosted by Texas A&M in College Station.
“That was the perfect way to end my indoor career because College Station is about an hour from The Woodlands,” Janise said. “My family was there. My friends were there.”
But if you are a Razorback steeped in the tradition of McDonnell’s 84 conference championships in the Southwest Conference and SEC, enhanced by Bucknam’s 17 SEC titles since 2009, winning conference remains the apex essential.
“Nothing would be better than to win this last SEC title and end my career on top,” Janise said. “Being the last one in my mind it would be the most meaningful one. SEC is always Priority One every year. It would mean everything. The SEC is so brutally good. Four of the national top seven are in the conference.”
He’s skipping Saturday’s UA graduation for it, already walking with his economics degree in an athletes commencement ceremony.
Janise will run all out for Arkansas in South Carolina though it won’t appear so, sprints coach, Doug Case said.
At 6-foot-3, Janise’s loping seems loafing to the uninitiated.
“He has a big stride and tricks us even in practice,” Case said. “We’ll be timing 200s and it looks like he’s not running very fast and you click that stopwatch and man, he’s rolling!”
Janise’s lope might have been even tested Case’s classic calm back when Eric apprenticed as a redshirting freshman.
“That was more so in the past than now,” Janise said. “Now Case knows that just looks misleading. I’ve been told many times it looks like I’m just jogging when I’m running. Now in my mind, I’m putting out a lot more than that.”
The results show he’s got his mind right. All-American relays don’t wear loafers on the anchor.