Let the Season Begin: The Lady Razorbacks begin the 2008 indoor track season on Friday night when they participate in the Arkansas Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center. A small but competitive meet, Arkansas plans to race in off events in the first week of competition to let its athletes work their way into the season.
First of Six: The Arkansas Invitational is the first of six indoor track and field competitions at the Randal Tyson Track Center this winter. The Arkansas Invitational is one of two meets scheduled for January (Razorback 1/25-26) followed by two meets in February (Tyson 2/15-16, SEC 2/29-3/2) and two in March (Last Chance 3/7, NCAA 3/14-15).
Five All-Americans: The Lady Razorbacks return five all-Americans to the track in 2008. Led by four-time honoree Tominque Boatright, Arkansas also has three-time award winner Paige Farrell, two-time certificate earners Dacia Barr and Stephanie Irwin and one-time honoree Etienne Chaplin.
Strong in the Vault: The Lady Razorbacks knew that the pole vault would once again be a strong event in 2008, but not even Arkansas’ coaches knew how strong until mid way through the summer. For the indoor season Arkansas is planning to compete with five women in the event and of those five, three have cleared the 13-foot mark while the other two are knocking on the door.
Irwin Leads the Group: Arkansas’ five pole vaulters for the indoor season are led by two-time all-American Stephanie Irwin. Irwin earned all-America honors in both the indoor and outdoor seasons in 2007 and cleared career bests in the process. She enters her senior season with a career indoor best of 13-8 1/2.
SEC Cross Country Champions: The Lady Razorbacks won their second consecutive SEC Cross Country Championship in late October with a convincing win at the meet in Lexington, Ky. The title was Arkansas’ 12th SEC cross victory, the most by any school.
18-Time SEC Champions: The Lady Razorbacks are the most successful cross country/track and field team in the Southeastern Conference and their 18 SEC titles are proof. No other school has won as many titles since Arkansas joined the league in the fall of 1991 and only LSU has won more conference championships (19) than Arkansas has and that includes conference meets dating back to the early 80s.
The Arkansas Schedule: The meet schedule for the Arkansas Invitational begins at noon with the men’s shot put and women’s high jump and is slated to run through 8:00 p.m. During the day, fans will be treated to competition both on and inside the oval. Running event finals are scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. making that portion of the meet exciting and quick.
Lady’Back Participation: With athletes scheduled to compete in off events at the Arkansas Invitational, there will be an opportunity to watch Lady Razorbacks throughout the day. Expect Arkansas’ first competitor to take the track as early as 1:00 and straight through the final event, the 4×400-meter relay.
Rankings: This season there is a new twist to the collegiate track rankings. Gone is the Trackwire 25, a ranking system that existed for more than 10 years. In its place is a system devised by the United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association.
The USTFCCCA Rankings: There are many that thought the Bowl Championships Series Rankings (BCS) was difficult to understand, but it would practically take a PHD in rocket science to decode the new track rankings system. The system is based off actual performances from the current season and gives extra credit to individuals who have set themselves apart from their competition.
Where Arkansas Begins: Thanks to solid performances in 2007, Arkansas opened the 2008 USTFCCCA rankings at ninth with 77.80 points. The current rankings will be shaken up as teams begin to compete and get 2008 marks. The next set of USTFCCCA rankings are scheduled for a Jan. 30 release.
SEC Freshman of the Year: For her efforts throughout the cross country season and for her finish at the SEC Championships, Jillian Rosen was named the Southeastern Conference’s Freshman of the Year in Nov. Rosen finished fifth at the SEC Championships and 56th at the NCAA meet (Arkansas’ best finish).
Speed and Stamina: Coming into the 2008 track season, Jillian Rosen has been a middle distance runner, concentrating on the 800 meters and mile. After a strong showing throughout the cross country season don’t be surprised if Rosen takes on a few 3,000 and 5,000-meter races. Rosen possesses the speed for middle distance, but the stamina for the longer races making her a vital part in Arkansas’ march toward a conference championship.
Where to Find the Lady’Backs: Lady Razorback competitors are scheduled in nearly every event at the Arkansas Invitational. The pole vault should feature a large Lady’Back contingent as well as the 4×400-meter relay which could feature as many as three Arkansas relays.
New Faces: The Lady Razorbacks feature a host of new faces this winter, 16 in fact. While the core group of runners and field event personnel remain the same, Arkansas brought in six transfers and 10 prep stars. The last time the Lady Razorbacks saw that kind of turnover was in the late 90s which eventually led to six SEC track and field titles.
Year Nine: It’s hard to believe, but the Randal Tyson Track Center begins its ninth year as the home of Arkansas Indoor Track and Field in 2008. The building was dedicated in February of 2000 and since it opened its doors to the public, more than 100,000 people have come to watch track and field at the highest levels.
Watch the Sprints: One of the areas that Arkansas has spent quite a bit of time working on this off season was the sprints. The loss of Jessica Cousins was certainly a blow to the Lady Razorback attack, but the addition of sprinters and middle distance runners Janine Davis, Devon Williams, Dominique Lauderdale and Shelise Williams should make up for at least some of the points lost.
Olympic Year: The 2008 seasons should be an interesting one for any elite athlete. Not only must they gear up for the indoor conference and national championships as well as the outdoor conference, regional and NCAA meets, but also the Olympic Trials and potentially the Olympics. This year the Olympics are scheduled between Aug. 8-24 with the athletics (track and field) competitions scheduled between Aug. 15-24.
Last Season at the Arkansas Invite: It was a decent performance by the Lady Razorbacks at the 2007 Arkansas Invitational. Three NCAA provisional qualifying marks were snared, two in the vault and one in the 4×400-meter relay. Several other Lady Razorbacks came very close to qualifying but just missed the mark.