Championship Season: The indoor track season is quickly coming to a close and the beginning of the end is the Southeastern Conference Championships. The SEC Championships leave just three weeks to the indoor season.
Getting Stronger: One thing that all coaches hope for is that their team gets better as the season goes along. The Lady Razorbacks have done just that as they started the year with a decent Arkansas Invitational and improved to an outstanding Tyson Invitational two weeks ago.
First Break: Arkansas took its first week off from competition last weekend in preparation for the SEC Championships. While it is true that certain individuals or groups had taken a week off during the season, last weekend was the first time the whole squad was off.
A Career Best: Senior Dacia Barr shattered her career best in the mile at the Tyson Invitational when she ran 4:43.65. Not a bad accomplishment considering that Barr is considered one of the best middle distance runners in the nation. Barr’s previous best was 4:44.43.
Moving Up: Dacia Barr’s time of 4:44.43 in the mile at the Tyson Invitational moved her up from 23rd in the nation to 21st. The mark is on the bubble to get her into the NCAA Championships while routinely takes between 18-21 runners.
SEC Outdoor Champion: Dacia Barr looks to continue the momentum of last season’s SEC Outdoor Championships when she won the league title in the 1,500-meter run. Running away from her competition at that event, Barr’s road to another SEC title will be as hard as it’s ever been as she chases several up and coming middle distance stars.
The 2007 SEC Indoor Championships: The Lady Razorbacks finished fourth at the 2007 SEC Indoor Championships held in Lexington, Ky. Despite Arkansas’ favorable outcome at the championship, it was without one major situation, for the first time in 22 years the Lady Razorbacks failed to win an individual conference title.
The SEC Championships: The Southeastern Conference Championships are a three-day event beginning on Friday, Feb. 29 with the multi-events at 3:00 p.m. The action continues on Saturday, Mar. 1, at 11:00 a.m. and Sunday, Mar. 2, at 10 a.m.
Arkansas’ Participation: The Lady Razorbacks are scheduled to compete in most of the action beginning with the multi events and running through the 4×400-meter relay on Sunday.
The Latest Rankings: The Lady Razorbacks moved down two spots in the latest USTFCCCA rankings and are now ranked ninth in the nation. Interestingly, Arkansas’ first week score of 77.80 points is eerily similar to its current score of 80.59 points.
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.
Strong in the 5,000: The Lady Razorbacks have a long and storied history in all the distance races at the SEC Championships, but all that history pails in comparison to the 5,000 meters where Arkansas has won 12 of the last 16 titles. Arkansas’ longest stretch of 5,000-meter titles was six straight between 1992 and 1997 and its last title came in 2006 with Penny Splichal.
Continuing to Improve: Senior Makeatha Cooper continued her steady improvement in the 60-meter hurdles at the Tyson Invitational when she dropped her season and career best time to 8.26 seconds. Cooper had hovered between 8.27 and 8.30 for a couple of weeks before her latest improvement.
Consistency: If there is one thing that Makeatha Cooper has been this winter its consistent. She has run between 8.27 and 8.4 all season long and is poised to dip into the low 20s or teens. Always seeming to get stronger within each competition, Cooper’s finals times usually are marked improvements from her prelims mark.
Back-to-Back Qualifiers: Getting off to a slow start this season, Stephanie Irwin is back to her normal impressive self in the pole vault. Opening the year with two sub-par efforts, the Mt. Ida, Ark., native put together back-to-back weekends of 13-5 vaults and a third with a NCAA qualifying mark.
Two-Time all-American: Stephanie Irwin parlayed last season’s New Balance Collegiate Invitational Championship into a trip to the NCAA Indoor Championships where she earned her first all-America honor. The momentum carried outdoors where she earned her second.
Two in the Top 11: The tandem of Stephanie Irwin and Katie Stripling are the best 1-2 punch in the NCAA pole vault field. Stripling is currently ranked tied for fourth in the country with her 13-8 1/4 effort and Irwin is tied for 11th with her 13-6 1/4.
What a Year, in Two Weeks: In just the first two weeks of the season, Katie Stripling established herself as one of the nation’s best collegiate pole vaulters. She won her second collegiate event, first indoors, at the SEC-Big Ten Challenge and for two weeks held the nation’s best pole vault mark at 13-8 1/4. Stripling’s one loss in those two weeks was to aspiring Olympic hopeful and 15-foot vaulter April Steiner.
Top Five: With her clearance of 13-8 1/4, Katie Stripling put herself in elite company, top five among Arkansas pole vaulters. The Lady Razorbacks have a long list of all-American pole vaulters and Stripling’s effort at the Arkansas Invitational puts her among that group.
SEC Field Athlete of the Week: For her at the Arkansas Invitational, Katie Stripling was named the SEC Field Athlete of the Week. The honor is the second of Stripling’s career joining her award from last spring after she won the Penn Relays pole vault competition. Stripling is the eighth Lady Razorback to take an athlete of the week honor indoors and the second pole vaulter (April Steiner two times).
Stripling’s History: A native of Jonesboro, Ark., Katie Stripling came to Arkansas with little experience in the pole vault as she floated between the high jump and vault in high school. Redshirting her freshman season (2006), Stripling had a decent indoor season in 2007 and exploded on the scene outdoors with her first 13-foot jump and the Penn Relays Championship of America.
Arkansas at the SEC: The Lady Razorbacks are bringing a full squad to the SEC Championships this weekend with a 27-person roster. Scattered throughout each of the three days of competition, the Lady’Backs are looking to improve upon the 83 points they scored at the 2007 Championship. Loaded events for Arkansas include the pole vault, pentathlon, 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs where at least four Lady’Backs are scheduled in each event.
National Qualifiers: With the addition of Lady’Backs at the Tyson Invitational, Arkansas’ list of NCAA qualifying performances increased to 14. Five of those marks rank among the nation’s top 10 performances and another four are among the top 14. Arkansas’ highest ranked competitor continues to be Katie Stripling in the pole vault (tied for fourth) while Christine Kalmer, Peter-Gaye Beckford and the 4×400-meter relay all rank sixth in the nation.
Kalmer #4: With a splendid run at the UW Invitational last weekend, Christine Kalmer posted the fourth fastest 3,000-meter run in Arkansas history. Her time of 9:13.62 is one of the fastest in the nation and is Arkansas’ first NCAA Automatic qualifier of the season. Kalmer’s time trails her own school record by three seconds.
Chasing Herself: Christine Kalmer was three seconds shy of the Lady Razorback record which she set last season at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational. At the meet last season she clocked 9:10.62, exactly three seconds faster than her UW Invitational time to break the mark of Lilli Kleinmann who ran 9:11.21 in 2000.
Kalmer’s Year: Two races and Christine Kalmer already has her ticket to the NCAA Championships. After missing the first meet of the season returning from her native South Africa, Kalmer joined the Lady Razorbacks at the Razorback Invitational and ran a very competitive mile. After getting her feet wet, Kalmer returned to the track in the 3,000 at the UW Invite and posted a NCAA automatic qualifier.
SEC Indoor Career Scoring: The Lady Razorbacks have a long history of success at the Southeastern Conference Championships and several of its current crop of student-athletes is on the verge of making Arkansas history by cracking into the all-time points list. Dacia Barr is the closest to securing a spot as she has 26.75 points in her three-year career and is just 5.25 away from 10th on the all-time list.
Backing Up the Provisional: Junior Peter-Gaye Beckford was impressive at the J.D. Martin Invitational with a provisional qualifier in the long jump, she backed it up this weekend with an auto qualifier in the event and the third best jump in the country this year. Beckford launched herself to a distance of 20-10 1/2 for her auto mark which guarantees her spot at next month’s NCAA Championship.
Second Best: Peter-Gaye Beckford’s long jump of 20-10 1/2 was also impressive as it was the second best jump in University of Arkansas history. The mark was just three-quarters of an inch shy of Angel Heath’s 2003 long jump of 20-11 1/4 which she hit at the SEC Championships in Gainesville, Fla. Beckford’s mark also eliminated her then fifth-best jump in school history from the J.D. Martin.
Coming Around: What has been most impressive with Peter-Gaye Beckford this fall is how she has improved since last season. Beckford was good last season, but is quickly making a name for herself in 2008.
A Lady’Back Record: During her first collegiate pentathlon, senior Peter-Gaye Beckford set a Lady Razorback record. Her long jump of 19-10 1/4, exceeded the mark of Deedee Brown set during the 2002 season.
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.
A Stunning Effort: The Arkansas coaching staff has been singing the praises of senior Etienne Chaplin throughout the fall and the Chicago, Ill., native came through at the Razorback Invitational with a near NCAA automatic qualifier. Chaplin scored 3,986 points to miss the NCAA mark by just 64 points. Along the way she posted career bests in three of the five events and nearly made it four as she was just one inch off her shot put best.
Third Best: We didn’t notice it at the time, but Etienne Chaplin’s pentathlon mark of 3,986 points is the third best effort by a Lady Razorback in school history. She trails only Deedee Brown’s SEC Championship effort of 4,141 from the 2002 season and Beyonka McDowell’s SEC Championship run of 4,076 points from 2005.
Second a Year Ago: Etienne Chaplin has big shoes to fill in that she is the top returning pentathlete in the SEC and the conference leader heading into the 2008 Championships. Last winter, Chaplin scored 3,865 points on her way to the runner-up performance and set a personal best in the shot put during the competition. This year she has recorded bests in four of the five disciplines and is positioned to score well not just at the SEC meet, but at the NCAA also.
The Potential: One would think that with career bests in three of the five events of the pentathlon that the ceiling for Etienne Chaplin may be reached. Not so according to Arkansas’ coaches who see her improving in all five disciplines of the competition. Based on Chaplin’s five career bests at this moment, she has the potential to score 4,024 points.
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).
A National Qualifier: It isn’t often that a true freshman can come into a program and be an immediate contributor, but Jillian Rosen has that potential. Her mile time of 4:43.90 at the Tyson Invitational was a massive personal best and has the Dallas, Texas, native confident of her abilities.
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.
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.