DES MOINES, Iowa – Thanks to a tremendous anchor leg by junior Jessica Cousins, the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback 4×400-meter relay team snared the 4×400-meter relay championship at the 98th Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa on Saturday making it three championships in three days for Arkansas at the Penn and Drake meets.
Arkansas and Cousins held off a furious charge from Louisiana Tech over the final 800 meters of the race, clocking a time of 3:32.66, the third fastest time in school history. Arkansas’s victory was a mere four-hundredths of a second ahead of the Lady Techsters who finished in 3:32.70.
“That was some race,” Arkansas associate head coach Rolando Greene said. “They really stepped up today. I am so proud of these young ladies. They were blessed all weekend and today’s race showed that all the hard work that we have put in from September through today is paying off.”
Leading off for the Lady Razorbacks was Sasha Rolle who continued her string of impressive races in Des Moines. Arkansas’s lead leg cranked out a split of 53.2 out of the blocks which gave the Lady Razorbacks a five-meter lead at the first exchange.
Tominque Boatright was Arkansas’s second leg and she came flying off the curve side-by-side with Louisiana Tech and the stagger, but at the break point came roaring down the backstretch to build on Arkansas’s lead. Boatright’s split of 51.8 was the fastest by a Lady Razorback in the race and kept Arkansas out in front of the race which featured some of the nation’s best mile relay teams.
“This was a great atmosphere to run in,” Boatright said. “It’s a great feeling to come away from here with two relay titles.”
Paige Farrell was Arkansas’s third leg and the Springdale, Ark., native did exactly what she needed by keeping Arkansas in front despite a charge from both Texas and Louisiana Tech. Farrell held the Arkansas lead to the third turn before Texas came on her shoulder, but her 800-meter strength paid huge dividends as she held off the assault to give the baton to Cousins for the anchor leg.
Cousins’ 400-meter race saw Louisiana Tech come flying off the second curve to catch Arkansas’s 400-meter school record holder. Cousins, who has been dealing with cramps for most of the weekend, held off the Lady Techster through the third and final curves, then race side-by-side down the homestretch much to the delight of the sell-out crowd. As the pair crossed the finish line it was anyone’s guess who won, but when the final results were posted, Arkansas had come out with the victory.
Arkansas’s 4×400-meter relay victory is its first in the mile relay and fourth title overall. The Lady Razorbacks won the 4×200-meter relay on Friday and added the hardware to its 4×800-meter relay championship from 2005 and its 4×200-meter relay from 2002.
The Lady’Backs nearly took a third Drake Relays Championship on the weekend, but the sprint medley relay came up just short, finishing second. Arkansas used a new lineup from its Texas Relays team, but despite the substitutions, Arkansas ran just a half-second shy of its school record from the beginning of April. LaKeisha Martin led the relay followed by Courtenay Brown, Rolle and Farrell.
In the 400-meter hurdles, Jennifer Fall came out of the first section in a tough lane to run a personal and career best and miss out on the NCAA regional qualifying mark by a scant 0.07 seconds. Fall got off to a great start and quickly made up the stagger on her outside shoulder and continued to make up ground on the field down the back stretch. Showing great strength over the final l00 meters, Fall crossed the finish line in 1:00.89, a two-second improvement from her previous best.
Arkansas’s day began bright and early with the shuttle hurdle relay. An 8:11 a.m. start to the competition forced the quartet of Lady Razorback runners to get up early and be prepared to compete which they did quite well. The foursome of Tiavannia Thompson, Etienne Chaplin, Megan Thompson and Fall got off to a roaring start, but faded down the stretch to finish in 58.98, sixth overall. Normally the placing would have put the Lady Razorbacks in the final, but with the event putting hurdles facing in opposite directions on the track, only four teams advanced to the event finals.
In individual events, Arkansas got a pair of good performances from Peter-Gaye Beckford in the long jump and T. Thompson in the 100-meter hurdle finals. Beckford’s long jump of 19-11 ¼ was her second best effort of the outdoor season and Thompson’s 13.81 in the hurdles finished seventh overall.
Even though the Drake Relays have concluded, the Lady Razorbacks aren’t quite done for the weekend. Several Lady Razorback distance runners are set to compete at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif., on Sunday. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to LADYBACKS.COM.