NEW ORLEANS – Coming off a strong showing at the 2016 NCAA Indoor Championships, Arkansas women’s track and field checks in at No. 3 on the USTFCCCA Outdoor Preseason Poll. Last season, the Razorbacks debuted at No. 7 before quickly improving to a top-five ranking. The team eventually capped the year on the podium in fourth place at the 2015 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
The national team rankings are compiled by a mathematical formula based on national descending order lists. The purpose and methodology of the rankings is to create an index that showcases the teams that have the best potential of achieving the top spots in the national team race. Rankings points do not equate with NCAA Championships team points. Preseason rankings will include marks from 2015, and the National Team Computer Rankings will continue to do so through the third regular-season edition.
The Southeastern Conference featured eight member schools in the Preseason top 25, six of which earned spots inside the top 10. Along with Arkansas, SEC programs represented in the polls included:
Arkansas returns four NCAA outdoor double qualifiers from the 2014-15 season in Taliyah Brooks (100mH and heptathlon), Taylor Ellis-Watson (400m and 4x400m), Alex Gochenour (100mH and heptathlon) and Dominique Scott (5K and 10K).
Brooks and Ellis-Watson earned eight points apiece for the Razorbacks at the 2016 NCAA Indoor Championships with second-place finishes in the pentathlon and 400-meter dash, respectively. Only a sophomore, Brooks also gained entry in two additional events, participating in the 60-meter hurdles and the long jump at the indoor national meet. Also using her explosive ability to contribute to the team in more than one event, Ellis-Watson picked up a second silver-medal as the anchor of Arkansas’s national indoor runner-up 4×400-meter relay team.
Named the USTFCCCA National Athlete of the Week on March 2015 following her Texas Relays heptathlon victory in 2015, Gochenour heads into her final outdoor season with improved speed and endurance. During her final indoor competition of the year, Gochenour opened up the pentathlon with a PR of 8.38 in the 60-meter hurdles and capped the weekend with a personal best performance in the 800-meter run (2:15.38) to complete her collegiate indoor career as the sixth-best pentathlete in the country.
As Arkansas’s only three-time national champion, Scott will resume competition this spring after a winter hiatus due to exhausted indoor eligibility. The Capetown, South Africa, native was a two-time national runner-up at the 2015 NCAA outdoor meet at 5,000 and 10,000 meters, electing to compete in the longer distance while also nationally ranked in the 1,500-meter run. The program record-holder in all three aforementioned events, Scott completed her junior campaign as the fastest collegian at 1,500 meters following a 4:08.65 performance at the Lignano Meeting International last July.
Voted best freshman class of the 2016 NCAA indoor season, Arkansas has a bright future ahead with several talented newcomers including transfers who have the potential to help the Razorbacks to their best NCAA outdoor finish this year.
Arkansans Payton Stumbaugh, Lexi and Tori Weeks all earned All-American recognition during their first season as Razorbacks. Gifted with speed and strength, Stumbaugh powered to a fifth-place finish in the pentathlon and recorded a seventh-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA indoor meet, scoring points in both events. Fourteen of Arkansas’s 50 points came at the hands of Lexi and Tori Weeks who placed first and sixth nationally, the former setting an NCAA meet record in the process.
The Razorbacks will also see the return of 2015 NCAA outdoor pole vault medalist Desiree Freier who was sidelined during the indoor season. Following her runner-up finish at the 2015 USATF Junior Championships, Freier sustained an injury right before she was set to represent Team USA at the 2015 PanAm Junior Championships.
In addition to Freier and the Weeks sisters, senior vaulter Ariel Voskamp could also play a major role this season for Arkansas. Voskamp has placed in the top eight at the NCAA outdoor meet two years in a row and has the ability to do it once more.
Arkansas’s journey to outdoor nationals begins this weekend at John McDonnell Field as they host the Arkansas Spring Invitational on March 25-26.
Women’s Outdoor Track & Field National Team Computer Preseason Rankings (Top 25)
4. Southern California
5. Texas A&M
8. Kansas State
11. Mississippi State
14. Florida State
15. Notre Dame
16. Ohio State
17. New Mexico
18. Virginia Tech
20. Michigan State
21. Miami (Fla.)
24. Oklahoma State
For more information on Arkansas track and field including in-meet updates, follow @RazorbackTF on Twitter.