EUGENE, Ore. – Razorback pole vault trio of Desiree Freier, Lexi Weeks and Tori Weeks collected 11.20 points for the Arkansas women’s track and field team on day one of the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Championships with three podium finishes in Eugene.
Their contribution was good enough to place Arkansas in the top four at the end of the first evening of the women’s competition at Hayward Field, behind Kansas (12), Arizona State (13), Kentucky (14) and Georgia (24.2).
“To have three All-Americans indoors and outdoors as sophomores isn’t easy,” assistant coach Bryan Compton said. “I think they did really well today as it was a tough day for everybody. I thought the girls jumped well but weren’t as consistent, which cost us a little bit but all in all they did well in a competition full of seniors. Lexi and Tori have qualified for USAs so they will be heading out to Sacramento in a couple weeks to try and earn a spot on that team.”
A national champion one year prior, Lexi Weeks once again led the group, earning a silver medal in the event off a best clearance of 4.45m/14-7 1/4. Tori Weeks completed her sophomore season with a vault over 4.40m/14-5 1/4, which was good for sixth in the NCAA. SEC bronze medalist Desiree Freier bowed out of the competition in a five-way tie for eighth place, following three close attempts at 4.30m/14-1 1/4.
“Obviously coming out you want to finish on top,” Lexi said. “Going two and six is nothing to be sad about. Of course we would have liked to jump a little bit higher but I’m happy with the way I jumped and I know there’s more in me and that I can vault higher than I did today.”
The pole vault field of 24 was narrowed to seven at the 4.30m/14-1 1/4 bar, which saw Tori Weeks pick up a clutch third-attempt clearance to stay in the hunt for a title. Unable to repeat that performance at the next height, Tori Weeks exited the contest with three points in hand for the Hogs.
“It was definitely a tough competition,” Tori said. “The wind was kind of crazy and I didn’t jump as well as I wanted to today. I struggled with some things technically and I think the best thing for me to do right now is head back home and work on things for USAs. We vault against some of the best in country all the time in the SEC. It’s a pole vault powerhouse.”
Scoring Opportunities (Saturday)
Already acclimated to competing in chilly temperatures Arkansas’ 4-x-100-meter relay team of Jada Baylark, Payton Stumbaugh, Daina Harper and Kiara Parker raced to their best performance of the season in the 50-degree, damp weather at Hayward Field. The quartet moved the baton around the track in 43.34 seconds, setting a new program record with the No. 3-best time of the day.
‘The weather didn’t phase us at all,” Stumbaugh said. “We knew what we needed to do going into the race and we accomplished our mission to make finals.”
Prior to the 2017 NCAA 4-x-100-meter relay semifinals Arkansas had only ever advanced two teams an outdoor national final in the event. The Razorbacks last qualified for the 4-x-100 finals in 2004 with a team of Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shaneatra Neely, LaShaunte’a Moore and Kasia Williams, who finished fifth in 43.86.
In addition to assisting the 4-x-100, senior sprinter Harper also qualified for the finals in the 400, finishing second in heat three in 51.92.
Junior Nikki Hiltz gave the Razorbacks another chance to score on Saturday shaving 1.29 seconds off her personal best to finish second overall in the 1,500 semifinals. Hiltz’ performance earned her an automatic bid to Saturday’s event final. Her time was the third fastest ever run by a Razorback, elevating her into the elite company of Olympians Dominique Scott-Efurd and Christin Wurth Thomas.
“There’s no day two without day one,” Hiltz said. ‘I tried to treat this prelim like a final and with 100 meters to go I just put my head down and ran with heart.”
The Razorbacks will also have four chances to score in the heptathlon, which All-American multis Taliyah Brooks, Leigha Brown, Kelsey Herman and Stumbaugh will begin tomorrow afternoon.
Arkansas NCAA Event Schedule
Friday, June 9
Heptathlon (Taliyah Brooks, Leigha Brown, Kelsey Herman, Payton Stumbaugh)
2:30 p.m. – 100mH
3:30 p.m. – High Jump
5:30 p.m. – Shot Put
9:13 p.m. – 200m
Saturday, June 10
5:32 p.m. – Women’s 4-x-100 Meter Relay (Baylark, Stumbaugh, Harper, Parker)
5:41 p.m. – Women’s 1,500m (Nikki Hiltz)
6:32 p.m. – Women’s 400m (Daina Harper)
7:25 p.m. – Women’s 5,000m (Abby Gray, Taylor Werner)
NCAA Day One Results
100 Meters Semifinals
19. Kiara Parker – 11.50
24. Jada Baylark – 11.61
400 Meters Semifinals
6. Daina Harper – 51.92 Q
1,500 Meters Semifinals
2. Nikki Hiltz – 4:10.80 Q
22. Therese Haiss – 4:23.53
400 Meter Hurdles Semifinals
Damajahnee Birch – 58.56
4-x-100 Meter Relay Semifinals
5. Baylark, Stumbaugh, Harper, Parker – 43.34 Q
4-x-400 Meter Relay Semifinals
14. Parker, Birch, McCallister, Harper – 3:34.66
Pole Vault Finals
2. Lexi Weeks – 4.45m/14-7 1/4
6. Tori Weeks – 4.40m/14-5 1/4
T8. Desiree Freier – 4.15m/13-7 1/4
For more information on Arkansas track and field including in-meet updates, follow @RazorbackTF on Twitter.