FAYETTEVILLE – Junior Denise Bargiachi made it three titles in as many days for the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback track team on Sunday afternoon after she took the 5,000-meter championship at the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
The crown was the first for Bargiachi who has steadily improved over her three-year career at Arkansas The effort was also the catalyst for a 35-point final day for the Lady Razorbacks who ended with 93, a total which placed them third in the final team standings behind LSU (133) and Tennessee (116).
“I thought that these young ladies performed courageously all weekend,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “Over the last week we have been hit with several illnesses and injuries. Coming in we thought that with a perfect meet we could have scored 120 points, so to get 93 is very encouraging. We believe that we are a better team outdoors so I am very pleased with the way we finished this championship.”
Bargiachi put herself in front of the field early and maintained a steady pace. Grabbing the early lead, she opened a 10-meter lead on the rest of her competition over the first several laps, but that gap was closed quickly as a large group of runners came through the halfway point. Staying at the front, Bargiachi made her move with 1,000 meters left and pulled away from the competition. Her efforts were not in vain as two runners attempted to chase the Memphis, Tenn., native down over the final lap, but the lead she built up was too much to overcome and she crossed the line with a smile on her face and look of disbelief upon turning and looking at the scoreboard.
Bargiachi’s teammates Christine Kalmer and Catherine White claimed seventh and eighth in the race for 13 points.
Arkansas also grabbed points in the mile when senior Dacia Barr took third overall in what became one of the toughest competitions of the weekend. Running at championship record pace for most of the eight-lap competition, Barr finished the competition at 4:42.74 for her placing behind Tennessee’s Sarah Bowman and Georgia’s Natalie Picchetti who each ran NCAA automatic times. Arkansas freshman Jillian Rosen finished seventh overall at 4:50.71 while Caroline Peyton grabbed 10th at 5:02.34.
The Lady Razorbacks’ day started well as Makeatha Cooper and Tiavannia Thompson stepped to the starting blocks in the 60-meter hurdles. Running out of lane one, Cooper looked fantastic over the first couple of hurdles and appeared to be right with the leaders, eventually claiming fourth with her time of 8.30. The drop in time by Cooper from her preliminaries mark is indicative of her performances throughout the year and Thompson posted a solid time of 8.48 and edged South Carolina’s Brittney James for seventh.
Perhaps one of the biggest surprises on the day came in the women’s weight throw where senior Michelle Rossio rebounded from an average shot put on Saturday to finish fourth in the weight, an event that is not her primary focus. Rossio opened the competition with a foul and on her second toss put herself in decent position at 50-4 ¾. Needing a better throw to make the finals, Rossio uncorked a career best 56-11 ½ to better her previous best by more than three feet.
Peter-Gaye Beckford completed a grueling weekend of competition with the triple jump posted a season best effort of 40-8 ¼ to nab two points toward the Arkansas team score. Beckford’s leap came on the heels of Friday’s five-event pentathlon and Saturday’s long jump where she placed sixth and fourth, respectively.
Arkansas’ point scoring was completed by senior Tominque Boatright in the 400 meters when she finished eighth with a time of 54.74.
The Lady Razorbacks host a last chance meet for potential NCAA qualifiers next Friday night. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.