NEW YORK – Junior Peter-Gaye Beckford was three-quarters of an inch from matching the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback school record in the long jump at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational on Friday night at the Armory in New York City when she won the championship section of the long jump with a distance of 20 feet, 10 ½ inches.
The mark was just shy of Angel Heath’s school record of 20-11 ¼ which she set at the Southeastern Conference Championships in Gainesville, Fla., during the 2003 season and is second on Arkansas’ all-time list of jumps. The mark is also Arkansas’ second NCAA automatic qualifier and the third best jump in the nation this year.
Getting off to a strong start, Beckford jumped 20-5 ¾ to open the competition, then uncorked her 20-10 ½ on her second attempt. She would match the effort in the finals to solidify her win and prove to Arkansas’ coaching staff that the consistency that they have been working on in practice has paid off.
“We had a great day,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “We have been hoping that Peter-Gaye would really shine this year and based on her performances so far, I think we can say that she is doing her job. She set a school record in the pentathlon long jump earlier this year and nearly got the open long jump record. Between Peter-Gaye, Etienne Chaplin’s 500 meters and several other key performances I feel that this team is getting ready to peak at the right moment.
Chaplin surprised her coaches when she ran the fifth fastest 500 meter race in Lady Razorback history. A multi-event specialist, Chaplin was using the race as a training exercise for the final competition of the pentathlon and clocked 1:16.28 for the two-and-a-half lap race. The time is just four seconds off the Lady Razorback school record of 1:12.85 set by Teresa Barr during the 1984 season and the fastest since Paige Farrell ran 1:14.38 during last year.
The college section of the pole vault had a familiar finish, although not a familiar face. Competing as the lone Lady Razorback in the field, sophomore Kristen Keith cleared a season best 12-7 ½ to win the competition easily. The Southlake, Texas, native was the only competitor to clear the height which clinched the win and allowed her to have three very good attempts at the NCAA provisional standard of 12-11 ½. Keith’s performance kept a string of pole vault excellence by a Lady Razorback going at the New Balance as teammate Stephanie Irwin attempts to win her third consecutive New Balance Championship title on Saturday.
In the 1,000-meter run, junior Lauren Lewis looked very strong in her heat, cruising the win in the championship section to add big points to Arkansas’ team score. Her time of 2:52.81 was just outside of Arkansas’ all-time top five for the event, but was good enough to leave the competition in her wake. Lewis started the race conservatively, hanging in the three to four range for the first few laps before making her move to the front of the field. Once the New Jersey native took control of the race there was no denying her from the event title.
Wrapping up Arkansas’ opening day of competition at the New Balance was the 400-meter dash and a pair of Lady Razorbacks made their way to the finals of the event. Freshman Shelise Williams was the surprise of the day racing to a career best 54.43 seconds to finish sixth overall. Not far behind was senior Tominque Boatright who is just recovering from the flu and despite the setbacks in her training managed to finish in 54.89 and claim the final qualifying spot for the final. Sophomore Courtenay Brown was just off her career best in the race, clocking 55.24, winning her heat in the process.
The Lady Razorbacks continue to compete at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational on Saturday in New York City. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.