KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – What started off as a good weekend for the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback track team became even better on the second day of the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships as seven Lady’Backs automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships highlighted by sophomore Tominque Boatright’s school records in the 400-meter dash and 4×400-meter relay.
Running out of lane eight in a stacked 400-meter field, Boatright ran a great opening turn and was among the race leaders as they hit the back straight. In the back turn, several runners were able to make up ground on Arkansas’ record holder, but that didn’t deter her from making a bold move over the final 50 meters to secure her fifth-place finish and a spot at the NCAA Championships.
As an added bonus, Boatright’s time of 52.83 was nearly three-tenths of a second better than her old school record of 53.10 which she set at the SEC Championships just two weeks ago. On the year, Boatright and teammate Jessica Cousins have broken what was the oldest record in the Arkansas books three times and dropped the time from 53.45 seconds to 52.83.
“We definitely exceeded expectations today,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “At one point today I thought that I had too many plane tickets for Sacramento and now I’m not sure if I have enough. Tominque was unbelievable today. She ran a solid quarter yesterday, then came back today and broke the school record in the 400 and capped it off with a 51-second split on the 4×4. She was unbelievable.”
Arkansas’ relay team of Sasha Rolle, Paige Farrell, Lakeisha Martin and Boatright came into the last women’s race of the day hoping to improve upon their season best of 3:36 and finish as one of the team’s eligible for the national meet. What they got in return was a school record by a full second and a guaranteed spot at the championships. Using Rolle out of the starting blocks, Arkansas handed the baton in the middle of the field and watched Farrell hold off some top-notch talent despite coming back from just a two-hour rest from her 800-meter final. Martin ran Arkansas’ third leg and despite looking tight on the final turn fought through the pain and gave Boatright a chance to shine on the anchor.
“I knew where we were as a team and where we had to be,” Boatright said after the race. “I thought that I could catch the field and went after it.”
Needing to make up 15 meters on the fifth-place team and even more to make the automatic field of three, Boatright came around the curve and quickly began to make up the distance. Reaching the final turns, Boatright continued to press on and came off the final bend like a rocket as she made up the final five meters on fifth-place, an additional stretch on fourth and caught Illinois’ anchor leg with a dip at the tape to move the Lady’Backs into third.
The Lady’Back’s time of 3:34.17, broke the four-year-old mark of 3:35.36 set at the SEC Championships in 2002 by Nicole Savary, Adwoa Gyasi-Nimako, Kerri-Ann Mitchell and Angel Heath.
Junior Jodi Unger also moved on to the NCAA meet as an automatic qualifier as she finished fourth in the pole vault with an adequate clearance of 12-11 ¾. On a day where no one in the field looked outstanding, Unger was just one miss from tying for second in the competition and just a make away from vying for the regional title. Easily clearing the first bar, Unger would clip 12-6 on her first attempt before soaring over on her second. Unger took a brief lead in the competition by being the first to clear 12-11 ¾, but was passed by three others soon after. Only one vaulter was able to make the next bar of 13-3 ¾.
Knowing that she had all but guaranteed a spot at the NCAA meet, sophomore Dacia Barr ran a smart race in the 1,500-meter run to take fifth overall and solidify her participation at the championships. Fourth when the lead pack hit the 400-meter mark, Barr stayed on the outside of the pack to avoid getting into trouble. At the bell, Barr dropped all the way back to seventh as the field picked up the pace, but came surging down the back stretch to rejoin the top five and cruised across the finish line in that position.
Rounding out Arkansas’ list of potential qualifiers was Farrell in the 800-meter run. One of the race leaders through the first lap, Farrell was passed by several runners with 200 meters to go, finishing in eighth overall at 2:10.01. One of the at-large qualifiers, Farrell’s season best time of 2:05.35 which went into the weekend ranked ninth in the nation should get the Springdale, Ark., native into her first NCAA outdoor championship.
The Lady Razorbacks now prepare for the NCAA Championships to be held in Sacramento, Calif., in two weeks. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.