FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Razorbacks posted a highly successful indoor season, in which the women’s distance medley relay team of Stephanie Brown, Chrishuna Williams, Grave Heymsfield and Dominique Scott won the program’s very first DMR National Title at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Earlier in the season, the quartet had set a new school record in the event with a time of 10:51.15 at the Armory Invitational in New York. Following the DMR record-breaking performance, Heymsfield and Scott both surpassed the school record in the 3,000-meter, with Scott setting a new record of 9:02.33 at the Husky Invitational.
The distance crew has been at it again so far during the outdoor season, with Scott breaking the school record in the 5,000-meter, crossing the finish line in 15:42.42. At the same meet, a personal-best performance by Stephanie Brown in the 1,500-meter elite section earned her the top time in the NCAA and the SEC with an effort of 4:11.40.
It’s no secret that the No. 9 Razorbacks have one of the strongest distance squads in the nation. Head Coach Lance Harter sat down to talk about the team’s success, what it takes to get there and how the coaching staff is here to help.
Following a highly successful indoor season, the distance crew has easily transitioned to outdoor competition without missing a beat… One of the things that my peers have all said is that it’s impossible to have a real successful indoor seasons and have a real successful outdoor season. I beg to differ and I think we’ve proven that thus far. The way we train indoors is very much an important part to the phase of training and racing, but outdoor holds more precedent. It’s a progression throughout the year. If you want to become the best of the best, it’s during outdoor season, not indoor. Ultimately we’re really pleased with the way things are going and with the progression we’ve made into the outdoor season. We’re really proud of what they’ve done and we feel that they have even more to improve on.
The amount of depth displayed on this distance squad is impressive, with strong leaders and young talent all working toward a common goal… Coaches have great ideas and great plans, and obviously have to serve as leaders. But having leaders from within is key, because peer expectation far exceeds any coaching expectation. Seniors such as Stephanie Brown, Grace Heymsfield, Keri McClary, three seniors, have done a fantastic job of providing that student-athlete versus coaching perspective. We also have Paige Johnston, who left the team for a year and came back with a tenacity that gives a different perspective. That carries down to our younger developers in Sandie Raines, Victoria Feole and Jessica Kamilos, who is only a sophomore. Those are the people who continue to get better and better. In addition, Regan Ward has now qualified for NCAAs. Any time you have a freshman qualify for the NCAAs — indoor, outdoor or cross country — that’s a rare breed. It doesn’t happen that often. They have a tendency to take It for granted, but those of us that have been around a long time really appreciate that they are in a special group who can make it to the elite level of racing and be so young.
The final meet of the regular season is Friday at John McDonnell Field, embellish on the importance of this time of year… This is the time of year when everything is focused upon in terms of training. If we look at the 2013-14 track season, it really began clear back in July or August of last year and now is approaching that culmination of a lot of hard work, a lot of miles, a lot of sacrifice to achieve their dreams. As a coaching staff our goal is that they realize their dream. When we go way back to cross country season in August, we sit down with each athlete and have them determine their goals and their dreams, then try to make sure we adjust everything to realize those opportunities. So far, knock on wood, we’re on schedule.
Arkansas is known for hosting and attending the most elite meets in the nation, how does that attest to recruiting and consistent performances? The high school world is very encompassing when attending national meets and higher competition, but they also know there is a whole world outside of that, collegiately, then there is a whole other world outside of that, the world scene. It’s kind of a stair step approach. When we ask what their dreams are, what they want to do ultimately, it might take two years, five years, it might even take 10 years. But if you’re committed to doing it, we’re going to help get you down that path. I think the other thing we try to convey to them is we’re going to build a competition schedule around their abilities but it will always include the best weather we can possibly find, the best facilities we can possibly find, and the best competition that you are capable of competing against. The worst case is taking someone that is a novice and exposing them to the top of the collegiate or world scene. You want to nurture them where they see that they’re making progress, then let them realize they can become a part of the next step. But it goes back to hard work and dedication and keeping everything in perspective. You’ve got to get in, be patient and be consistent.