LEXINGTON, Ky. – Senior Jessica Cousins set the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback track school record in the 400 meters at the Southeastern Conference Championships on Saturday during preliminary action and big points in the pole vault and 3,000 meters have the Lady Razorbacks in first place after two days of competition in Lexington, Ky.
Cousins ran 52.79 for the 400-meter race to shatter the school record of teammate Tominque Boatright by four-tenths of a second and take the number two spot in preliminary action. Her effort was a near NCAA automatic qualifier and puts her in prime position to pick up surprising points for Arkansas in the 400-meter final on Sunday.
“We had a good day today,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “I think that we don’t have quite as many points as we would like to at this point, but we got some good qualifiers and are in a position to be there at the end. Jessica was phenomenal in the 400. She really stepped it up and got the job done. We were looking to score big in the pole vault and 3,000 and did just that.”
In the team standings, Arkansas leads the way with 45 points followed closely by defending champion Georgia who has 36. Tennessee’s 25 points ranks third with a loaded LSU squad in fourth with19.
The Lady Razorback pole vaulters were the first to step onto the track on Saturday and entered the competition with some of the conference’s best marks. With the bar starting at 11 feet, Senior Jodi Unger and junior Stephanie Irwin sat patiently on the sidelines as one vaulter after the other failed to clear bars. By the time the duo entered the competition, half the 20-person field was already out leaving the event prime for the taking.
Unger and Irwin each cleared their first three bars with little trouble and made it a four-person event at 13 feet, one inch. Unger would miss her first at the height, but make it on her second to advance while Irwin was clean through 13-5. Both Unger and Irwin would miss their first at 13-5 while Florida’s Natalie Moser cleared the bar easily putting the Arkansas duo in second and third position. Irwin would eventually fail to make another bar finishing third, but a third attempt clearance by Unger at 13-5 and a make at a career best 13-8 ¼ put Unger in position to win. The next bar, 13-11, would end both Unger and Moser’s day giving Arkansas a 2-3-6 finish with redshirt freshman Katie Stripling picking up valuable points.
Saturday’s session would end with the 3,000 meters and for the Lady Razorbacks it was the Dacia Barr and Christine Kalmer show. In the lead pack throughout the nine-plus minute race, Kalmer was the event leader for most of the way, but would get passed with 450 meters to go by Tennessee’s Sarah Bowman. Bowman would hold on for the victory but not without a fight from Barr who came back from a 60-meter deficit to pass Kalmer and nearly catch the Lady Vol. Sophomore Denise Bargiachi just missed out on the scoring eight with a ninth-place finish, but the 14 points earned by Barr and Kalmer gave the Lady’Backs 45 for the competition.
Not to be overlooked was the effort by junior transfer Peter-Gaye Beckford in the long jump. Needing to pick up points in the event for the team score, Beckford soared to a season best 20-4 ½ to take third and earn six points. Starting off with a solid jump, Beckford’s second leap of 19-10 earned her a spot in the event finals. The additional three jumps were just what Beckford needed to move up several spots with her fifth jump and the crucial second proved to be the tiebreaking effort over Cachet Murray of Mississippi.
In addition to Cousins’ finals qualifier, Arkansas picked up advancements from Barr and Lauren Lewis in the mile and Paige Farrell in the 800. Barr would cruise to a time of 4:53.06 in the mile while Lewis ran a 13-second personal best in the event to finish at 4:55.16. Farrell clocked a NCAA provisional time of 2:08.95 for her qualifier.
The SEC Championships conclude on Sunday with 12 event finals being contested. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to LADYBACKS.COM.