FAYETTEVILLE – Senior Jessica Cousins was the show for the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback track team on the final day of the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships as she placed fifth in the 400-meter dash and led the 4×400-meter relay team to a seventh-place finish to earn two all-America honors.
The Lady Razorbacks scored nine points at the meet to finish in a tie for 21st in the overall standings and six Lady Razorbacks earned seven all-America honors, a vast improvement from 2006 and certain validation that the youth movement of a year ago was in full swing.
“When we looked at this meet a week ago, we were hoping to score in the teens,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “Because of one thing or another we only scored nine points, but we still had several very good performances including Jessica Cousins. She has been getting better every week and as her confidence grows, she continues to impress us. I am pleased with the way things turned out and now we get to focus on the outdoor season.”
Cousins book ended the competition, starting the day with the open quarter mile. Running in the slower of two heats based on preliminary performances, Cousins clocked a sterling effort at 52.95 to take third place in her heat and record the third fastest time in Arkansas history behind her two Southeastern Conference Championship times three weeks ago. Waiting for the results of heat two, Cousins watched South Carolina superstar Natasha Hastings break the collegiate record, but the third and fourth place runners ran slower than Cousins giving her fifth place.
The effort earned Cousins the first of her two all-America honors on the day and gave the Lady Razorbacks four points to their overall standing.
The back end of Cousins’ day took place in the final event of the competition, the 4×400-meter relay. Teaming with Tominque Boatright, Sasha Rolle and Paige Farrell, the quartet ran in the third of three heats and despite a fourth-place finish in their heat clocked the fifth fastest time in Arkansas history. Boatright put Arkansas in great position with a 52.90 split on the opening leg. Cousins would race next and record the fastest 400 meters at 52.48. Rolle looked very good through the first 250 meters, but went out a bit too fast, a tactic that caught up to her over the final 100. Farrell anchored the team with a 53.7 second leg to complete the race in 3:35.19.
Arkansas’ only other scoring on the day took place in the pole vault where Stephanie Irwin earned her first all-America honor with a sixth-place finish. Clean through the first three bars of the competition, Irwin and teammate Jodi Unger then attempted career bests at 13-9 ¼. Both Lady Razorbacks had very good jumps at the height, but neither were able to sail over the bar clean, ending their days. Unger had the best attempt actually landing on the pit below before the vibrating bar which she barely touched rattled off its perch and tumbled to the ground.
By virtue of Irwin’s clean slate through 13-5 ¼, she would take sixth, but a pair of misses by Unger placed her ninth, one place outside of scoring. Although Unger didn’t score in the competition, she did earn all-America honors, the third of her career.
The Lady Razorbacks also saw a pair of athletes in the 3,000-meter run. Christine Kalmer looked very good early, but the toll of a hard distance medley relay on Friday night caught up to her as she dropped from the top three midway through the competition. Along with teammate Dacia Barr, the tandem finished 14th and 15th with times of 9:28.75 for Barr and 9:30.51 for Kalmer.
With the indoor season concluded, the Lady Razorbacks now prepare for the outdoor campaign which begins in two weeks at the Jim Click Shoot-Out in Tucson, Ariz. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to LADYBACKS.COM.