What an Opener: The Lady Razorbacks got off to a tremendous start at the Stanford Invitational last weekend when they posted 11 NCAA national qualifiers. Seniors Beyonka McDowell and Alison (Zeinner) Rush had the best days with a long jump of 20-5 and a 10,000-meter run under 34 minutes, respectively.
By Contrast: Looking at Arkansas’ 2004 season, the Lady’Backs only posted eight NCAA qualifiers at last season’s Stanford opener which included some of Arkansas’ big guns including their vaulters. The 2005 contingent has yet to open some of Arkansas’ best athletes.
The Ole Miss Invite: The Lady Razorbacks head to Oxford, Miss., in a return visit to the track that yielded them the 2004 Southeastern Conference Outdoor title. Familiar with the oval, Arkansas’ athletes should hold their own against what is shaping up to be a very good field.
First Multis of the Year: While most of the action of the Ole Miss Invitational will take place on Saturday, April 2, Arkansas will have a pair competing on Sunday as the multi-events carry over. Senior Beyonka McDowell and freshman Whitney Anderson are each scheduled to tackle the two-day competition.
19th at the NCAA Indoors: Coming into the 2005 season very few would have believed that the Lady Razorbacks would be able to put together the season which they did. In fact even fewer would have believed it if you told them that Arkansas would finish 19th in the country at the NCAA Championships. Thanks to a NCAA Championship by Aneita Denton, a solid distance medley relay and Stacie Manuel’s pole vault, Arkansas tallied 12.5 points to place in the top 19 for the sixth consecutive season.
Second at SEC Indoors: Perhaps even more impressive than Arkansas’ 19th-place national finish was its second-place finish at the SEC Championships. Giving the eventual NCAA Champion Tennessee Lady Volunteers everything they could handle, Arkansas tallied 120 points with a very young squad.
Rush Dips Under 34: Senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush has led the Lady Razorback distance team throughout her final year and the Cincinnati, Ohio, native did it again at the Stanford Invitational when she completed 10,000 meters in 33:44.36. Now holding the third fastest time in the country, Rush’s NCAA automatic qualifier guarantees her a spot at the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year.
First Since: Making Alison Rush’s Stanford Invitational 10,000-meter run so impressive is that not only did she break 34 minutes, but she becomes the first Lady Razorback since Amy Yoder Begley in 2001 to accomplish the feat. Yoder Begley ran 33:59.96 to win the NCAA title in Eugene, Ore., that season.
Fastest Since: Alison Rush put herself in elite company when she ran 33 minutes for 10,000 meters. She became the first woman since 15-time all-American Amy Yoder Begley to break 34 minutes and the time is also the fastest since Yoder Begley ran 33:06.84 during the 2000 season, coincidentally, the last time someone cracked into Arkansas’ top five for the event.
The Ole Miss Schedule: The Ole Miss Invitational is a one-day affair for the most part with only the second day of multi-event competition taking place on Sunday. Beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, the day is packed with finals only competition and is scheduled to end around 5:45 p.m.
Arkansas’ Competitors: After an outstanding weekend at Stanford, the Lady Razorback distance team takes a week break, although they will still compete in off events. The Arkansas pole vault crew begins their season at Ole Miss and the sprinters continue their season.
Over 20 Feet: Senior Beyonka McDowell looked impressive throughout competition at the Stanford Invitational, but it was her long jump that turned the most heads. Leaping to an Arkansas career best 20 feet, five inches, McDowell looked as if she had found the springs of old that carried her to the U.S. Championships in the summer of 2003.
First Over 20 Since: As with Alison Rush, Beyonka McDowell was also making waves with her performance at Stanford. Her long jump of 20-5 was the first time a Lady Razorback soared over 20 feet since Angel Heath and Kerri-Ann Mitchell accomplished the task in the spring of 2002. Each leaped 20-3 3/4 that season. McDowell’s effort could be the best long jump in UA history since Toshei Woods in 1993 as it stands just one-quarter inch behind the number five mark in Arkansas history.
Also Qualified in the Hurdles: When we said that Beyonka McDowell had a weekend we meant it. Not only did she record a huge jump in the long jump pit, but she also recorded the two fastest 100-meter hurdles times of her Arkansas career when she ran 13.65 during preliminary action, then improving to 13.64 during finals. The efforts qualified McDowell for the NCAA regional championship in the event.
First Outdoor Multi: After a fabulous indoor season with the multi-event, Beyonka McDowell gets her first taste of the two-day outdoor heptathlon this weekend. Adding events like the 200-meter dash and javelin throw, McDowell is hoping to post a NCAA provisional qualifier in her first competition.
Seven Individuals, Eight Honors: Seven Lady Razorbacks earned eight all-America honors during the indoor season. Of those seven, four took the first honors of their career with three of those four being freshman. Arkansas’ indoor all-Americans included Dacia Barr, Brandy Blackwood, Tominque Boatright, Aneita Denton, Paige Farrell, Stacie Manuel and Kasia Williams.
NCAA Champion: Senior Aneita Denton became the 10th woman to win a NCAA Individual championship in March when she took the 800-meter title at the indoor meet. Running 2:03.65, Denton held on after taking a commanding lead with a lap to go to take the crown and claim the Lady’Back’s 11th overall title and 8th indoors.
The UA Record: Aneita Denton rewrote the UA record book for 800 meters this winter when she recorded the top four times in the race. Capped off by what is potentially the third fastest time in collegiate history, Denton’s time of 2:01.96 destroyed the old record of 2:04.58 set by 2004 Olympian Nicole Teter.
Just off the National Record: Aneita Denton’s time from the SEC Championships of 2:01.96 could of been a national record for her native Jamaica, but that record was broken just weeks earlier and stands at 2:01.95. Aneita Denton was a mere 0.01 seconds off the record.
The Indoor Rankings: The Lady Razorbacks were thought of quite highly by Trackshark.com and the USTCA Power Rankings during the indoor season as they sat fourth in the nation in both. Trackwire.com had the Lady’Backs 14th overall. The outdoor track rankings have yet to be released.
Two-Time Champion: As a freshman, Stacie Manuel shocked the conference by taking the SEC indoor pole vault title with a clearance of 13 feet, eight inches. The title earned her the conference’s indoor track freshman of the year honor. Manuel was sidelined in 2004 to injury but returned in 2005 to take the SEC title once again and is the first women’s pole vaulter to take two indoor titles. Manuel also became just the third woman in conference history to win two pole vault titles including outdoors.
Freshmen Shine at Arkansas: Who said anything about first-meet jitters. If anyone said it around the Lady Razorback freshmen, they weren’t listening. Perhaps it’s being young and naive or maybe it’s a complete lack of appreciate for the level they have achieved, but Arkansas’ freshmen looked like seasoned veterans at the Arkansas Invitational indoors.
The Weight Throw Mark: Brandy Blackwood looked solid throughout her junior year indoors, but what was not mentioned much was that she was coming off knee surgery in the fall which started her behind the eight ball. She flourished during the outdoor season and now is looking better than ever as she crushed Marie LeJour’s school record in the weight throw by two feet with a toss of 65-11. She has since broken her own school record with another tremendous toss of 66-2.5.
Defending Outdoor Champions: The Lady Razorbacks enter the 2005 outdoor season with a target on their back as they are the defending SEC Champions. Taking the outdoor title in stunning fashion, the Lady Razorbacks hit on all cylinders to take the championship, an accomplishment that they will have to have happen again should they have a desire to repeat.
Millrose Games Champion: Senior Kasia Williams returned to her hometown of New York City hoping to improve on her 60-meter hurdles time and solidify her qualifier for the NCAA Championships. Instead she did more than that when she not only took the top time out of the preliminaries, but posted a season best at 8.27 seconds on way to a victory at the 96th running of the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden.
National Qualifiers: After just one week of competition, the Lady Razorbacks have 11 NCAA automatic, provisional and regional qualifiers. An impressive list considering that after the entire 2004 season they posted 28 qualifiers and none were of the NCAA automatic standard. Arkansas’ list was compiled after the Stanford Invitational where only a third of the Lady Razorback team traveled.