COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The No. 4 University of Arkansas women’s track and field team capped the 2011 indoor season with a fourth-place finish Saturday at the NCAA Indoor Championships in College Station, Texas. The Razorbacks racked up 35 points on day two of the national meet, paced by an NCAA title in the pole vault by Tina Sutej. The team’s performance is the eighth top-10 finish in program history, and fourth top-five showing.
"This is a moment we’re going to cherish for a long time," head coach Lance Harter said. "What was really impressive was the way we competed today. Yesterday, we had a little glitch in the distance-medley relay so we talked about coming back today with little room for error. The pole vaulters got it going right away and we followed up with some great performances in the quarter and a school record in the 4×4 and fought Texas A&M, which has a great group, right down to the wire."
With her win in the pole vault, Sutej is the eighth NCAA champion in program history, and ninth overall. She took the top spot in the event with a clearance of 14-7.25, a new facility record for the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium. With the victory in hand, Sutej took attempts at bettering her own collegiate record. Sutej won all seven indoor competitions she entered this season with a minimum clearance of 14-3.25.
"I was a little nervous because I’ve been to two indoor national meets before and didn’t do so well," Sutej said. "I just wanted to concentrate on doing the things I’ve been doing in the previous six meets. I just kept telling myself to calm down and jump high.
(Winning the NCAA title) means a lot because I was jumping well last year and had a huge SEC meet coming in last year but I was so nervous that I couldn’t even move my legs. Obviously, nationals mean a lot so I was trying to do my best. I wasn’t thinking about any records. I just wanted to win this national title. It’s a great ending to the indoor season and I’m just super happy right now."
Coming off a redshirt season in 2010, Tara Diebold returned to the national stage and responded with a sixth-place finish in the pole vault. She posted a clearance of 14-1.25 to pick up the three points for Arkansas. The mark represents a personal-best effort for the junior vaulter.
"This feels amazing," Diebold said. "I wanted to be an All-American so I had to fight as hard as I could. I also had to relax a lot more than I did at SECs because I let my nerves get to me at conference. I’m really excited and I’m even more excited for Tina. Not that I doubted she would win but she’s awesome."
In the final event of the meet, Arkansas put together a school-record performance and finished second in the 4×400-meter relay. Returning to the track from their silver and bronze showings in the 400 meters, Regina George and Shelise Williams teamed with Whitney Jones and Gwendolyn Flowers to post a time of 3:30.08, improving on the previous record of 3:31.01 set by the same foursome at the SEC Championships in February.
The Razorbacks picked up their first points of the meet with their 2-3 finish in the final of the 400 meters. Running in section two of the timed final, George ran to a personal-best time of 52.30, surpassing her previous best of 52.58 run at the SEC Championships. Williams posted a time of 52.44 and despite getting tangled up with another runner at the halfway mark, took the top spot in her heat and finished third overall. Both are career-high individual finishes for the two Razorbacks.
Oregon took home the team title with 67 points. Texas and LSU finished just ahead of the Razorbacks with 38 and 37 points, respectively. With Arkansas in fourth, host team Texas A&M rounded out the top-five finishers with 32 points. A crowd of 4,487 fill the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium on day two of the NCAA Championships.
With a new All-America policy in place, the official list of national accolades will be released no later than Monday by the USTFCCCA. Beginning with the 2011 track and field seasons, All-America honors will be assigned into first and second teams for all events, individual and relays.
With the completion of the indoor campaign, the Razorbacks will now transition into the outdoor season which begins March 25-26 with the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif. For more information and continued coverage, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
Download: NCAA results, complete.pdf