LEXINGTON, Ky. – Junior Etienne Chaplin ran faster, threw farther and jumped higher than ever before on Friday evening at the first day of the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships to finish second in the pentathlon and get the University of Arkansas Lady Razorbacks off to a fast start.
“We were hoping that Etienne could be in the top three,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “She entered the competition ranked third in the conference, but points at this meet are hard to come by and she did a fabulous job after an almost disastrous start. She showed a lot of poise to rebound like she did. I am really proud of her.”
Chaplin’s day began with the 60-meter hurdles, a competition that could have set the pace for the entire day. Chaplin looked exceptional at the start and over the first several hurdles, but as she approached the final impediment, she caught it with her lead foot causing her to nearly fall as she raced toward the finish. Despite her stumble, Chaplin still managed to clock a time of 8.86 seconds and score 939 points. Her time was good enough for fifth overall, but left the Arkansas coaching staff what could have been.
It could have been easy for Chaplin to pack it in after her opening-event stumble, but the Chicago, Ill., native would have none of it and rallied in the high jump. Beginning her participation at four feet, 11 inches, Chaplin would clear three bars and a career best 5-3 ¼ to claim the eighth spot in the event. Her 747 points brought her to 1,686 overall and dropped her to eighth place in the overall standings, but kept her in position to attack the leader’s scores in the two of her better events, the shot put and long jump.
In the third event of the day, Chaplin was like a fine wine as she got better with age, or in this case throws of the shot put. Opening the three-throw event with a toss of 33-4, Chaplin improved two feet to a near personal best 35-7 on her second attempt. Needing a big throw to move up in the standings, Chaplin put together the second best toss of the competition on her third attempt at 39-2 ½. Her clutch throw and personal best would move her into fifth overall with 2,344 points.
As anticipated, Chaplin brought her “A” game to the long jump as well hitting a big first jump of 18-10 ¼. She would just miss on her second jump with a mark of 18-7 ¾, then came through in the clutch on her third. Racing down the runway, Chaplin hit for 19-0 ½, the competition’s second best mark which granted her an additional 789 points. The effort moved Chaplin into third in the overall standings, just 25 points out of second and 43 ahead of fourth setting up a dramatic 800-meter run.
Needing to stay ahead of Mississippi State’s Marrissa Harris by two seconds to move into second and within four of Vanderbilt’s Garnetta Holloway to hold her position, Chaplin took to the starting line looking for not only points at the conference championship, but a ticket to the NCAA Championships in two weeks. Racing to the lead pack in the opening 100 meters, Chaplin appeared to be on her way to achieving her goal.
As the race progressed, Chaplin stayed at the front of the field, but a momentary lapse allowed Georgia’s Sarah Gretzmacher to take the lead and begin to pull away. Gretzmacher, the fifth-place competitor heading into the race could have moved all the way to second with a good time. As the group rounded the final turn, Chaplin lit the afterburners and made her way toward Gretzmacher, catching her with 30 meters to go and holding off the would-be contender. Chaplin’s time of 2:26.90 was another personal best, her third of the day and gave her a total of 3,865 points, qualifying her for the NCAA meet and giving her eight points toward Arkansas’ team score.
The Lady Razorbacks end the first day of competition with eight points putting them in a tie for second place with Vanderbilt. LSU is the competition leader with 10 points.
The SEC Championships continue on Saturday with preliminary action and several field event finals including the pole vault and long jump. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to LADYBACKS.COM.