FAYETTEVILLE – Junior Stephanie Irwin made a huge breakthrough for the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback track program when she cleared a career best 13 feet, 8 ½ inches in the pole vault at the Tyson Invitational on Friday night.
Irwin finished tied for third in the competition which featured a pair of post-collegiate athletes and her mark is the fourth best in the nation. She crushed her previous best of 13-6 ¼ which she set last year at the Tyson Invitational. It is also the fourth best jump in Lady Razorback history behind only former Lady’Back April Steiner. Her metric mark of 4.18 meters is just two centimeters off the NCAA automatic standard and makes her a near lock for the NCAA meet in March at the Randal Tyson Track Center.
“She loves the Tyson Invitational,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “Stephanie always has a good meet here. You could see signs of it last week at the Armory so we weren’t too surprised, but that is a big jump and gives us lots of potential at the NCAA Championships in the event. Overall we had a pretty good day with four NCAA qualifiers. Peter-Gaye (Beckford) hit a big long jump and Christine Kalmer had another tremendous race in the mile.”
Running in the championship section of the mile, Christine Kalmer put together another excellent race in posting her first NCAA provisional mark in the competition. The qualifier is her third in as many races this winter and comes just a week after she clocked a school record in the 3,000-meter run. Getting out with the leaders, Kalmer used superior strength to gut her way through the race packed with true milers. Hanging in the lead pack through the half-mile mark, she tailed off slightly in the latter half of the competition, but still finished sixth in the star-studded field.
Picking up her first NCAA qualifier was junior transfer Peter-Gaye Beckford in the long jump. Jumping 20-1 ½, to become the first Lady’Back since 2003 to eclipse the 20-foot barrier, Beckford finished fourth overall in the competition and was the third collegiate jumper. Fouling on her first attempt, Beckford hit her season long on her second jump. She came up just short of that mark on her third leap, and then maintained her position for the remainder of the competition.
Surprising Arkansas’ coaching staff was junior Dacia Barr in the mile. Coming off a tough weekend at the Armory, Barr bounced back to post a second NCAA provisional mark in the mile. While not quite as quick as her previous qualifier, Barr did manage to run 4:45.15 in the invitational section of the race that was packed with post collegiate stars.
The Tyson Invitational continues on Saturday beginning at 10:00 a.m. and running through 4:00 p.m. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to LADYBACKS.COM.