FAYETTEVILLE – Senior Stephanie Irwin improved her chances to qualify for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on Friday night when she cleared a season best 13-7 at the University of Arkansas’ Last Chance Qualifier at the Randal Tyson Track Center.
Irwin won the competition with her second-attempt clearance at the bar, edging former Lady’Back Jodi Unger for the top spot in the competition. Her improvement may have only been ¾ of an inch better than her previous best of 13-6 ¼, but makes a world of difference on the NCAA descending order list by jumping her from tied for 16th to tied for 11th. The NCAA takes at least 14 to the championships which begin next Friday morning and took 15 to the 2007 championship.
“Stephanie’s jump today was great,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “We were hoping to get qualifiers in both the pole vault and hurdles and to get one is a real positive. Stephanie knows how to compete and proved that today by getting the job done. Now we turn our attention to the milers and the relay.”
Freshman Tara Diebold also performed well on Friday, but was unable to improve upon her personal best from a last week’s SEC Championship. Diebold cleared 13-2 ¼ to finish third behind Irwin and Unger.
The Lady Razorbacks were also hoping to get qualifiers out of the 60-meter hurdles, but the tandem of Makeatha Cooper and Tiavannia Thompson were unable to improve on their provisional marks from earlier this season. Cooper ran a splendid prelim of 8.34 seconds, but a bad start in the final relegated her to 8.47 in the final. Thompson was just of her season best during prelims when she ran 8.37 seconds, but faltered in the final to 8.40. The duo now awaits their fate as the NCAA Committee makes the final decisions on who qualifies for the national championship on Monday evening. Coming into the weekend, Cooper ranked 14th in the nation which is also the minimum number of competitors taken to the championship. Last season, the NCAA brought 16 to the national meet.
The Lady Razorbacks are still looking for a few more qualifiers on Saturday when their milers and 4×400-meter relay compete at the University of Notre Dame. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to LADYBACKS.com.