NEW YORK – Sophomore Christine Kalmer kept the form that led her to a NCAA qualifier in the 3,000 meters just two weeks ago at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational when she notched the University of Arkansas’ first automatic qualifier of the year and broke Arkansas’ school record in the event in New York City.
Kalmer ran a personal best 9:10.62 to finish third in the competition and break her previous best which she set six years ago. She also eclipsed the seven-year old record of former Lady’Back and five-time all-American Lilli Kleinmann who ran 9:11.21 in the final meet at Arkansas’ old indoor track. Kalmer’s auto qualifier is also the first by a Lady Razorback since the 2005 season when former Lady’Back Aneita Denton cruised to a qualifier in the 800-meter run.
“Wow, I am really impressed by what Christine did today,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “I thought that she could run about 9:20 coming into the race, but she tucked in with the leaders and just went. At the 2,000-meter mark I looked at my watch and realized that she was on a tremendous pace. To be mentioned in the same breath as Lilli Kleinmann is a tremendous honor for Christine. We have had some unbelievable distance runners here and for her to run faster than all of them is really saying something.”
Overshadowed, but not forgotten in the 3,000 was the performance of junior Dacia Barr who posted a provisional qualifier for the NCAA meet. Barr ran 9:23.50 to pick up her first ever qualifier at 3,000 meters and become just the second Lady Razorback this winter to qualify in more than one individual event. She is also qualified in the mile.
Thanks in large part to Kalmer, Barr and the Lady Razorback pole vaulters, Arkansas placed third in the team standings at the New Balance meet, its best showing in four trips. Texas A&M won the meet with LSU claiming second. Arkansas was a clear number three as the three schools put nearly 20 points between themselves and the rest of the pack.
“This was the big meet of the weekend,” Harter said. “Most of the nation’s best teams came to New York and we not only kept pace, but scored a lot of points. I think this shows what kind of team we can bring to both the Southeastern Conference and NCAA Championships.:
Arkansas’ pole vaulters scored the most points, picking up 22 in the event. Junior Stephanie Irwin won the vault for the second consecutive year as she cleared a season best 13 feet, 3 ½ inches. Teammate Jodi Unger took second with a clearance of 12-11 ½ and redshirt freshman Katie Stripling added a fifth-place finish with another season best, 12-3 ½. Irwin’s victory makes her the first two-time pole vault champion in the New Balance Collegiate Invitational’s short but storied seven-year history.
In the sprints, Jessica Cousins continued her string of splendid performances as she ran a season best and NCAA provisional time in the 200-meter dash. Running in the second of three finals heats, Cousins came down the back stretch and owned her competition, making up the stagger on the outside lanes before the third turn. On the home stretch, Cousins was well in control of the action and clocked 23.70. Only two competitors would eclipse Cousins’ mark in the final and potentially fastest heat of the 200 giving her third place overall. Cousins’ time was a tenth of a second improvement on her provisional qualifier of two weeks ago at the Razorback Invitational.
The Lady Razorbacks are back home next weekend for the much anticipated Tyson Invitational. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to LADYBACKS.COM.