FAYETTEVILLE – Led by senior Aneita Denton’s number two time in the 800-meter dash, the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback track team is prepared to send six individuals and a relay to the 2005 NCAA Men’s & Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center this weekend.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to compete with this many athletes,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “We can score from a lot of different angles, but for the most part we are very young so this will be a great learning experience.”
Along with Denton, the Lady Razorbacks had automatic qualifying times from seniors Brandy Blackwood in the 20-pound weight throw and Beyonka McDowell in the pentathlon. Provisional qualifiers include senior Kasia Williams in the 60-meter hurdles, sophomore Stacie Manuel in the pole vault and freshman Paige Farrell in the 800-meter run. Arkansas’ distance medley relay also earned a berth at the championships and will likely see Denton and Farrell along with freshmen Tominque Boatright and Dacia Barr.
Denton’s 800-meter time of 2:01.96 stands as the second-fastest mark in the nation and held, for a moment, the Jamaican national indoor record before it was broken by a hundredth of a second. A 2004 all-American in the 4×400-meter relay indoors, Denton’s 800-meter times have plummeted throughout the season capped off by what is believed to the third fastest 800-meter time in collegiate indoor history.
For Brandy Blackwood, her automatic qualifier was a mere formality as the Miami, Fla., native was all but assured a spot thanks to her string of impressive performances this winter. Breaking the Lady Razorback school record three times this season, Blackwood moved the standard by which all others will be measured from 64 feet to 67 feet.
The Lady’Backs other automatic qualifier, McDowell, is coming off a tremendous performance at the SEC Championships where she took the conference title in the pentathlon. Setting two Arkansas school records, four personal bests and five personal bests in a combined-event, McDowell posted the nation’s fifth-best score for the five-event competition.
While she didn’t post an automatic qualifier, Williams’ mark of 8.20 in the 60-meter hurdles all but assured her a spot at the meet when she ran the time at the SEC Championships. Tenth on the descending order list, Williams finished second at the SEC meet and has faced several hurdlers ranked ahead of her and done well against each giving her an opportunity to flourish at the national championships.
Springdale, Arkansas’ Farrell also earned her qualifier at the SEC Championships when she cruised to a fifth-place finish in a career best time of 2:07.06. One of the last competitors entered into the 800-meter run, Farrell improved her personal best in the event by 10 seconds over the course of the season as she continues to improve as the competition gets harder.
Rounding out Arkansas’ list of individual qualifiers is Manuel who notched her provisional mark just last weekend at the Iowa State Qualifier in Ames, Iowa. Jumping 13-5 ¾, Manuel is tied for 12th on the national list and has a career indoor best of 13-8 ¼ which ranks her among the best in the country in the event.
Arkansas’ final entrant to the NCAA meet is the distance medley relay which comes to the competition younger than most other teams. Featuring Denton on the 1,200-meter leg, Arkansas will then put the baton in the hands of a trio of freshman in Boatright, Farrell and Barr. The first three legs of the relay were members of Arkansas’ school record performance in February with Barr being the only addition as she takes over for Erica Sigmont in the lineup.
The Lady Razorbacks begin competition at the NCAA Championships on Friday, March 11, at 9:00 a.m. at the Randal Tyson Track Center. Tickets for the competition are still available at the Razorback Ticket Office which can be reached by phone at 1-800-982-Hogs or online at www.hogwired.com.