NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Led by three school records and 20 points in the 10,000-meter run the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback track team moved into second place at the Southeastern Conference Track and Field Championships in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday.
Arkansas’ 30 points place it just two behind Georgia who have 32 and 18 over Auburn and Tennessee who are tied for third with 12. Florida and Mississippi are tied for fifth with eight points.
“We had a very good day today,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “To get 20 points out of the 10,000 was more than we expected and overall we are up from where we projected ourselves. Now we need to get help from some of the other schools if we wish to have a chance to win.”
Concluding the action on Friday was the 10,000-meter run where five Lady Razorbacks tried to pick up as many points as possible for Arkansas’ team score. Seniors Laura Jakosky, Alison Rush and Penny Splichal and junior Jessie Gordon used a smart game plan to not only score, but score big as they finished 2-4-5-6 for Arkansas’ 20 points. Jakosky found herself in second for a majority of the race before getting passed by Tennessee’s Felicia Guliford with eight laps remaining. Hanging close behind, Jakosky fell off slightly but came charging back with three laps remaining to pass Guliford and secure second. Splichal, Rush and Jakosky solidified their positions early in the race and ran solid times in the 35 minute range.
Arkansas’ multi-event personnel had another solid day when they each qualified for post season competition. Senior Beyonka McDowell had another day of personal bests as she set an Arkansas record in the heptathlon long jump and auto qualified for the NCAA Championships with her 5,518-point effort. Her score places her sixth in the nation as she earned herself a ticket home to Sacramento, Calif., for the national championships. Freshman Whitney Anderson just missed the scoring eight with a ninth-place finish in the event, but her 4,771 points easily surpassed the USATF Junior Championships standard of 4,200 making her eligible to compete in June in Carson, Calif.
The tandem got the day started well with superior long jumps. McDowell soared to 20 feet, 1 ¼ inches for 893 points while Anderson went 17-3 ¾. Moving to the javelin, Anderson and McDowell each uncorked a personal bests of 106-8 and 105-8, respectively to put themselves in great position heading into the 800 meters. The Arkansas duo each finished the grueling seven-event competition with 800-meter runs around 2:30 to solidify their positions and earn their qualifiers. McDowell’s six-point effort gave the Lady’Backs 10 after two events and placed them in second behind Georgia’s 29.
Like she has done many times before, Brandy Blackwood got things off on the right foot when she set the Lady Razorback record for the hammer throw at 192 feet, seven inches. Blackwood put together several good throws during preliminaries to qualify for the finals in sixth position, but uncorked her best throw in round four to leapfrog Auburn’s Ronda Gullatte to take fifth.
Blackwood earned Arkansas’ first four points of the weekend and placed it in fourth place after one event. Her school record toss broke her own record of 190-10 which she set just a few weeks ago at the John McDonnell Invitational in Fayetteville.
The 800-meter run saw a pair of Lady Razorbacks advance to Sunday’s final in grand fashion. Senior Aneita Denton proved why she is the one to beat when she bested her own top time in the nation with a time of 2:02.93. Looking solid throughout the two-lap race, Denton took a huge lead with 300 to go and never looked back as she also broke her own Arkansas school record in the process. Surprising many was the effort of fellow senior Erica Sigmont who finished in a career best 2:05.46 to clock the preliminaries and nation’s second fastest time. Arkansas did take a hit in the 800 when freshman Paige Farrell failed to make the finals with her preliminaries mark of 2:09.12.
The Lady Razorbacks continue action at the SEC Championships on Saturday with several field event and the steeplechase finals as they continue to pursue their fourth outdoor title and second in a row. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.