BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The University of Arkansas Lady Razorback track team’s contingent for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships improved to four on the first day of the Mideast Regional in Bloomington, Ind., when sophomore Stacie Manuel and senior Brandy Blackwood each finished in the top five of their respective competitions.
“We had a good day today,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “We advanced who we thought we would and while it would have been nice to get a couple more through, I’m pretty pleased with what we accomplished. We’ll have to wait and see what happens in the 5,000, but the delay shouldn’t effect us too badly.”
Manuel secured her spot in the pole vault when she finished second with a clearance of 13 feet, 3 ¾ inches. Not taking her first jump until 12-6, Manuel easily flew past the first three heights she attempted. The Willmar, Minn., native did not miss a bar until 13-7 ¾, giving her the lead in the competition, but Miami (Ohio)’s Sarah Landau became the only woman to clear that bar to secure the win. Kent State’s Jackie Rodgers missed her first attempt at 13-7 ¾, then passed to the next bar, but failed to clear solidifying Manuel’s second-place honor.
In the hammer throw, Blackwood earned her qualifier with a school record toss of 192-9, seven inches better than her throw at the SEC Championships. It is the third time Blackwood has broken the Arkansas record in the event this season as she finished third overall to guarantee her spot at the NCAA meet.
Thunderstorms halted Friday’s action at 8:30 p.m. prior to the start of the men’s 200-meter preliminaries. Continued lightning in the area prevented any further competition forcing the women’s 5,000-meter run to be contested at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday. Seniors Alison Rush, Laura Jakosky and Penny Splichal and junior Jessie Gordon must now wait to see if they can advance to the NCAA Championships.
The Lady Razorbacks were also fortunate enough to advance several athletes to Saturday’s finals. In the 100-meter hurdles, senior Kasia Williams clocked the day’s fastest time at 13.49 seconds. While not her best time of the season, Williams was running into a 1.0 meters-per-second headwind which slowed the entire field. She’ll go into the final running out of lane five in the middle of the track.
The 800 meters saw a pair of Lady Razorbacks make it look easy as Aneita Denton and Erica Sigmont ran side-by-side across the finish line to notch their advancement. The pair ran 2:07.24 and 2:07.28, respectively as they came off the final turn with a 10 meter lead which stretched to 20 meters before the pair decided to coast across the finish line. Denton was the race leader at the 200-meter mark with Sigmont on her heels which is the way the race would stay through 500 meters. Arkansas’ tandem then began to pull away from their competition setting up the end result.
Other Lady Razorbacks that saw action on Friday included a trio of pole vaulters and an 800-meter runner, but each missed their qualifier for the NCAA meet. In the vault, sophomore Jodi Driggers put together a strong performance to clear 12-6, but due to misses at early bars, finished 10th overall, two spots out of potential NCAA qualifying. Freshman Stephanie Irwin tied for 16th with a clearance of 12 feet while fellow first-year Danielle O’Reilly failed to clear a bar. Freshman Paige Farrell faded down the stretch of the 800-meter run when she clocked 12:12.71 to finish fifth in her heat and 16th overall.
The NCAA Mideast Regional continues on Saturday with finals in every event including the 800, 1,500, steeplechase and 100 hurdles. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.