NEW YORK, N.Y. – Sophomore Stacie Manuel cleared a season best 13 feet, three and three-quarter inches in the pole vault on Saturday afternoon to lead the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback track team to a third-place finish at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational at the Armory in New York City.
In what was the closest team battle in the event’s history, Arkansas’ third-place finish was just two points from the winners of the competition.
“What a fantastic weekend,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “We had some incredible breakthroughs this weekend and to be that close to LSU and South Carolina in a meet that we were not concerned about scoring in shows what kind of team we have assembled. I am really pleased about the way that the team stepped up.”
Manuel led a 1-2-2-5 finish in the vault as she was trailed by freshman Danielle O’Reilly and sophomore Jodi Driggers who tied for second and freshman Stephanie Irwin who took fifth. Manuel was the lone competitor to get over 12-11 ½, then moved the bar up to 13-3 ¾ which she cleared on her second attempt before missing all three chances at 13-5 ¾. O’Reilly who set the prep high school record in the pole vault at the Armory last season made 12-7 ½ along with Driggers while Irwin hit a season best at 12-3 ½.
Also qualifying for the NCAA Championships was senior Erica Sigmont in the mile when she ran 4:44.83. Her time was just off her career best of 4:42.73 and places her well up the NCAA lists giving her an excellent chance to compete at the national meet held in Fayetteville in March.
A huge breakthrough occurred in the 5,000-meter run where Alison (Zeinner) Rush ran 29 seconds faster than she has ever run when she finished in 16:24.90. Finishing fourth overall in the competition behind three national championship finalists, Rush used a superb game-plan that saw her clock even splits throughout her race as she remained rock steady despite the fluctuations of her competitors.
Another Lady Razorback breakthrough came in the 4×400-meter relay. While Arkansas got what it expected out of most of the four runners, freshman Tominque Boatright looked superb as she split 52.6 seconds for Arkansas’ second-leg of the race to keep them shoulder-to-shoulder with two of the top teams in the country in LSU and South Carolina. Boatright took the stick a blink of an eye behind her competition from fellow freshman Paige Farrell and passed her counterparts over the course of her 400-meter leg before handing off to senior Kasia Williams. Aneita Denton anchored the team crossing the line just off the NCAA provisional standard.
In other field event action, sophomore Michelle Martin continued to improve for the third straight competition when she leaped over 5-8. Matching her career best in the event, Martin has gone up from 5-5 in her first meet to 5-7 last week to 5-8 at the Armory to tie for fifth overall.
The Lady Razorbacks are back in action next Friday night at the Tyson Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.