FAYETTEVILLE – Sophomore Stacie Manuel became a repeat Southeastern Conference Indoor Track pole vault champion on Saturday afternoon when she won a jump off in the event to help keep the Lady Razorbacks in first place after day two of the conference meet at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville.
The 2003 SEC Champion, Manuel sat out 2004 due to an injury, but returned in grand style as she edged Georgia’s Kierney Hiteshaw for the individual title. Jumping a season best 13 feet, four and one-quarter inches, Manuel and Hiteshaw were each without a miss until they met their match at 13-7. In order to determine the conference champion, SEC rules require that a jump-off be contested to crown the conference champion.
Saturday’s jump-off saw both Hiteshaw and Manuel miss for a fourth time at 13-7 which then moved the bar back down to 13-3 ¾. Hiteshaw was the first to attempt the height and clipped the bar on her way up, knocking it to the matt below. Once again the door lay open for Manuel and this time she shut it by soaring over the height to claim the title.
All told, Arkansas tallied 16 points in the vault with freshmen Stephanie Irwin and Danielle O’Reilly finishing fifth and seventh, respectively. Irwin, a Mt. Ida, Ark., native cleared a career best 13-1 to claim her spot in the standings, while O’Reilly made 12-9 ½.
“We had another big day today,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “If you could project the scores for this meet, we are actually two points ahead of where we thought we could be. We have everyone that we thought could qualify for the finals qualified and now we’ll just have to see what happens.”
The Lady’Backs also picked up big points in the 3,000-meter run when they finished 2-3-7-8 for 17 points. Junior Maureen Scott led the charge followed closely by senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush. Crossing the tape in 9:37.53 and 9:38.65, the duo traded places for the top spot with Tennessee ace Felicia Guliford for 2,800 meters before the speed of the Tennessee runner outlasted the Arkansas duo. Finishing in seventh was senior Laura Jakosky with junior Jessie Gordon landing in eighth.
In the long jump, Beyonka McDowell followed up her pentathlon championship with a fifth-place finish for four points to the Arkansas team score. McDowell jumped 19-10 ¾, just off her season best. The effort gives McDowell 14 of Arkansas’ 43 team points.
Perhaps even more important than Arkansas’ points in the finals of Saturday afternoon were their qualifiers for Sunday’s events. The Lady Razorbacks advanced six athletes to finals action with three in the mile, two in the 60-meter hurdles and one in the 400 meters.
The mile witnessed Lady Razorbacks take the top two and fourth fastest times of the preliminary competition. In the first heat, senior Erica Sigmont and freshman Dacia Barr crossed the line almost simultaneously in 4:55.70 and 4:55.75, respectively to garner two of the three automatic qualifiers in their heat. Senior Shiloh Whiting won her heat of the mile to gain another automatic qualifier for the finals.
One of the first events of the day was the 60-meter hurdles where senior Kasia Williams ran her third fastest time of the year and of the day to qualify for the finals. She was joined by McDowell in her qualifying effort as the Vallejo, Calif., native continued to have an unprecedented weekend.
She ran the second fastest time two weeks ago and now she holds the third. Freshman Tominque Boatright cruised to a time of 53.68 in the 400-meter dash to also earn a spot in finals action. Clocking the seventh-fastest time in a packed competition, Boatright continues to impress her coaches in the race which was no where near her specialty prior to attending Arkansas.
The SEC Championships conclude on Sunday afternoon with Arkansas seeking its fourth conference title in six years. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.