FAYETTEVILLE – Senior Beyonka McDowell got the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback track team off to a tremendous start with a pair of school records at the Southeastern Conference indoor track and field championships on Friday evening when she won the pentathlon competition with a NCAA automatic qualifying score of 4,076.
“What a great day,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “Beyonka has had some great practices leading up to this and we knew that she could be a player. To start the SEC meet off with 10 points is a bonus.”
“Coming into the competition I knew that it was within reach,” McDowell said. “I expected to do well, but I exceeded my expectations.”
Coupled with a 13th-place effort by freshman Whitney Anderson, the Lady Razorbacks ended day one of the meet tied for first with the University of Georgia with 10 points. Vanderbilt is in third place with eight points followed by Mississippi, LSU and Mississippi State with 5, 5 and 1 point, respectively.
McDowell got the day started in grand fashion when she set the UA record in the pentathlon 60-meter hurdles. Running 8.44 seconds, McDowell was a scant 0.01 seconds off the NCAA provisional qualifying standard in the event as she easily took first in the competition. The effort earned her 1,030 points. Anderson also ran a career best in the hurdles at 9.09 seconds for 2,905 points.
The competition moved to the high jump where McDowell’s magical day continued. A career best 5-1 jumper, McDowell cleared 5-3 ¾ to rack up another 759 points. While she dipped in the overall standings to fourth, she was still in prime position to make a charge. Gaining confidence from her senior teammate, Anderson matched McDowell’s effort in the high jump to move into a tie for ninth.
The third event of the pentathlon competition was the shot put and once again it was McDowell’s show. Setting a second UA record for a pentathlon, she tossed the shot 45-8 to win the event by more than four feet and move herself back into the top spot with a mere 35 point lead on the field. Anderson’s shot put effort of 34-11 ¼ was also a personal best and inched her into the scoring contingent at a tie for eighth.
With a chance to put some distance between herself and the competition, McDowell entered what is arguably her best event the long jump with loads of confidence. The result was a long jump of 19-5 ¼ which finished second overall but more importantly gave her a 200-point cushion on the field heading into the grueling 800-meter run. Anderson’s season best effort of 17-10 ¼ in the long jump was ninth best among the 20 athletes and placed her squarely in seventh position.
The day ended with the 800-meter run with McDowell holding what equated to an 18-second advantage in the race. While the race is not her strong suit, McDowell let the field go as she ran her race, then sprinted the final 150 meters of the last lap to cross the finish line in 2:31.62, a personal best and 13 seconds behind Josie Hahn, the second-place finisher to guarantee the win. Anderson’s time of 2:47.31 dropped the Russellville, Ark., native to 13th overall.
Southeastern Conference Championship action continues on Saturday with preliminary and finals action starting at noon. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.