EUGENE, Ore. – Represented by 20 student-athletes and its 4×400 relay, the No. 8 University of Arkansas women’s track and field team will begin competition at the 2011 NCAA West Preliminary Round Thursday. The national qualifier will be held May 26-28 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. The top 12 in each event per region-the East Prelim is being held in Bloomington, Ind.-will advance to the NCAA Championships.
"We’re excited for this weekend," head coach Lance Harter said. "We have 20 athletes qualified. That is one of our larger contingents. I would venture to say that with the qualifiers from the men’s team, Arkansas will be very well represented and might have one of the largest contingents in the West."
All told, the Razorback women have 23 entries into the preliminary round of competition. That number is tied for the ninth-highest total in the country, and second among SEC team. Texas A&M is the leader of that group with 37 entries. As a conference, the SEC is second among conferences with 197 entries into this weekend’s events. Arkansas is the only SEC school that competes in the West region.
Competition begins Thursday with the opening rounds of the 100 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters, 1,500 meters and 400-meter hurdles. The Razorbacks’ entries in those events will look to advance to the next round later this weekend. Arkansas has three runners-Shelise Williams, Regina George and Whitney Jones-in the 400 meters and a team-high five participants in the 1,500 meters with Kristen Gillespie, Jillian Rosen, Paige Johnston, Samantha Learch and Natanya Luther.
"As we all know, this is the qualifier," Harter said. "We tell our athletes ‘you better run it like a final’ because you never know what the next round might be. If you try to save too much, you can end up in the stands with the coaches watching the finals. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to compete for a spot in the national championships."
With the exception of the steeplechase, 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and relays, qualifying for running events will require two rounds of competition. The Razorbacks will have a participant in 13 of the 20 events contested this weekend; Makeba Alcide has already secured her spot at the NCAA Championships in the heptathlon.
In the May 24 release of the USTFCCCA national poll, Arkansas slipped one spot to eighth position entering the preliminary weekend. The Razorbacks are the second-highest ranked team from the SEC and one of six from the league in the top 25, joining second-ranked LSU, No. 12 Auburn, No. 15 Tennessee, No. 19 Florida and No. 22 Georgia.
The top 24 combined finishers from this weekend’s East and West Preliminary Round will advance to the NCAA Championships, held June 8-11 at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. Log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com for meet-day coverage, including live results and interactive blog. The 2011 SEC Outdoor Championships from earlier this month will be televised Wednesday at 7 p.m. (CT) on ESPNU.
Download: NCAA West Prelim schedule.pdf