FAYETTEVILLE – The No. 4 University of Arkansas women’s track and field team closed out day two of the 2011 Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships with a school record in the 400 meters, high finish in the long jump and strong performances in the qualifying rounds Saturday at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville. All told, the Razorbacks advanced 12 runners to Sunday’s event finals. Through five events scored, Arkansas sits in third place in the team standings with 25 points.
"We had a great day," head coach Lance Harter said. "It started yesterday with the pentathlon and accelerated today. We got three in the finals of the hurdles. We tried to forecast realistically but three is above and beyond what we could have asked for. You don’t want to get too greedy. Then we come back with all three (qualifiers) in the finals of the quarter, four in the mile and Stephanie (Brown) took care of business in the 800.
"The real momentum shift today was in the long jump. We were not seeded very well and we fought back to get second and third. That was way above our best forecast."
The Razorbacks collected 14 points in the long jump by way of Shantel Thompson and Whitney Jones. In her first jump of the day, Thompson went out to a day’s best mark of 19-10.75, good enough to seal a runner-up result for the senior jumper. Already in scoring position entering her final jump, Jones had a measurement of 19-10.25 in her sixth attempt to move into bronze position.
After the long jump and with three events scored, Arkansas was in first place in the team standings with 20 points. Makeba Alcide scored the Razorbacks’ first points Friday with her fourth-place finish in the pentathlon.
Miranda Walker picked up more points for the team with a fourth-place result in the 3,000 meters, the final race of the day. She finished with a personal-best time of 9:28.20, nearly two second faster than her previous best run earlier this season at the Razorback Invitational. Her run was worth five points to the team score.
Arkansas will be represented by four runners in the finals of the mile. Paige Johnston led the way for Arkansas’ quartet of competitors with a time of 4:54.29 in the opening heat of the prelims. She will be joined by teammates Kristen Gillespie, Samantha Learch and Jillian Rosen who swept the top three spots in heat two. All four Razorbacks qualified automatically as top-three performers in their respective heats. The mile final is set for Sunday at 1:25 p.m (CT).
In Sunday’s final of the 400 meters, the Razorbacks will have three of the top four preliminary performers with Shelise Williams, Regina George and Jones. In school-record style, Williams posted the top time in the event with her time of 52.10, improving upon the previous record (52.43) which she established at the 2010 Tyson Invitational. George (52.65) and Jones (52.79) also set personal bests during their prelim runs, each turning in the first sub-53 clocking of their respective careers.
"I was quite surprised (to run that fast)," Williams said. "I knew I was going to get a push from my teammate (Whitney Jones) but I didn’t know she would push me to 52.10. It feels good. I’m excited because I’m on track to get my goal which was to run 51-anything so hopefully I’ll get that with a good push in the finals tomorrow."
Stephanie Brown eased into a first-place finish in her heat of the 800 meter prelims. The sophomore Razorback crossed ahead of the field in a time of 2:10.17 to earn an automatic spot in Sunday’s final. Martine Borge just missed a qualifying bid of her own with a 10th-place overall finish, just .04 out of the final spot. The 800 meter final is set for 2:25 p.m.
In the first running event of the day, the Razorbacks placed three inside the top eight to qualify for the finals of the 60-meter hurdles. Breeana Coleman was Arkansas’ top performer with her time of 8.31, a personal-best effort. Ivanique Kemp and Brittany Hyter added to the team’s scoring chances by finishing sixth and seventh overall, respectively. Sunday’s final of the 60-meter hurdles is scheduled for 12:45 p.m.
George also advanced to the finals of the 200 meters. She qualified fifth overall, clocking in at 23.43 and securing an Arkansas presence in the championship race. Jones turned in a time of 24.07 and finished 11th overall in the preliminary round but did not qualify for the Sunday’s final which will be contested at 2:45 p.m.
The women’s competition continues Sunday with the pole vault at 12:30 p.m. (CT). All events contested Sunday will result in a conference champion. To follow the weekend’s action access the 2011 SEC Indoor Championships Central page at ArkansasRazorbacks.com for a video stream, live results and interactive blog.