ATHENS, Ga. – The No. 7 University of Arkansas women’s track and field team closed out the 2011 SEC Outdoor Championships with a victory in the 4×400-meter relay Sunday evening. The Razorbacks finished the conference meet in third place with 107 points at the Spec Towns Track in Athens, Ga. During the weekend, Arkansas successfully defended its outdoor titles in the pole vault and 4×400-meter relay, and added a new champion in the heptathlon.
"You always want to place as high as possible," head coach Lance Harter said. "Top three is always a goal in the SEC. That’s a standard we try to live by, and it’s by no means easy because everyone is thinking that way. We thought we could finish second, and if we were perfect, we might be able to chase down LSU. We were on cue for the most part but today things just didn’t go the way we needed to get there."
With the wins by Makeba Alcide in the heptathlon, Tina Sutej in the pole vault and the 4×400-meter relay crew, the Razorbacks now have 55 SEC event titles to their credit. Sutej also leaves the conference meet with her NCAA-record performance from Saturday.
As they have all season, the relay foursome of Regina George, Shelise Williams, Gwendolyn Flowers and Whitney Jones took to the track for the Razorbacks. Jones held off a push from Auburn on the anchor leg and crossed in first place to give Arkansas back-to-back outdoor titles. The team combined for a time of 3:32.23, a new Spec Towns Track facility record. The previous mark of 3:32.94 was set by South Carolina in 1999.
"Our 4×400 relay really ended this meet on a high for us," Harter said. "They’ve proven their ability indoors, and now outdoors. There’s only one team (in the nation) that has run faster this year. We’ve been as consistent as anyone, and this team takes a lot of pride in what they do. Obviously, it comes at the end of the meet, so it’s about who can be tough because fatigue is a huge issue. It’s always nice to end the day with a win because those are hard to come by in the SEC, in any event."
Earlier in the day, the same group of sprinters began the team’s day on the track with a second-place finish in the 4×100-meter relay. The Razorback quartet passed the baton around the track in a season-best time of 44.32, again finishing just ahead of the team from Auburn by just .02 seconds.
With three runners in the final of the 400 meters, the Razorbacks picked up 16 points in the race. Williams led a 2-4-6 team performance, finishing second in a time of 52.23. George was the second Arkansas finisher and fourth overall with a time of 52.47, a personal-best effort. In her second of three races of the day, Jones crossed the finish line in a time of 53.11, good for sixth place and three more points.
Stephanie Brown turned in another silver result for the Razorbacks with a 2:05.54 effort in the 800 meters, improving on her fifth-place finish as a freshman at last year’s conference meet. In the 200 meters, George, in her third of four races of the day, posted a personal-best time of 23.27 in the 200 meters to finish in fifth place, good for four points to the team’s total.
The Razorbacks picked up nine points in both the 1,500 meters and 100-meter hurdles. Navigating a fall during the final leg, Paige Johnston led a 3-7-8 finish for Arkansas. Johnston had a third-place finish in a time of 4:28.85, while Samantha Learch finished in seventh place with a time of 4:32.58 and Jillian Rosen finished eighth in 4:33.15.
Brittany Hyter led a trio of Arkansas hurdlers in the 100-meter hurdles. The Razorback junior ran to a fourth-place finish in a time of 13.39, while Ivanique Kemp collected three points in sixth place in a time of 13.44 and Breeana Coleman was eighth, crossing the line in 13.82. Later in the day, Hyter picked up two more points for the team total with a seventh-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles.
In the team’s only field event score of the day, Rebecca Gorden finished seventh in the javelin. Competing in her first SEC Championships, posted a personal-best throw of 137-7, adding more than a foot to her previous high mark.
With the SEC Championships in the books, the remainder of the Razorbacks’ championship season includes the NCAA West Prelims (May 26-28) in Eugene, Ore., and the NCAA Championships (June 8-11) in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information and continued coverage, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
Download: SEC Championships Day 4 results.pdf