FAYETTEVILLE – Sophomore Tiffany Redlarczyk kept the University of Arkansas steeplechase tradition alive at the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Saturday night as she won Arkansas’ fifth title in six years and paced the Lady’Backs into second place at John McDonnell Field.
Coming in as a dark horse in the race, Redlarczyk didn’t allow the reputation of the top runners get to her as she went out from the start and ran side-by-side with the conference’s best runners. Quickly, Redlarczyk, Florida’s Lindsay Sundell and Georgia’s Sarah Madebach made it a three-person race as they stretched the field. With Sundell in the lead, Redlarczyk ran on her heels with Madebach in tow as they navigated the four barriers and water jump for five laps.
With 650 meters to go, Redlarczyk made a strong move on the backstretch to take the lead and never looked back as Sundell fell off the pace. Madebach attempted to close on Redlarczyk, but the distance created by the sudden surge was too much to make up and Redlarczyk crossed the line in a career best 10:31.35 for her first SEC title.
Also placing for the Lady Razorbacks, junior Caroline Peyton ran a NCAA regional qualifier of 10:50.21 to finish sixth overall and give Arkansas 37 points total and move them into second place in the team standings behind Georgia who has 88 points through three days.
“What a race,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “We knew that she had it in her, but she really made a strong move and took command. I told her that she needed to attack the barriers and keep her stride and once she started doing that she was able to create some distance. Overall it was a great day for us with Tiffany and Jodi (Unger). I am really proud of what Jodi accomplished and feel that between the two of them, we have a lot of momentum not just in this competition but at the regional and national championships.”
Redlarczyk’s win is the fifth by a Lady Razorback in the six years of the event. Former Lady’Back Lilli Kleinmann took the first title in the event when she ran a still standing SEC record 10:50.25. Another former Lady’Back, Shiloh Whiting took the 2003 championship while Maureen Scott won the title twice in 2004 and 2005.
Just barely outdone by her sophomore teammate, junior Jodi Unger broke the SEC meet record in the pole vault with a career best 13 feet, 11 inches, finishing second for the second straight SEC meet to Georgia’s Kierney Jackson. Both competitors cleared the height to share the conference record, but Jackson won the championship by missing just twice in her seven jumps, while Unger missed five times.
Unger’s biggest hurdle came at the 13-1 ½ height when she missed on her first two attempts at the bar. Needing a clutch vault to stay in the competition, Unger soared over the bar to continue. Unger would then miss on her first attempt at 13-4 ½, 13-7 ¾ and 13-11. On Unger’s second attempt at 14-0 ½, she would hit the bar on the way down, but the bar hopped noticeably up in the air, coming down on its supports. It would bounce on those supports several times before coming down drawing a large sigh from the pro-Arkansas crowd.
Not only was Unger’s clearance of 13-11 an SEC record, it also ranks second on Arkansas’ all-time vault list behind four-time all-American April Steiner who jumped 14 feet back in2003.
Rounding out the Lady Razorback scoring in the vault were sophomore’s Stephanie Irwin and Danielle O’Reilly who each cleared 12-9 ½ for sixth and seventh, respectively.
The Lady Razorbacks also placed two in the 400-meter finals. Running out of outside lanes, Tominque Boatright and Jessica Cousins ran identical times of 53.30 to qualify for the finals in the race. In heat two, Boatright finished third in her heat, just two hundredths of a second behind the second-place time, while Cousins ran in heat four and was three tenths behind the heat winner. Both Lady’Back marks rank second on Arkansas’ all-time list behind Cousins school record of 53.28 which she ran at the end of April.
Also of note was Arkansas’ 1,500-meter runners Dacia Barr and Christine Kalmer who each earned automatic qualifiers to Sunday’s final. Barr ran in heat two and cruised to the heat win with an average time of 4:29.08. Winning her heat by a half-second, Barr looked easy across the finish leaving quite a bit in the tank for the event final. Kalmer ran in the third heat, and was just off Barr’s time, but in the faster heat took third to clinch an auto berth.
The SEC Championships conclude on Sunday with 13 event finals beginning at noon and running throughout the evening. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.