FAYETTEVILLE – The No. 6 University of Arkansas women’s track and field team picked up a school record and three more NCAA automatic-qualifying marks Saturday afternoon at the Randal Tyson Track Center. The Razorbacks picked up three event wins on the final day of competition of the two-day Razorback Invitational which featured a field of the nation’s elite.
"We had a lot of breakthroughs this weekend," head coach Lance Harter said. "It just seemed like things kept coming one after another. Across the board, I’d say we had an A-minus performance because there are always things to work on but I’m really proud of the way we competed and performed this weekend."
The foursome of Whitney Jones, Shelise Williams, Gwendolyn Flowers and Regina George combined for a time of 3:32.48 to take the top spot in the 4×400-meter relay. The Razorbacks’ time is a school record, NCAA automatic qualifier and the fastest time in the nation this season. The mark replaces the previous record of 3:32.87 set last season at the Tyson Invitational. Jones, Williams and George were part of that record, as well.
With her performance of 52.59 in the 400 meters, Williams locked up her spot at the NCAA Championships and clocked the fastest time in the nation this season. She led a trio of top-eight finishers for the Razorbacks with George (53.67) and Jones (53.79) collecting sixth- and eighth-place results, respectively. Both times represent personal bests. Bethany Hyter also collected a personal best in the 400 meters with a time of 57.05. Rachel Werner rounded out Arkansas’ runners with a 57.22 effort.
In the final event of the weekend, Tina Sutej won the pole vault with a clearance of 14-6, the second-best indoor jump in school history, national leader and an NCAA automatic qualifier. She went on to take three attempts at the collegiate record of 14-10.75 but did not clear. Sutej now has four of the top five indoor jumps at Arkansas. Tara Diebold finished the event in fourth place with a clearance of 13-5.25.
In a race that featured the three fastest times in the nation this year, Stephanie Brown finished third in the invitational division of the 800 meters. She crossed in a season-best time of 2:06.53. Samantha Learch was right behind in a time of 2:07.34, good for a personal best and a fourth-place showing.
Brittany Hyter finished fourth in the finals of the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.41, her second personal best of the weekend. In the semifinal round, she qualified fifth overall with a time of 8.48. Teammates Ivanique Kemp and Breeana Coleman finished ninth and 10th in the semifinals, respectively, and were the first two runners left out of Saturday’s final.
The invitational 3,000 meters featured a pair of personal bests for Miranda Walker and Cali George. Walker finished in sixth place in a time of 9:30.08, an improvement of more than 19 seconds on her previous best. George was the ninth-place runner and clocked a time of 9:47.29. Kristen Gillespie was the team’s top performer in the invitational mile with a time of 4:50.67, good for an eighth-place result. Paige Johnston finished in 13th place with a time of 4:58.42.
Martine Borge and Jillian Rosen finished fifth and eighth, respectively, in the open 800 meters. Borge had a personal-best performance in the event with a time of 2:11.95. In the open division of the 3,000 meters, Ashley Isham ran to a fifth-place finish with a personal-best time of 10:07.12. Grace Heymsfield clocked in at 10:12.34, good for an eighth-place result.
In the triple jump, Shantel Thompson finished in sixth place with a personal-best mark of 42-2. The performance represents her first career jump over the 42-foot distance.
With a competition field that featured eight teams ranked in the nation’s top 25, the Razorback Invitational saw several NCAA seasonal bests and qualifying marks. All told, the 11-team field (men’s and women’s) combined to post 23 automatic qualifiers-20 individual and three relays.
"We had a great field of teams this year and we want to do it again next year," Harter said. "We’ll look to continue to grow this event. We were really pleased with the format and everyone is in love with the track. Then, it’s all about performing and we did that today."
The Razorbacks return to action Feb. 4-5 with the New Balance Collegiate Invitational at the Armory Track & Field Center in New York. The two-day completion will mark Arkansas’ second away meet of the season. For more details and continued coverage, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.