FAYETTEVILLE – Senior Erica Sigmont took the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback’s third Southeastern Conference individual title when she won the mile at the league championship meet held at the Randal Tyson Track Center on Sunday afternoon, but despite a spirited effort by Arkansas and a raucous crowd, the Lady’Backs finished second at the meet.
Arkansas was edged by the Univ. of Tennessee, 135.5 to 120 in what became a two-team battle on the final day of competition. The Lady Razorbacks held the lead in the competition throughout two-and-a-half days, with Tennessee moving to the forefront with five events to go. Arkansas re-took the lead with three events left, but big scores from Tennessee’s triple jumpers, distance medley relay and 4×400-meter relay led to the Lady Vol victory.
“We knew going in that winning this meet would be a long shot,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “We needed to get a lot of help from other teams, but Tennessee was too strong. They were favored to win the national championship when the year began and showed why this weekend. For us though, we had great performances all around. We had three individual champions, but that only accounts for 30 points, so we got 90 points from the rest of this young team.”
Sigmont’s mile time of 4:54.40 led a trio of Lady Razorbacks across the line. Arkansas finished the race with 17 points thanks to 1-5-6 placings by Sigmont, Dacia Barr and Shiloh Whiting. A slow tactical race from the start, Sigmont was should-to-shoulder with the lead through the first 800 meters before LSU’s Ruth Nanyinza sprinted to the front. Sigmont countered the move and again ran shoulder-to-shoulder with the leaders through 1,200 meters before making a move of her own that the field couldn’t react to. Sigmont held on for the victory to claim her first SEC individual title and become the first Lady Razorback since Lilli Kleinmann in 2001 to win a conference crown in the mile.
While Sigmont garnered a championship, perhaps the best performance came from senior Aneita Denton who looked masterful in the 800 meters. Holding the top time in the nation heading into the competition, Denton would face off against the 2004 indoor 800-meter national champion Nicole Cook of Tennessee and multi-time all-American Neisha Bernard-Thomas of LSU. From the outset it appeared to be a three-person race until Cook and Denton raised their performances a notch midway through. With Cook in the lead, Denton trailed by a step through almost the entire competition. The race would shake out with Cook setting the collegiate record in 2:00.75 and Denton running what is believed to be the third fastest collegiate time at 2:01.96. Denton’s time also set the Jamaican National Indoor Record.
Not to be overshadowed, Arkansas freshman Paige Farrell also performed admirably in the race when she finished in 2:07.06 to take fifth place, beating a 2004 all-American in the competition on way to a NCAA provisional qualifier and the 10th fastest time in the nation this season.
Getting the day off to a fast start was senior Brandy Blackwood in the weight throw when she took her first toss and set the UA record for the third consecutive competition, this time at 67 feet, four ¾ inches. Competing against some of the world’s best throwers, Blackwood finished fourth in the event to pick up five points toward Arkansas’ total.
One of the events that kept Arkansas in the running until the end was the 5,000-meter run where a quartet of Lady Razorbacks went 2-3-4-5. Senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush was Arkansas’ top finisher with a time of 16:45.77 followed closely by Penny Splichal (16:51.86), Maureen Scott (16:57.06) and Laura Jakosky (17:06.10).
Another outstanding performance honor goes to senior Kasia Williams who ran the second fastest time in Arkansas history in the 60-meter hurdles when she crossed the finish line in 8.20 seconds. Finishing second overall, William’s time was just off the NCAA automatic qualifiers list, but nearly guarantees her a spot at the NCAA Championships.
Other Arkansas scorers included Beyonka McDowell who finished eighth in the 60-meter hurdles, Michelle Martin (fifth in the high jump), and the 4×400-meter relay team of Farrell, Tominque Boatright, Sydney Scarbrough and Denton (sixth).
The Lady Razorbacks are back in action in two weeks when they compete at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.