NEW YORK – Senior Penny Splichal continued to make her final season of track eligibility a memorable one on Saturday afternoon when she qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 5,000-meter run at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York City.
Competing in one of the first races of the day, Splichal was up to the challenge as she sprinted to the lead by the end of the opening turn and never looked back. Challenged by a North Carolina runner for the opening mile, Splichal pushed on and began to open up her advantage throughout the next four laps until there was no question who would win, but would she qualify. The Dickinson, N.D., native would not be denied in her quest for a second NCAA qualifier when she won the 5,000 by nearly half a lap in a time of 16:28.81, a solid provisional qualifier. She is also qualified in the 3,000 meters.
“Today was better than yesterday,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “We ran into some potholes on day one, but bounced back in the 5,000 and really got off to a good start. The milers also ran personal bests and I think that we are showing our youth at this point. We’ll be ready to go next weekend.”
Joining Splichal in the 5,000 meters was freshman Kelly Vrshek who allowed her teammate to dictate the pace of the action, but used a well-thought out game plan to finish ninth in the fast race with a personal best of 16:53.82. Not running with the lead pack of four, Vrshek sat with the second larger group of runners and made a strong move near the end of the race to secure her finish.
In the college section of the mile, junior Caroline Peyton put together her best race of the year when she finished second overall and first in her heat. Running 4:55.45, Peyton was trailed by teammate Tiffany Redlarczyk and the duo went wire-to-wire in their heat, leaving the competition in their wake. Redlarczyk would also run a personal best in the event at 4:57.61.
Leading Arkansas’ sprinting corp. was freshman Tominque Boatright who missed the NCAA provisional standard by the slimmest of margins when she clocked 54.41 to finish sixth in the finals of the 400 meters. Fortunately for Boatright she has already posted a qualifier for the meet or else her run which was just 0.01 seconds off the mark would have been a haunting number as the season progressed.
Other Lady’Backs that put together performances of note include Christine Kalmer and Dacia Barr in the mile, Michelle Martin in the high jump and Arkansas’ pole vaulters who finished 1-3-6. Sophomore Stephanie Irwin won the competition to make it two straight years that an Arkansas vaulter has taken top honors.
The Lady Razorbacks are back in action on Friday afternoon when they participate in the highly anticipated Tyson Invitational. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.