FAYETTEVILLE – Tina Sutej and Doug Case were recognized Monday with the release of the United State Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches’ Association (USTFCCCA) regional athletes and coaches of the year for the 2011 indoor season. Both representing the South Central Region, Sutej was named the Women’s Field Athlete of the Year while Case was selected as the Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year.
Sutej is the national leader in the pole vault, having cleared an NCAA automatic-qualifying height in all six competitions she has entered. In defending her Southeastern Conference indoor title, Sutej also set the NCAA collegiate record in the pole vault with a clearance of 14-10.75. With her standout performances, she now owns the top five jumps in school history, four of which have come this year. This marks the second consecutive regional honor for Sutej who also selected in 2010.
"Anytime you can set a collegiate record, it’s a really special moment," women’s head coach Lance Harter said. "Tina has been jumping at that record for the last few competitions so it was nice to see her capitalize on that and be successful. She went on to try to extend the record over 15 feet which was a chance for something even more magical. That’s a mark that is within her realm of possibility down the road."
In setting the collegiate record, Sutej surpassed the previous mark of 14-10.25 set by Amy Linnen of Arizona in 2002. Sutej has won all six competitions she has entered this season, including a meet-record showing at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York. For her collective efforts, Sutej was named to the 2011 Bowerman Award watch list in February.
In his third season at Arkansas, Case coaches the Razorbacks’ sprints, hurdles and pole vault crews. During the 2011 indoor season, his athletes have collected six NCAA automatic qualifiers spread among four student-athletes and one relay. In the 200 meters, LaShawn Butler and Marek Niit have secured spots at the NCAA Championships. The Razorbacks also have three qualified in the 400 meters with Niit, Neil Braddy and Ben Skidmore. All five student-athletes clocked personal bests at the conference championship meet.
"In my eyes, Coach Case is one of the top sprint coaches anywhere-the nation, the world, anywhere," men’s head coach Chris Bucknam said. "He just has a knack for developing his athletes and getting the best out of them. I knew it was just a matter of time before we blew it open. For (the 4×400-meter relay) to run a 3:05 after all those kids had run their own individual prelims and finals, it’s a testament to how hard he’s worked and how much those kids believe in him and the system. I’m very proud of Doug and the astronomical jump we took in our automatic qualifiers in the 200, 400 and 4×400. It was phenomenal and the story of (the SEC Championships) for us."
At the SEC Championships, Arkansas won the program’s first-ever 4×400-meter relay when Skidmore, Niit, Chris Bilbrew and Braddy combined for a time of 3:05.13, a world- and NCAA-leading performance. It also marked the second-fastest effort in school history. The Razorbacks’ sprint and hurdle groups had 34 of the team’s point total. In addition to the national qualifiers, Caleb Cross had a fifth-place showing in the 60-meter hurdles at the SEC meet.
The declaration list for the national championships detailing all accepted entries-automatic and at-large-is scheduled to be posted Monday evening. Competition at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships begins Friday at the McFerrin Athletic Center in College Station, Texas. This weekend’s action will be carried via stream at NCAA.com, AggieAthletics.com and ESPN3.com. In a tape-delay broadcast, the 2011 SEC Indoor Championships will be air Thursday on ESPNU at 8 p.m. (CT).