ATHENS, Ga. – Tina Sutej won the pole vault in record-setting fashion Saturday afternoon at the 2011 SEC Outdoor Championships. Having already clinched the top spot, Sutej soared over the bar set at 4.61 meters (15-1.5) to set a new NCAA record. With the performance, she matches her effort at the SEC Indoor Championships back in February in Fayetteville. Overall, the No. 8 University of Arkansas women’s track and field team is in third place with 39 points heading into the final day of the conference meet.
"In addition to the tremendous show by Tina, today was all about picking up qualifiers," head coach Lance Harter said. "We’ve qualified well and we’re rolling right now. We still have to hope that we’ll have some help in trying to neutralize the sprint power of LSU."
In a repeat of the indoor season, Sutej stalked the collegiate record for a few competitions before eclipsing the mark at the conference meet. In addition to setting the NCAA outdoor mark, Sutej also set the Arkansas school record, SEC meet record, Spec Towns Track facility record, Slovenian national record and current world-leading mark. The previous NCAA record of 15-1 was set by former UCLA standout Chelsea Johnson in 2006.
The Razorback junior entered the competition at 13-9.75 and as the only jumper to clear the 14-1.75 bar, she clinched her second consecutive SEC outdoor title. Sutej remains undefeated this year and runs her winning streak to 13 competitions, dating back to the indoor season. She also continues Arkansas’ strangle hold on the event in conference action. This marks the Razorbacks’ sixth SEC outdoor title in the pole vault, and fifth straight.
Tara Diebold finished fifth in the pole vault to give the Razorbacks a total of 14 points from the event. The Razorback senior finished with a day’s best clearance of 13-1.75. She was one of two jumpers to finish at that height but was placed ahead with fewer misses throughout the competition.
"I felt great coming into this meet," Sutej said. "I was a little bit nervous at the beginning, but everything was ok. The weather was great, I felt great and I was ready to jump high. Every single meet is going to be a story by itself and you never know if it’s going to be the one you want, but this one is just great. I’m so happy right now."
The Razorbacks added one point to their team score with an eight-place finish by Makeba Alcide in the high jump, the first event of the day. Returning from Friday’s win in the heptathlon, the Razorback sophomore was one of four jumpers to clear 5-8.75 but placed eighth overall on misses. During the competition, Alcide utilized two third-attempt clearances to stay alive.
The team collected 10 more points between Shantel Thompson in the long jump and Megan Jackson in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Thompson finished fifth in the long jump with a personal-best mark of 19-11 in the third round of the competition. In the final event on the track, Jackson ran to a third-place finish in the steeplechase. The Razorback senior navigated the course of barriers and water jumps in a time of 10:34.51.
Arkansas will have five runners in Sunday’s final of the 1,500 meters after a productive day of qualifying. Jillian Rosen was the team’s top qualifier and fourth overall with a time of 4:24.07. Running in heat three, Kristen Gillespie (4:24.42) and Paige Johnston (4:25.31) ran to a 1-2 finish to secure their spots in Sunday’s final. The final two to advance for the Razorbacks were Natanya Luther and Samantha Learch, who qualified 11th and 12th, respectively.
The team advanced all three of its entries in the 100-meter hurdles, led by Brittany Hyter. She won heat three in a time of 13.33 and was the fourth overall qualifier for the final. Ivanique Kemp followed closely behind with a time of 13.42, good for the sixth-best effort in the preliminary rounds. The trio of qualifiers for Arkansas concluded with Breeana Coleman (13.77) who received an automatic berth with her second-place finish in heat one.
Whitney Jones ran a personal best and was the fourth overall qualifier in the 400 meters. She won heat five to lead a trio of Razorback qualifiers. Teammates Shelise Williams (53.22) and Regina George (53.39) also picked up automatic qualifying bids by winning their respective heats. Arkansas will pack the final with three runners while Auburn, the only other team with multiple qualifiers, will have two runners.
"I’m pleased with how we performed today," associate head coach Rolando Greene said. "We’ll have three quarter milers back and three hurdlers back tomorrow, and Shantel scored like we need her to in the long jump. Now, we just have to capitalize on the opportunities that we have tomorrow. We’ll do what we do tomorrow and let the chips fall where they may. I think we’ll do fine."
Sunday’s schedule of finals is set to begin with the javelin at 11 a.m. (CT). Running event finals will get started at 1 p.m. with the 4×100-meter relay. All running finals will be streamed live at ESPN3.com from 1-5 p.m. In addition to the video stream, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com for live results and interactive blog. A tape-delay broadcast of the SEC Championships will be aired May 25 at 7 p.m. (CT) on ESPNU.