KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – It was a solid first day for the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback track team as three women advanced to finals action and freshman Christine Kalmer finished seventh in the 5,000-meter run on the first day of the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships on Friday evening at Tom Black Track in Knoxville, Tenn.
Beginning the Lady Razorbacks participation in the running events, sophomore Dacia Barr ran easily to finish second in her heat of the 1,500-meter run while sophomore Paige Farrell finished second in her heat of the 800 meters to advance on time and yet another sophomore, Tominque Boatright qualified in the 400 meters. Kalmer book ended Barr’s performance with a gutsy run in the 5K that placed her in seventh to score Arkansas’ only points of the day and place them in a tie for 21st in the team standings.
“This meet is not about great times, but advancing to the NCAA Championships,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “While there are many outstanding performances in every race, our main focus was to make it to the finals and ultimately to the NCAA meet and we did that today. Dacia looked very good in her race as did Paige. We felt that even though Tominque may not have been one on the radar that she could get the job done and she did so now its time to gear up for Saturday.”
Barr had arguably the easiest day of the bunch in her 1,500-meter run. Battling a strong wind that rushed down the back straight, Barr allowed some of the taller runners to lead the way and sat in third for most of the three-plus lap race. Making her move with 200-meters to go, Barr allowed the heat winner, SEC Champion Sarah Bowman, to take the heat victory as she settled for second and one of the automatic qualifiers to Saturday’s final.
Farrell’s 800 meter was a bit tougher as she competed in a fast heat. Taking the opening 400 meters out in a staggering world-class pace 58 seconds, Farrell and the rest of the field slowed quite a bit down the wind blown backstretch, but picked the pace up again on the final turn allowing Farrell to run the second fastest time of her career, 2:06.66 and pick up the meet’s first qualifier by time.
In the 400 meters, both Lady Razorbacks ran smart races and produced impressive times, but only Boatright was able to qualify for Saturday’s final. Getting off to solid starts, Boatright made up the stagger on her right by the end of the first turn and looked to be in the lead as the heat ran into turn three. Junior Sasha Rolle was also running well in lane eight and hit the curve at the same moment as her teammate.
Coming into the home stretch Boatright held the lead until the final few steps before getting gunned down by LSU’s Cynethia Rooks who crossed the line just over one-tenth of a second ahead of Boatright who clocked the second-fastest time in Lady Razorback history at 53.24. Boatright’s time was also the sixth best mark on the day allowing her to advance to the finals. Rolle’s mark of 53.85 was a career best and places her 11th overall and eligible for the NCAA Championships as an at-large selection.
Kalmer’s 5,000-meter run may have been the most exciting race of the day as she looked like the runner who was named the SEC’s Freshman Cross Country Runner of the Year on her way to a seventh-place finish. Sticking with the leaders through most of the 12-plus-lap race, Kalmer fell off the pace with three laps remaining, but had a good sized lead on the rest of the field and was able to use a strong kick to pass a runner in the home stretch and move into seventh overall. In the 5,000 meters, it is not uncommon for runners to elect to not compete in the event at the national championship, but opt for the longer 10,000 meters in which case, Kalmer could move into one of the precious five automatic qualifiers for the NCAA meet, although the chance is minimal.
“We are pretty sure that one of the runners tonight in the top five is not going to declare in the 5,000,” Harter said. “If there is just one more, then Christine will be able to compete at nationals which would be great for her confidence and experience. I would say that the chances are probably less than 50 percent.”
Also making herself eligible for the NCAA meet was junior Tiavannia Thompson in the 100-meter hurdles. Running in heat four, Thompson finished second in the heat to LSU’s Jessica Ohanaja, but her time of 13.42 was the ninth best on the day putting her just outside the final. Needing to run a tenth of a second faster in the prelims, Thompson was upset about the situation, but Associate Head Coach Rolando Greene feels that her season best time which ranks 21st in the nation could get her a trip to the national championships.
Action at the NCAA Mideast Regional concludes on Saturday with the finals of the 800 and 1,500, the pole vault and hammer throw. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.