NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Seniors Aneita Denton, Erica Sigmont and Kasia Williams each won events on the final day of the Southeastern Conference outdoor track championships in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday evening, but despite the best efforts of the Arkansas Lady Razorback track team, they finished second to South Carolina in the team standings to notch their third runner-up performance in three championships during the 2004-05 season.
Denton claimed the 800-meter title, Sigmont the 1,500 and Williams the 100-hurdles championship to tally 30 of Arkansas 72 points on the final day, but an unbelievable effort by the Gamecocks of 125 points on Sunday led them to their third conference championship. Arkansas finished as the SEC runner-up in both cross country and indoor track to the University of Tennessee Lady Vols and outdoors were nipped by South Carolina. The Gamecocks won with 145.2 points followed by Arkansas (124.2), Tennessee (108.33), Georgia (106.2) and Auburn (81.5).
“Always the bridesmaid and never the bride,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “Indoors we lost to Tennessee who went on to win the national championship and outdoors we lose to South Carolina who has a chance to do the same. We had some great efforts from everyone on the team including three champions and a great 5,000, but we just couldn’t overcome what South Carolina did.”
The action for the Lady Razorbacks began with a bang as Arkansas looked strong in the pole vault while the 1,500-meter run began. Knowing she had a tough day ahead of her, Sigmont sat amongst the leaders throughout the first three laps before making a strong move with 300 meters to go. Unable to cover the sprint by Sigmont, the field sat in a pack as Sigmont took a 20-meter lead down the backstretch, holding on for the victory with a time of 4:26.12.
The next race on the track was the 100-meter hurdles, where Williams entered the finals with the fastest time, but facing a tough field. Running down the backstretch to take advantage of the wind conditions, the race began with a good start from the middle lanes of the track, but by the third hurdle, Williams had begun to make her move. Inching ahead of her competition, she continued to press the advantage, finishing in 13.25 seconds and claiming her first SEC title and the first ever by a Lady Razorback in the event.
Three races later, Denton took the track with Sigmont, the duo which now rank 1-2 in the nation in the event. Denton entered the competition after a day’s rest with Sigmont racing just one hour and 20 minutes after her 1,500-meter victory. Denton immediately took the lead at the break, but only led by 10 meters at the halfway point. Sigmont battled with the pack trailing her teammate at 400 meters. With 300 to go, Denton put on a surge and hit the 600-meter mark at 1:29 and cruised to the finish in 2:02.94, one hundredth of a second behind her national leading preliminaries mark. Sigmont continued to fight for every point she could in Arkansas’ pursuit of a team title which was still very much up in the air at that point and crossed the line in fifth at 2:07.43.
Needing a big finish in the 5,000-meter run, Arkansas trailed South Carolina by 31 points and sent 10 to the starting line. What it got in return was a 4-5-6-7-8-9 effort for 15 points which solidified South Carolina’s victory. Senior Laura Jakosky led the charge with a time of 16:45.15 followed by regional qualifying efforts of Shiloh Whiting, Maureen Scott, Alison Rush, Jessie Gordon and Penny Splichal.
The pole vault competition was also big for the Lady Razorbacks as they tallied another 15 in the vertical jump. Sophomore Stacie Manuel led the competition up to the last bar, but failed to clear 13-6.5 and was forced to settle for runner-up to Georgia’s Kierney Hiteshaw. Freshman Danielle O’Reilly tied for fourth with a jump of 12-5.5 with Stephanie Irwin tying for sixth with an identical12-5.5 effort, but was dropped in the standings to misses.
The Lady Razorbacks are back in action in two weeks when they compete at the NCAA Mideast Region Championships in Bloomington, Ind., in an effort to qualify for the NCAA Championships. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.