LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 4 University of Arkansas women’s track and field team collected three event titles Saturday at the 2012 Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships at the Nutter Field House in Lexington, Ky. The Razorbacks earned conference victories with Tina Sutej in the pole vault, Whitney Jones in the long jump and Kristen Gillespie at 3,000 meters.
Sutej won her third consecutive SEC title in NCAA-record fashion with a clearance of 4.55m/14-11, improving upon her own collegiate record set last year at the conference meet in Fayetteville. At the end of day two, the Razorbacks are in first place of the team standings with 48 points. The team qualified 11 individuals for Sunday’s running finals. Arkansas now has four SEC titles this weekend, including Makeba Alcide’s win in the pentathlon Friday.
"We’ve had a fantastic meet so far," head coach Lance Harter said. "Right now, we’re pretty much where we wanted to be with our qualifiers (for Sunday’s finals). We’re excited about tomorrow and we’ve got it going right now. After two days, we’re still winning so we’ll give it all we have to close it out tomorrow."
With her victory, Sutej becomes the first woman in conference history to win three pole vault titles. She extends her indoor conference winning streak to three and Arkansas has now won four of the last five pole vault titles (Katie Stripling, 2008). In addition to re-setting the NCAA record, Sutej’s performance represents the meet and Nutter Field House records and improves upon her own national record for Slovenia. She has now won 12 consecutive indoor meets and 18 of her last 19 competitions overall, dating back to the start of the 2011 season.
Tara Diebold also enjoyed a career day in the pole vault with a second-place finish and a personal-best jump. She had a final clearance of 4.37m/14-4 to secure eight points toward the team total. The mark improves upon her previous best of 4.30m/14-1.25 and clinches her first NCAA automatic-qualifying effort of the season. Based on marks entering the weekend, Diebold is now tied for the fourth-best jump in the nation.
Competing in her first of three events of the day, Jones emerged out of the second flight of jumps to advance to the final. She entered the final three jumps as the second overall qualifier. In the second round of jumps in the final, Jones unleashed a personal-best mark of 6.23m/20-5.25, nearly six inches farther than her previous best. With her win, Jones becomes just the second Razorback to win an SEC indoor title in the long jump (Peter-Gaye Beckford, 2009).
In the final event of the day, Gillespie ran to her first career SEC title with a victory at 3,000 meters. Hanging with the lead pack at the bell lap, the Razorback senior used a late kick to surge past Agata Strausa of Florida. Gillespie crossed the finish line in a time of 9:20.86, a new personal best. She is the ninth runner in program history to win the SEC title at 3,000 meters and the first since 2006 (Penny Splichal).
Earlier in the day, Gillespie turned in a qualifying effort in the mile prelims. She will be joined in Sunday’s final by teammates Jillian Rosen, Grace Heymsfield and Keri Wood. In the process of qualifying for the mile final, Wood established a personal-best mark of 4:50.71, more than four seconds faster than her previous best.
Arkansas will also have two representatives each in the finals of the 400 meters, 800 meters and 60-meter hurdles. In the prelims of the 400 meters, Jones and Regina George advanced to the next round with a sixth- and ninth-place finish, respectively. With a second race later in the day, George also qualified for the finals of the 200 meters.
Martine Borge and Samantha Learch finished 1-2 in heat three of the 800-meter prelims to secure their spots in Sunday’s final. In the 60-meter hurdles, Ivanique Kemp was the third-overall qualifier and clinched an automatic spot in the championship race Sunday. She will be joined by Brittany Hyter who finished the hurdle prelims as the eighth qualifier.
The SEC Indoor Championships will air as part of a 90-minute show on ESPNU on Sunday, March 11 at 4 p.m. (CT). The meet will also be streamed live via ESPN3.com Sunday from 12:25-4 p.m. Kentucky will stream live portions of the meet not covered by ESPN3.
Competition continues Sunday at 10 a.m. Scoring opportunities on day three include all running finals and field action in the high jump and triple jump. Running event finals are scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. For more information regarding Razorback track and field or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.
SEC Championships Results – Day 2
60m (prelims)10. Tiffany Hines – 7.47 (PR)
200m (prelims)8. Regina George – 23.98q16. Whitney Jones – 24.37
400m (prelims)6. Whitney Jones – 53.64q9. Regina George – 54.09q13. Gwendolyn Flowers – 54.5715. Chrishuna Williams – 54.8218. Rachel Werner – 55.30
800m (prelims)3. Martine Borge – 2:08.34q6. Samantha Learch – 2:08.62q
Mile (prelims)3. Kristen Gillespie – 4:54.01q5. Jillian Rosen – 4:50.22q6. Grace Heymsfield – 4:54.38q9. Keri Wood – 4:50.72q (PR)
3,000m (final)1. Kristen Gillespie – 9:20.86 (PR)
60m Hurdles (prelims)3. Ivanique Kemp – 8.36q8. Brittany Hyter – 8.42q
Long Jump1. Whitney Jones – 6.23m/20-5.25 (PR)
Pole Vault1. Tina Sutej – 4.55m/14-11!A (PR)2. Tara Diebold – 4.37m/14-4A (PR)10. Megan Weller – 3.80m/12-5.5 (PR)13. Danielle Nowell – 3.65m/11-11.75
! – NCAA record || A – NCAA automatic qualifier || q – qualified for finals