What a Weekend: The Lady Razorbacks had a great weekend despite running in three different locations. Overall, Arkansas qualified 12 student-athletes in nine different events to bring their season totals to 21 qualifiers in 15 events. First time qualifiers for the 2006 season included Carly Bloomfield, Paige Farrell, Lakeisha Martin, Caroline Peyton and Tiffany Redlarczyk.
Diversity: If there is one thing that the University of Arkansas track team has been known for over the past several years its diversity. While the distance team gets a majority of the headlines from cross country to track, the Lady Razorbacks have a diverse team and each has the ability to qualify for post season competition. Last season, Arkansas posted 22 marks for the regional or national championships in 10 events, but 2006 has brought 21 qualifiers in 15 events. Could Arkansas qualify someone in each of the 21 events contested, it might be possible, but highly unlikely.
What’s Missing: Missing from Arkansas’ 2006 schedule is the John McDonnell Invitational which typically takes place this weekend. On the schedule originally, the McDonnell meet was cancelled due to the renovations taking place at John McDonnell Field, but the plans are to continue hosting the meet in 2007 and beyond.
Replacements: Following the cancellation of the John McDonnell Invitational, the Lady Razorbacks were going to go to the University of Mississippi to compete at their facility, but a lack of interest in that meet forced Arkansas to find a third meet for the weekend and they settled on the TCU Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas. A one-day affair, Arkansas travels to the lone star state on Friday and returns late Saturday night. Action begins at 10:00 a.m. Saturday and runs throughout the day.
Another Sprints and Field Event Week: Arkansas’ distance specialists are eagerly anticipating the Penn Relays next weekend and because of that may or may not compete at the TCU Invite. Several Lady Razorbacks will get the weekend off to prepare for Penn where they seek to improve upon or get NCAA qualifiers. That said, the TCU Invite will feature Arkansas’ sprints and field event teams which have improved each week since the outdoor season began.
First Qualifier: Any time a team brings in a javelin thrower, it knows that they will get just one event out of the student-athlete, but Arkansas thought they had found a special one when Carly Bloomfield became available. A transfer from Barton County Community College, Bloomfield has career best marks that rival the best in Arkansas history and following a few weeks of getting adapted to the season, Bloomfield made her mark with the first NCAA regional qualifier of her career. Throwing the javelin 145 feet, she soared past the regional qualifier of 142-6.
Fifth Best: Not only was Carly Bloomfield’s javelin at the John Jacobs Invitational a regional qualifier, it was also the fifth-best toss in Arkansas history. Breaking the strangle hold that Jessica Sommerfeld has on the event, Bloomfield is still 13 feet from the school record, but the Kansas native has also improved nine feet between the first meet of the season and mid-April, so there is no telling where she might go.
The TCU Schedule: The TCU schedule was updated on Tuesday and calls for a 10:00 a.m. start with the discus. Running events are to begin at noon and run through 5:10 p.m. culminating with the men’s 4×400-meter relay. Most of the field events begin at 1:00, with the opposite gender starting as soon as their counterparts complete their events.
Impressive: Tominque Boatright had not run an open 400 meters since her all-America performance indoors, although she had run on several relays. Her lack of competition was by design by Arkansas’ coaching staff and the tactic appears to have paid off as she posted a NCAA regional qualifier and the 20th fastest time in the nation.
Number Two: Not only was Tominque Boatright’s time in the 400 meters a regional qualifier, but also the second fastest in Arkansas history. Boatright eclipsed the mark of Angel Heath for the number two spot on the list with her impressive time, but is still chasing Lisa Sparks’ time of 53.45 for the school record.
The Oldest Record: Not only is Tominque Boatright attempting to set the Arkansas record in the 400 meters, but is also trying to notch a bit of history. The Arkansas outdoor track 400-meter record is the oldest Lady Razorback record still in existence. Set by Lisa Sparks in the spring of 1983 in Lincoln, Neb., Sparks ran 53.45 seconds. The next oldest record in Arkansas’ books is Toshei Woods’ long jump of 20-10 and was set 10 years later in 1993.
An Arkansas First: Sophomore Tominque Boatright is not the first Lady Razorback to earn all-America honors in the 400 meters, but she is the first in Arkansas history to make it out of the rounds and into the finals. The last Lady Razorback to come close was former standout Angel Heath who qualified out of the regional format in 2003, but did not move into the finals at the national championship.
A Second Honor: Tominque Boatright earned all-America honors in 2005 when she fought through incredible pain to finish her leg of Arkansas’ distance medley relay. Coming around the first curve, she pulled a hamstring which kept her out for most of the outdoor season. One year later, Boatright has earned her second all-America honor, this time in the 400-meter dash, her first all-America certificate in a non-relay.
Another School Record: After helping set the Arkansas distance medley relay mark in 2005, Tominque Boatright had a plan in 2006 and it included Arkansas’ 400-meter record. After a near miss at the Iowa State Qualifier, Boatright left no doubt who the fastest 400-meter runner in Arkansas history was as she shattered the school record by three-tenths of a second. Running 53.17, Boatright crushed former Lady’Back Adwoa Gyasi-Nimako’s time of 53.48 which was set at the 2002 SEC Championships.
One, Two, Four and Five: With her school-record performance in the 400 meters at the NCAA Championships and her near record-breaker in the finals the next day, Tominque Boatright left no doubt who the queen of the 400 is. She now holds four of the top five marks in school history with the previous school record the only mark that breaks her strangle hold on the event.
All-Americans: The Lady Razorbacks earned two all-America certificates at the 2006 NCAA Indoor Championships. Junior Jodi Unger picked up the first one when she finished eighth in the pole vault with a clearance of 13-5 1/4 while just moments later, sophomore Tominque Boatright took eighth in the 400-meter dash to pick up the second all-America certificate of her career.
Vrshek Posts Second Qualifier: Freshman Kelly Vrshek has been as consistent as they come for the Lady Razorbacks, consistently good that is. The Rolling Meadows, Ill., native posted her second NCAA qualifier at the Mt. SAC Relays when she ran a provisional time in the 10,000 meters making her eligible for the post season in that event and the 5,000 meters.
Two for Three: This spring Kelly Vrshek has made the most of her opportunities, with two NCAA qualifiers in three races. Opening with a 1,500 at the Collegiate Classic, she ran 4:45.92. She then went to the Cardinal Invitational and ran in the 5,000 meters; a race more suited to her training and clocked a regional mark of 16:45.31. Two weeks later, Vrshek did it again when she ran 34:33.36 in the 10,000 meters at the Mt. SAC Relays.
USA Cross Country: Freshmen Denise Bargiachi and Kelly Vrshek performed very well at the 2006 USA Junior Cross Country Championships in Van Cortlandt Park in New York and for their efforts were named as alternates for Team USA at the World Junior Championships and the NACAC Games. The World Championships will be held in Fukuoka, Japan while the NACAC meet is in Orlando, Fla.
Bargiachi Named to NACAC Team: Freshman Denise Bargiachi was named to Team USA for the North America, Central America, Caribbean Cross Country Championships. She will compete on March 11, in Orlando, Fla., taking on the best of the western hemisphere. Bargiachi is one of six members of the US team.
Fourth: Denise Bargiachi ran well at the USA Junior Cross Country Championships and when Team USA chose her to run on its NACAC team, it hoped that she could be a factor in a Team USA victory. They were right about one thing, she was a factor, in fact, she could have been a winner as the Memphis, Tenn., native finished fourth overall in the race in Orlando, Fla., and was Team USA’s second finisher on its way to a 19-point finish
A Better Outdoor Team: He has said it from the beginning of the 2006 indoor season; Arkansas is probably a better outdoor track team than it was indoors. Lance Harter’s statement has been backed up so far, as 11 Lady Razorback individuals and relays qualified for the regional championships.
Welcome Back Miss Blackwood: It took her a couple of weeks to get back into the swing of things, but Brandy Blackwood appears to be ready and able to help the Lady Razorbacks this spring. Forced to sit out the indoor season after completing her eligibility in the sport in 2005, Blackwood returned to the hammer circle two weeks ago and had modest throws, but nothing compared to what she accomplished in Texas.
Not Quite Top 5: Brandy Blackwood’s toss of 188-4 at the Texas Relays sailed past the NCAA regional qualifier in the event and nearly cracked into Arkansas’ top five marks. Blackwood currently owns three of the five best marks in school history and her toss was just one foot shy of fifth place.
Small Squad: The Lady Razorback contingent at the TCU Invitational won’t be large, but could pack a lot of punch. Consisting mainly of sprinters, Arkansas only has 11 student-athletes scheduled to travel.
One Meet, One Qualifier: Jodi Unger took the momentum of her all-America honor indoors right into the outdoor season by posting a regional qualifying mark in her first meet. Jumping a modest 12-11 1/2, Unger won the competition in California and should clear 13 feet in the next couple of weeks.
Career Best Outdoors: We predicted it here, Jodi Unger would clear 13 feet and that is just what she did at the John Jacobs Invitational as she soared over 13-5 1/2. A career best outdoors for the junior, Unger’s mark is just 3/4 of an inch behind the fifth-place mark in Arkansas history.
Her First: Junior Jodi Unger came to Arkansas as a decent high school pole vaulter, but nothing that would shock the collegiate world. She had never cleared 12 feet and aside from a solid pole vaulting physique, was not mentioned with some of Arkansas’ big names at the time. Oh how things change as over the past two years, Unger not only cleared 12 feet, but 13 on way to her first all-America honor.
Arkansas’ Fourth: With her all-America honor in the pole vault, Jodi Unger became the fourth University of Arkansas pole vaulter to earn all-America honors. Former Lady’Backs April Steiner, Jennifer Lincoln and Stacie Manuel are the other three.
SEC Runner-Up: It came down to potentially the final jump of the competition and miss would have given Jodi Unger the SEC title, but a make by Georgia’s Kierney Jackson gave her the conference championship and left Unger to her first runner-up performance.
Consistency: If there is one thing that Arkansas is getting from junior pole vaulter Jodi Unger in 2006 its consistency. Unger has cleared 12-11 1/2 in four of her seven competitions indoors and has a career and season best vault of 13-6 1/4. Poised to take the bar even higher, Unger’s consistency at these heights should make her progress in the event impressive over the next several months.
New Name, Same Face: If the name Jodi Unger seems a little strange, but the face looks the same, it’s because the former Jodi Driggers was married and took the last name of her husband Brett Unger.
Don’t Forget: Stephanie Irwin may not have had the big jump in her first meet, but the Mt. Ida, Arkansas native is at the same level of each of her teammates. In fact it was Irwin who posted Arkansas’ highest finish in the pole vault at the Texas Relays when she cleared 12-11 1/2 to place sixth overall. The difference between Irwin and Unger at Texas was that Irwin was clean over 12-11 1/2.
Potential: Each of Arkansas’ pole vaulters has the potential to clear heights that would make them all-Americans, so for the Lady Razorbacks it’s a matter of doing what they set out to accomplish. For the Lady’Backs Jodi Unger, Stephanie Irwin and Danielle O’Reilly have each cleared 13 feet in their careers and by doing so again could almost guarantee themselves a spot at the national championship.
Arkansas’ Relays: Indoors it was the 4×400 that was given a chance to compete for a national championship. Outdoors, the 4×100 and 4×400-meter relays will be given an opportunity to make the national meet thanks to their NCAA qualifiers at the Collegiate Classic. Both relays won their competitions by wide margins and showed no signs of weakness despite only getting one practice to work on their handoffs in the sprint relay.