A Good Start: Even though the Lady Razorbacks didn’t post the number of qualifiers that many of the prognosticators would like, Arkansas head coach Lance Harter was pleased with his team’s start at the Arkansas Invitational last week. Junior Jodi Unger qualified for the NCAA meet in the pole vault and several Lady’Backs produced inspiring performances that could lead to success in the near future.
The Arkansas Invitational: After a relatively small opener, the Lady Razorbacks open the doors to the Randal Tyson Track Center with the Razorback Invitational. Currently there are 11 teams and even more individuals signed up to compete with more expected in the next couple days. In the anticipation of between 20 and 30 teams competing, the meet is scheduled for two days beginning at noon on Friday and running through Saturday evening.
Unger Qualifies at Opener: Junior Jodi Unger didn’t waste any time to her indoor season when she posted her first NCAA Provisional qualifier for the year at the Arkansas Invitational. Jumping an impressive 12-11 1/2 at the meet, Unger equaled her career best with the effort and is expected to clear 13 feet in the next couple weeks in an attempt to solidify her place at the NCAA meet.
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.
The 13-Foot Mark: Jodi Unger has been jumping at 13 feet for the past year and has cleared in practice numerous times, but not in a meet. That could change this weekend when she competes at the Razorback Invitational on Saturday afternoon. In her career, Unger holds career best vaults of 12-11 1/2 both indoors and out and is eager to take her vaulting to the next level.
Newcomers Look Good: The Lady Razorback roster is full of newcomers in 2006 and those individuals looked very good in their first competitions. Denise Bargiachi and Kelly Vrshek held their own in the mile while Jennifer Harper was solid in the 3,000. Minus a bad exchange in the 4×400-meter relay and a pair of newcomers in Jessica Cousins and Sasha Rolle could have qualified for the NCAA meet. Other newcomers that should make their debut this weekend include Christine Kalmer and Brooke Higgs.
Martin Nearly Matches Best: Junior Michelle Martin has been a solid competitor for the Lady Razorbacks since her freshman year, a fact that has been proven by her scoring at each of her four SEC meets. At the Razorback Invitational, Martin jumped 5-8, the best opener of her career and nearly a career best. Martin’s career best is only 1/2 inch taller, 5-8 1/2, which she cleared at the 2005 SEC Indoor meet.
The Schedule: Due to the number of participants, the Razorback Invitational schedule is a two day affair with events beginning at noon on Friday and running through 8:20 that night. Action picks up again on Saturday at 11 a.m. and should end around 6 p.m.
Schedule Breakdown: The schedule for the weekend is broken down to field events and select others on Friday with the bulk of the racing on the oval taking place on Saturday. The only running competitions on the track aside from the multis on Friday include the 200, 1,000 and 5,000-meter runs and the distance medley relay. By contrast, the only field events on Saturday are the triple jumps and women’s pole vault.
The Trackwire Ranking: The Lady Razorbacks are missing from the first Trackwire.com Ranking released on Tuesday, Jan. 17. While this may come as a shock to some, it doesn’t to the Arkansas coaches who are used to seeing their name outside the top 25 to open the season only to have their name appear by week three.
Last Year at the Razorback: After a quiet time at the 2005 Arkansas Invitational, the Lady Razorbacks went nuts at the Razorback, posting seven qualifiers from events as far spread as the hurdles to distances to pole vault.
Boatright Healthy and Ready: Tominque Boatright had a tremendous indoor season in 2005, then at the NCAA Championships was injured in her leg of the distance medley relay and never fully recovered during the outdoor season. Now with some time off, Boatright is once again healthy and could challenge Arkansas’ 400-meter record which she came close to breaking last season.
A Solid Opener: With a clean bill of health, Tominque Boatright took to the track last weekend at the Arkansas Invitational and looked very good. She began with a 24.33 in the 200 meters, two-tenths of NCAA qualifying, then anchored Arkansas’ 4×400-meter relay to another near NCAA mark. Even though Boatright nearly qualified in the 200, the 400 meters could be her best event and the event that could get her into the national championship.
Arkansas’ Milers: The Lady Razorbacks loaded the mile at the Arkansas Invitational and saw all five of their runners finish among the top six at the race. Senior Penny Splichal was the only Lady’Back to break five minutes, but her teammates were not far off as freshman Kelly Vrshek clocked 5:04 and sophomore Tiffany Redlarczyk, 5:05. What is most shocking about this is that none are true milers and are better suited for the longer distances.
Splichal Closing Out Career: Penny Splichal is closing out her Lady Razorback career this winter with her last season of eligibility and began the swan song in fine fashion with a win and sub five-minute mile at the Arkansas Invitational. Splichal ran 4:47.69, 0.69 off the NCAA provisional qualifier and a near personal best.
New Faces: The Lady Razorbacks are adorned with new faces in nearly every event and many will be on display Friday night. Of Arkansas’ 40-person roster (37 of which will compete indoors), 18 are either freshmen, redshirt freshmen or transfers, while another 12 are merely sophomores. The Arkansas newcomers should make for an interesting first couple of weeks and make the Lady Razorbacks somewhat unpredictable throughout the course of the season.
19th During Cross Country: The Lady Razorbacks used three seniors and four freshmen to finish 19th at the 2005 NCAA Cross Country Championships in November. Led by freshmen Christine Kalmer during the fall, Arkansas was able to secure a 104-24-0 overall record. The Lady’Backs finished second at the SEC Championships and won the South Central Regional.
Arkansas’ Freshman Leader: Christine Kalmer was Arkansas’ top finisher at the SEC Cross Country Championships when she crossed the finish line in fifth place overall. She was the highest finishing freshman and ran a career best for 6,000 meters with her time of 19:59.56. She has been Arkansas’ top runner in four of six races this season and has put up some very impressive times along the way.
Only the Fourth: Christine Kalmer’s SEC Championship time of 19:59.56 makes her just the fourth Lady Razorback in school history to break the 20-minute marker for 6,000 meters. Only former Lady’Backs Andreina Byrd and Christin Wurth and current teammate Penny Splichal had achieved the task before.
All-SEC: By virtue of her fifth-place finish at the SEC meet, Christine Kalmer earned her first first-team all-SEC honor. She now has a chance to become one of an elite group of runners to claim four such honors in her career.
SEC Athlete of the Week: Thanks to her 10th-place finish at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival, true freshman Christine Kalmer was named the SEC Athlete of the Week. The honor is the first of Kalmer’s career and the first for a Lady Razorback in 2005.
Sub 21: Freshman Christine Kalmer completed the 6,000-meter Agri Park Cross Country course in 20:56.3, despite it being her first collegiate 6K race. She improved on that race with her 19:59.56 at the SEC Championships making Kalmer the fourth fastest Lady Razorback in Arkansas history.
Three Straight Sub 18s: Freshman Christine Kalmer is the only Lady Razorback to post three times under 18 minutes this season. Kalmer has been Arkansas’ number one runner twice and the number three runner once. Despite the placing, she has posted times of 17:10, 17:59 and 17:47.
First Since: Christine Kalmer’s victory at the Missouri Southern Dual makes her the first Lady Razorback since 2001 to win an event in her first collegiate competition. The last Lady Razorback to accomplish the task was current senior Penny Splichal who won the Fayetteville Invitational.
Returning All-Americans: The Lady Razorbacks return five all-Americans to the roster in 2006, but only four get the opportunity to compete indoors. Paige Farrell, Tominque Boatright, Dacia Barr and Maureen Scott are the Lady’Backs’ indoor competitors while Brandy Blackwood exhausted her indoor eligibility in 2005, but still has an outdoor season left.