Last Chance Weekend: The Lady Razorbacks are tired after a long weekend of conference championship action, but this weekend is the biggest of them all, so far, as its last chance weekend. Arkansas will attempt to solidify and pick up a few more qualifiers at a pair of last chance meets, one of which is at the Randal Tyson Track Center while the other is at Iowa State.
Who Will Compete: While we are not sure exactly who will be setting up to hit an improvement or qualify, the things that we do know is that Arkansas will put together a distance medley relay and that relay may be going to Iowa State.
The SEC Championships: The end result of a SEC title may not have been in the cards for the Lady Razorbacks in 2007, Arkansas did put together a tremendous effort on way to a fourth-place finish. As is the case in so many years past, the SEC continues to improve and is head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the country. While some conferences allow people to sneak in and pick up points, most of the events at the SEC meet required at least a NCAA provisional qualifier just to score.
Arkansas Individuals: Senior Jessica Cousins had the best weekend in terms of performances with a pair of school records in the 400-meter dash and a solid leg on the 4×400-meter relay. Junior Dacia Barr was Arkansas’ high point scorer with 13 and the Lady’Back pole vaulters, Jodi Unger and Stephanie Irwin finished second and third in their event leading to a 21-point event. Overall, the Lady’Backs picked up nine NCAA provisional qualifiers.
Cousins Goes Automatic: Senior Jessica Cousins was at her best at the SEC Championships as she raced to a pair of Arkansas school records in the 400 meters, then ran the second-leg of Arkansas’ NCAA qualifying 4×400-meter relay. Her second and faster 400-meter times became Arkansas’ second NCAA automatic qualifier as she raced to a star-studded time of 52.60.
The School Record: Entering the weekend, Jessica Cousins did not even show up on Arkansas’ all-time top five times list of 400 meters indoors. That list was dominated by teammate Tominque Boatright who held the school record at 53.17. Cousins decimated the mark in the prelims of the competition by running 52.79, and then upped the ante in the finals by running 52.60. When things were said and done, Cousins dropped the 400-meter mark by 0.57 seconds.
Recovery Time: If there was any question about Jessica Cousins’ ability to recover they only need to look at the weekend. Cousins ran a school record in the 400 on Saturday, and then returned to break the mark on Sunday and two hours later ran an incredible leg on the 4×400-meter relay.
Last Chance Schedule: While the final schedule won’t be set until after the entry deadline, we can tell you that it will be somewhat compact. Beginning at noon with field events, running events are scheduled to start at 3:00 p.m. and run through 8:15 p.m. Those times could change depending on the entries at the meet, but should remain close to that in order to give athletes time to recover and qualify.
Arkansas’ Competitors: It will be a small lineup for the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks this weekend as they attempt to qualify just six times. Freshman Katie Stripling and sophomore Lauren Lewis compete at the Arkansas Last Chance meet. The distance medley relay is going to South Bend, Ind., for the Alex Wilson Invite. Arkansas’ DMR will consist of Dacia Barr, Jessica Cousins, Paige Farrell and Christine Kalmer. The rest of the Lady Razorbacks head to Iowa State to qualify on the oversized track in Ames. Tominque Boatright will run the 400 meters, Peter-Gaye Beckford will long jump and Tiavannia Thompson will run the 60-meter hurdles.
A Tough First: For the first time in Lady Razorback indoor track history they failed to win at least one conference title at the SEC Championships. The streak of conference championships dates back to 1987 when Melody Sye won the 1,000 yards at the Southwest Conference Championships. The streak lasted 20 consecutive years.
Barr-rific: Junior Dacia Barr was terrific at the SEC Championships, running the mile and 3,000 meters and scoring a team high 13 points. Her first competition was the mile where she easily qualified for the final, and then she ran the 3,000-meter final just hours later and took second in the event. She returned to the track the next day to race in the mile final where she finished fourth.
NCAA Qualifiers: We mentioned that it took NCAA qualifying marks to score in most of the events at the SEC Championships and Dacia Barr was no exception to that. She ran a provisional mark in the finals (4:46.98) after racing to a provisional and career best in the 3,000 final (9:22.01). Of course, all of those marks were after she ran the mile prelims.
All This Despite: We should also mention that Dacia Barr is producing all of these incredible marks with a broken pinky toe on her left foot. She broke the toe in a freak accident at her apartment several weeks ago and is well on the road to recovery.
All-American: Few people remember that Dacia Barr is already an all-American having taken her one honor during the 2005 indoor season. That year she anchored the Lady Razorback distance medley relay.
Prospect at Nationals: Ranked in the cut off area for both the mile and 3,000 meters it appears as if Arkansas will look to qualify Dacia Barr in both the mile and 3K and see where the chips fall. Perhaps better suited for the mile, Barr would be happy to see her name in print on the final qualifiers list in any event.
Always the Bridesmaid, Never the . . .: Well, the analogy doesn’t quite work for Jodi Unger who is already married, but the thought is there. Beginning with the 2006 SEC Indoor Championships, Unger has finished as SEC Runner-Up three times and at each meet she has continued to push the bar higher. This year it was 13-8 1/4, a career best and she claimed second place on misses for the third straight championship.
She Does it Again: Senior Jodi Unger had a tremendous opener when she cleared 13-5 1/4, but her week two performance was even better as she vaulted over 13-6 1/4. Once again winning the competition handily, Unger matched her indoor career best with the performance.
14 Feet: That is the mark that Unger is going for this winter. If she can clear 14 feet at any point this season, she could become just the second Lady Razorback to ever make the bar joining the elite company of April Steiner who did it both indoors and outdoors.
Best Ever?: When speaking about the great pole vaulters that have come through the doors of the University of Arkansas you can’t have the discussion without Unger’s name. The Texas native has as many all-America honors (2) as all but one other Lady Razorback (Steiner) and broke the conference outdoor championship record of Steiner’s. Is Unger the best to ever compete Arkansas, probably not yet, but by the end of the 2007 seasons, she could be.
Unger: Jodi Unger had an amazing 2006 season, earning all-America honors in both indoor and outdoor track in the pole vault. She cleared personal bests during both seasons and her vault of 13-11 at the SEC Outdoor Championships set the conference championship record as well as placed second all-time in Arkansas history.
A Star is Born: Stephanie Irwin is one of those athletes that has been solid since the day she set foot on the Arkansas campus. Scoring in all four of the SEC Championships she has participated and qualifying for nationals each season, Irwin’s career has been memorable. Her 2007 season however is making her a star as she owns the fifth best vault in the nation.
Improving Every Week: Opening the year with a very good vault of 13 feet, 1 1/2 inches, Stephanie Irwin was a NCAA provisional qualifier, but in subsequent weeks she has cleared 13-0 1/4, 13-3 1/2 and 13-8 1/2. As the competition increase in stature so does the Mt. Ida, Ark., native.
New Balance Champion, Again: For the second straight year, Stephanie Irwin has battled and beaten her teammate Jodi Unger at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational. The victory is her second in as many years and makes her the first two-time pole vault champion in the competition’s history. She also cleared a season best with the win.
Rankings: Arkansas’ status in the Trackwire rankings has fluctuated all season and following the SEC Championships its stock is rising once more. The Lady Razorbacks leaped from tied for 23rd to 14th in the Week seven ranking and are projected for 17 points at the national championships.
Qualifiers: At the SEC Championships the Lady Razorbacks added two qualifiers and improved upon five others. New to the growing list were Paige Farrell in the 800-meter run and Christine Kalmer in the 5,000. Improving their marks were Jessica Cousins in the 400, Dacia Barr in the 3,000, the 4×400-meter relay, Jodi Unger in the pole vault and Peter-Gaye Beckford in the long jump.
Who’s In, Who’s Out: While the NCAA performance list has not been posted, as of yet, we do know a few things about who is going to the NCAA Championships in two weeks. Jessica Cousins and Christine Kalmer are in. Both have automatic qualifiers and have guaranteed themselves a spot at the meet. Other near assurances include the 4×400-meter relay (3rd based on last week), and Stephanie Irwin and Jodi Unger (6th and 7th based on the 2/20 release).
Dandy Dozen: As expected, the Lady Razorbacks made a stir in the Trackwire Dandy Dozen this week thanks to their SEC marks. Jessica Cousins rocketed up the 400-meter charts and now stands at fourth. Christine Kalmer remained steady at five on the 3,000 charts, but the 4×400-meter relay also made a move to fifth.
School Record: On Saturday afternoon, Feb. 3, sophomore Christine Kalmer made Arkansas history when she broke the Lady Razorback school record for 3,000 meters at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational. Running 9:10.62, she smashed the seven-year-old mark of five-time all-American Lilli Kleinmann (9:11.81) by more than a second.
At the SEC: Christine Kalmer had a very good SEC Championships. While she failed to get the 3,000-meter title that all were hoping for, she did finish third in the event and also picked up a third-place finish in the 5,000-meter run.
First Indoor Qualifier: Christine Kalmer had never qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships before the Razorback Invite. Thanks to her effort at the Armory, though, she has guaranteed herself a spot at the NCAA Championships with her first auto qualifier.
First Since: Christine Kalmer’s automatic qualifier at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational is the first by a Lady Razorback in nearly two years. The last to post an auto mark was Aneita Denton in the winter of 2005 when she ran 2:03 in the 800 meters.
Kalmer’s Career: In just her second year, Christine Kalmer has already had a very successful career. As a freshman she was the leader of Arkansas’ cross country team earning first-team all-conference and all-region honors on way to being named the SEC’s Cross Country Freshman of the Year. She continued her rise during the outdoor season when she qualified for the NCAA Championships at the Mideast Regional.
Returning All-Americans: The Lady Razorbacks have seven athletes this winter who have earned all-America status during their careers. Tominque Boatright is the most decorated with three honors followed closely by Paige Farrell and Jodi Unger with two each. Dacia Barr, Jessica Cousins, Sasha Rolle and Brooke Upshaw each have one certificate to their credit.