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Track Fact Sheet #8 – The Texas Relays

BY ANDRES FOCIL
Track Fact Sheet #8 – The Texas Relays

First Major Competition: After a fast start to the 2005 outdoor track season, the Lady Razorbacks get their first taste of major competition when they travel to Austin, Texas, for the Texas Relays. The Lady Razorbacks spent the first two weeks of the outdoor season at the Stanford and Ole Miss Invitationals, but only brought small squads to each.

The 78th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays: One of the most prestigious meets in the country, the Texas Relays has been kind to the Lady Razorbacks over the years. Several runners and field event personnel have enjoyed success at Mike A. Myers Stadium despite the fact that some of the nation’s best teams converge on Austin for the meet which showcases more than 5,000 collegiate, high school and professional athletes.

Last Season at the Relays: It was another solid competition at the 77th annual Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in 2004. Then sophomore Maureen Scott became Arkansas’ second relays steeplechase champion and eight Lady Razorbacks posted NCAA regional qualifiers.

The 2005 Relays: With many of its individuals already qualified in their primary events, Arkansas is less worried about qualifying as it is about the relays. Hoping to have some fun and get good training in, the Lady Razorbacks are scheduled to compete in the 4×100, 4×800, sprint medley and distance medley relays. Other events that are going to be key for Arkansas include the steeplechase and pole vault.

Last Relays Title: The last time a Lady Razorback team won a Texas relays title came during the 2000 season when Arkansas took the meet’s distance medley relay crown. During that competition, Arkansas used a pack lineup of Amy Yoder Begley, Tracy Robertson, Daphne Harris and hometown product Jessica Dailey to run 11:26.14 and take the title.

Seven Titles: Lady Razorback individuals and teams have won a total of seven Texas Relays titles over the years with Maureen Scott being the last to take a crown in the spring of 2004. The first Lady Razorback was Cynthia Moore in 1989 when she leaped to 20 feet, three inches in the long jump. Other relays champions include Tracy Robertson (1999, 1,500), distance medley relay (2000), Amber Crumbo (shot put, 2000), Deedee Brown (heptathlon, 2002) and Lilli Kleinmann (steeplechase, 2002).

Last Weekend: Despite a small squad and howling winds, the Lady Razorbacks still managed to post three NCAA regional qualifiers last weekend when they traveled to Oxford, Miss., to compete at the Ole Miss Invitational. Leading the charge were Arkansas’ pole vaulters who got the job done twice in the form of sophomore Stacie Manuel and freshman Stephanie Irwin. Senior Brandy Blackwood also notched a regional mark in the hammer throw.

Meet Three of 11: While the 2005 indoor track season went fast, the outdoor campaign could feel even faster. Arkansas is currently on its third of 11 meets of the outdoor season and really hasn’t even gotten started. Other major competitions include the Mt. SAC Relays, Penn Relays, Drake Relays, SEC Championships, NCAA Regional and NCAA Championships.

Relays Schedule: With Arkansas athletes competing in mostly relay events at the 2005 Texas Relays, their presence will not be as great during the four days of the relays, but will still a good portion of action. Brandy Blackwood starts things off with the hammer throw on Thursday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. followed by what could be one of Arkansas’ best events in the 4×800-meter relay at 4 p.m. Friday is the longest day, beginning early at 9:30 a.m. with the 4×100 relays and 100 hurdles and ending at 9:00 p.m. with the steeplechase. Saturday’s schedule is compact with the pole vault at noon and running through 4 p.m. and the 1,500-meter run.

Back to Her Winning Ways: Sophomore pole vaulter Stacie Manuel was once again back to her winning ways when she took the Ole Miss Invitational pole vault title with a modest jump of 12 feet, 11.5 inches. Competing for the first time since she took all-America honors in the event at the NCAA Indoor Championships, Manuel looked solid as she navigated the tough winds of the Oxford, Miss., track.

Two-Time Champion: As a freshman, Stacie Manuel shocked the conference by taking the SEC indoor pole vault title with a clearance of 13 feet, eight inches. The title earned her the conference’s indoor track freshman of the year honor. Manuel was sidelined in 2004 to injury but returned in 2005 to take the SEC title once again and is the first women’s pole vaulter to take two indoor titles. Manuel also became just the third woman in conference history to win two pole vault titles including outdoors.

Irwin Looking Good Again: Freshman pole vaulter Stephanie Irwin shocked many at the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships when she cleared 13-1 and finished fifth at the competition. The Mt. Ida, Arkansas native was back at it at the Ole Miss Invitational when she stamped her ticket to compete at the NCAA regional by clearing 12-5.5. While not her best jumping day, she still guarantees herself a spot at the regional and gets another opportunity to jump at the Texas Relays.

What an Opener: The Lady Razorbacks got off to a tremendous start at the Stanford Invitational when they posted 11 NCAA national qualifiers. Seniors Beyonka McDowell and Alison (Zeinner) Rush had the best days with a long jump of 20-5 and a 10,000-meter run under 34 minutes, respectively.

By Contrast: Looking at Arkansas’ 2004 season, the Lady’Backs only posted eight NCAA qualifiers at last season’s Stanford opener which included some of Arkansas’ big guns including their vaulters. The 2005 contingent has yet to open some of Arkansas’ best athletes.

Blackwood Qualifies: After earning all-America honors for the first time at the NCAA indoor meet in the weight throw, Brandy Blackwood continued to impress in what has been an unbelievable season in 2005. Blackwood posted her first qualifier in the hammer throw with a strong toss of 183 feet, nine inches, well beyond the regional qualifier that sits at 177-8.

The Weight Throw Mark: Brandy Blackwood looked solid throughout her junior year indoors, but what was not mentioned much was that she was coming off knee surgery in the fall which started her behind the eight ball. She flourished during the outdoor season and now is looking better than ever as she crushed Marie LeJour’s school record in the weight throw by two feet with a toss of 65-11. She has since broken her own school record with another tremendous toss of 66-2.5.

NCAA Champion: Senior Aneita Denton became the 10th woman to win a NCAA Individual championship in March when she took the 800-meter title at the indoor meet. Running 2:03.65, Denton held on after taking a commanding lead with a lap to go to take the crown and claim the Lady’Back’s 11th overall title and 8th indoors.

The UA Record: Aneita Denton rewrote the UA record book for 800 meters this winter when she recorded the top four times in the race. Capped off by what is potentially the third fastest time in collegiate history, Denton’s time of 2:01.96 destroyed the old record of 2:04.58 set by 2004 Olympian Nicole Teter.

Just off the National Record: Aneita Denton’s time from the SEC Championships of 2:01.96 could of been a national record for her native Jamaica, but that record was broken just weeks earlier and stands at 2:01.95. Aneita Denton was a mere 0.01 seconds off the record.

Arkansas at the Texas Relays: The Lady Razorbacks are bringing 20 athletes to the Texas Relays this weekend, but only 15 will compete in individual events. Five Lady Razorbacks will have their hands full in multiple relays including Tominque Boatright, Aneita Denton, Paige Farrell, Lakeisha Martin and Sydney Scarbrough.

Over 20 Feet: Senior Beyonka McDowell looked impressive throughout competition at the Stanford Invitational, but it was her long jump that turned the most heads. Leaping to an Arkansas career best 20 feet, five inches, McDowell looked as if she had found the springs of old that carried her to the U.S. Championships in the summer of 2003.

First Over 20 Since: As with Alison Rush, Beyonka McDowell was also making waves with her performance at Stanford. Her long jump of 20-5 was the first time a Lady Razorback soared over 20 feet since Angel Heath and Kerri-Ann Mitchell accomplished the task in the spring of 2002. Each leaped 20-3 3/4 that season. McDowell’s effort could be the best long jump in UA history since Toshei Woods in 1993 as it stands just one-quarter inch behind the number five mark in Arkansas history.

Also Qualified in the Hurdles: When we said that Beyonka McDowell had a weekend we meant it. Not only did she record a huge jump in the long jump pit, but she also recorded the two fastest 100-meter hurdles times of her Arkansas career when she ran 13.65 during preliminary action, then improving to 13.64 during finals. The efforts qualified McDowell for the NCAA regional championship in the event.

19th at the NCAA Indoors: Coming into the 2005 season very few would have believed that the Lady Razorbacks would be able to put together the season which they did. In fact even fewer would have believed it if you told them that Arkansas would finish 19th in the country at the NCAA Championships. Thanks to a NCAA Championship by Aneita Denton, a solid distance medley relay and Stacie Manuel’s pole vault, Arkansas tallied 12.5 points to place in the top 19 for the sixth consecutive season.

National Qualifiers: After just two weeks of competition, the Lady Razorbacks have 14 NCAA automatic, provisional and regional qualifiers. An impressive list considering that after the entire 2004 season they posted 28 qualifiers and none were of the NCAA automatic standard. Arkansas’ list was compiled after the Stanford and Ole Miss Invitationals.

Second at SEC Indoors: Perhaps even more impressive than Arkansas’ 19th-place national finish was its second-place finish at the SEC Championships. Giving the eventual NCAA Champion Tennessee Lady Volunteers everything they could handle, Arkansas tallied 120 points with a very young squad.

Rush Dips Under 34: Senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush has led the Lady Razorback distance team throughout her final year and the Cincinnati, Ohio, native did it again at the Stanford Invitational when she completed 10,000 meters in 33:44.36. Now holding the third fastest time in the country, Rush’s NCAA automatic qualifier guarantees her a spot at the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year.

First Since: Making Alison Rush’s Stanford Invitational 10,000-meter run so impressive is that not only did she break 34 minutes, but she becomes the first Lady Razorback since Amy Yoder Begley in 2001 to accomplish the feat. Yoder Begley ran 33:59.96 to win the NCAA title in Eugene, Ore., that season.

Fastest Since: Alison Rush put herself in elite company when she ran 33 minutes for 10,000 meters. She became the first woman since 15-time all-American Amy Yoder Begley to break 34 minutes and the time is also the fastest since Yoder Begley ran 33:06.84 during the 2000 season, coincidentally, the last time someone cracked into Arkansas’ top five for the event.

Seven Individuals, Eight Honors: Seven Lady Razorbacks earned eight all-America honors during the indoor season. Of those seven, four took the first honors of their career with three of those four being freshman. Arkansas’ indoor all-Americans included Dacia Barr, Brandy Blackwood, Tominque Boatright, Aneita Denton, Paige Farrell, Stacie Manuel and Kasia Williams.

The Indoor Rankings: The Lady Razorbacks were thought of quite highly by Trackshark.com and the USTCA Power Rankings during the indoor season as they sat fourth in the nation in both. Trackwire.com had the Lady’Backs 14th overall. The outdoor track rankings have yet to be released.

Freshmen Shine at Arkansas: Who said anything about first-meet jitters. If anyone said it around the Lady Razorback freshmen, they weren’t listening. Perhaps it’s being young and naive or maybe it’s a complete lack of appreciate for the level they have achieved, but Arkansas’ freshmen looked like seasoned veterans at the Arkansas Invitational indoors.

Defending Outdoor Champions: The Lady Razorbacks enter the 2005 outdoor season with a target on their back as they are the defending SEC Champions. Taking the outdoor title in stunning fashion, the Lady Razorbacks hit on all cylinders to take the championship, an accomplishment that they will have to have happen again should they have a desire to repeat.

Millrose Games Champion: Senior Kasia Williams returned to her hometown of New York City hoping to improve on her 60-meter hurdles time and solidify her qualifier for the NCAA Championships. Instead she did more than that when she not only took the top time out of the preliminaries, but posted a season best at 8.27 seconds on way to a victory at the 96th running of the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden.



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