A Good Opener: The University of Arkansas Lady Razorback track team got themselves off to a solid start for the outdoor season as they traveled to the Collegiate Classic in Irvine, Calif., last weekend. A decent first day led to a fabulous second as seven Arkansas times or marks qualified for the NCAA regional championships in a meet that Arkansas head coach Lance Harter was hoping would be a training exercise to get his team sharp once more.
Seven Qualifiers: If you had asked Lance Harter what he would have expected from the Collegiate Classic he probably would have said that he wanted his team to look sharp despite the fact that they currently have no place to train consistently and the fact that they have been off from competition for two or more weeks. In return he got seven NCAA regional qualifiers, two in both the 400 and pole vault, and one in the 200, 4×100 and 4×400 relays.
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. His statement was backed up last weekend when seven Lady Razorbacks qualified for the regional championships in a meet that wasn’t meant to qualify anyone.
10 of 16: To further prove Arkansas’ dominance at the Collegiate Classic, one needs only look at the top finishers at the meet. Lady Razorback athletes won 10 of the 16 events they competed in and some by huge margins. For example, sophomore Tominque Boatright won the 200-meter dash more than a second in front of the next best finisher.
Let the Distance Stars Shine: Now that the Lady Razorbacks have their feet wet, its time for the distance team to be tested under fire. Eight Lady Razorbacks travel to the Stanford Invitational this weekend to compete in the 1,500, 5,000 and 10,000-meter runs. Included in the group are Denise Bargiachi, Dacia Barr, Beth Fahey, Jessie Gordon, Jennifer Harper, Christine Kalmer, Tiffany Redlarczyk, and Kelly Vrshek. Barr will run the 1,500 while Bargiachi, Fahey, Harper and Gordon tackle the grueling 10K. The rest will attempt to qualify in the 5,000.
Regional and National Qualifiers: For several of the Lady Razorbacks this weekend, the NCAA regional or provisional marks shouldn’t be too much of a stretch based on past performances. Dacia Barr, Jessie Gordon and Tiffany Redlarczyk have each posted regional marks in the past. The times that the eight Lady Razorbacks are gunning for are 4:27.80, 16:52.0 and 35:00.0.
Hot Competition: Each year the Stanford Invitational is one of the best competitions for distance runners, beaten only slightly by the Cardinal Invitational that Arkansas will compete in late April. As teams attempt to earn their NCAA qualifiers for the outdoor season most of the best distance runners in the nation descend on Palo Alto to run with fast competition and pop their first and hopefully only qualifier in a particular event.
The Cardinal Schedule: The Lady Razorbacks will be spread out on Friday, March 31, with their first competitors running as early as 9 a.m. and their last taking the track almost certainly at 9:50 p.m. Of course all times are pacific making the availability of news in the central time zone difficult at best. Fortunately for the Lady Razorbacks and their die hard fans, competition on Saturday is only at 2:25 for Arkansas. Currently, Arkansas’ coaches don’t know when their athletes will compete, but should by the time they arrive in Palo Alto.
The 400: The Lady Razorbacks knew that they had a very strong 4×400-meter relay. That much was proved indoors when Tominque Boatright, Sasha Rolle, Jessica Cousins and Paige Farrell broke the Arkansas school record in the event. The interesting thing about that team is that only Boatright qualified as an individual for the NCAA Championships. That has changed now as Rolle and Cousins each met the NCAA regional time for the event at the Collegiate Classic marking their first qualifiers in the cardinal and white.
Welcome to Arkansas: Sasha Rolle and Jessica Cousins are each new to Fayetteville this season having transferred in from South Plains College and Clemson Univ., respectively. Both runners ran well during the indoor season, but showed signs of flourishing outdoors as they posted NCAA regional qualifiers in their first races. Arkansas’ coaches are certainly glad to have both runners in Arkansas uniforms this season.
Looking Ahead: The Lady Razorbacks are focusing on the distance runners this weekend as only a select group heads to Stanford University. Next weekend its back to a full squad as Arkansas travels to the University of Texas to compete in the Texas Relays.
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.
Speed and Strength: One of the best things about the crew Associate Head Coach Rolando Greene has put together in his sprinters is their speed to go hand in hand with strength. That much was proven at the Collegiate Classic as three of Arkansas’ four relay runners ran on both the 4×100 and 4×400 regional qualifiers. Tominque Boatright, Sasha Rolle and Jessica Cousins doubled for the Lady’Backs while Lakeisha Martin ran the 4×100 and was replaced by Paige Farrell in the 4×400.
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.
The Pole Vault: One of Arkansas’ strengths over the past several years, the pole vault was once again a source of Arkansas pride at the Collegiate Classic. Jodi Unger and Stephanie Irwin each qualified for the regional championships with clearances of 12-11 1/2 and 12-5 1/2, respectively. The duo led an Arkansas sweep of the top three positions as Danielle O’Reilly finished third.
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.
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.
The Trackwire Rankings: It will be interesting to see whether or not Arkansas will make it onto the Trackwire rankings this spring. Conspicuously absent from the indoor lists, the Lady Razorbacks
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
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.
Boatright Continues to Impress: One of Arkansas’ brightest up and coming stars is sophomore Tominque Boatright. A two-time all-American heading into the outdoor season of her second year, she has the opportunity to become Arkansas’ most decorated sprinter if she continues at her current pace. A 100-200-meter runner when she arrived at Arkansas, Boatright was moved to the linger race because of her stamina and the move so far has paid dividends.