Coming on Strong: The Lady Razorbacks had a great opener at the Collegiate Classic and last weekend continued its strong outdoor season with split squads at the Stanford Invitational and MSSU Track & Field Festival. Picking up six qualifiers, four new, Arkansas brought its total number of regional qualifiers to 11. The new kids on the block in week two included Christine Kalmer and Kelly Vrshek in the 5,000, Dacia Barr in the 1,500 and Danielle O’Reilly in the pole vault.
Second Major Competition: Arkansas’ first major competition of the outdoor season was at the Stanford Invitational as some of the nation’s premier distance talent traveled to Palo Alto, Calif. In its third week of outdoor competition, Arkansas’ sprinters will be tested under fire at the Texas Relays, an event that has grown steadily over the past 10 years and is now one of the best competitions in the nation for sprints and field events.
The 79th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays: The University of Arkansas has participated in the Texas Relays in just about each of the past 10 Texas Relays, which is currently in its 79th consecutive year. Since Arkansas began to attend the meet, its current, former and soon-to-be Lady Razorbacks have had tremendous success.
Who to Look For: The Lady Razorbacks are bringing 18 student-athletes to the Texas Relays in 2006 with most of the competition taking place in the relays and field events. Of the 18-person squad, only four will not compete in a relay or field competition. Arkansas has great chances to improve its qualifiers in the 4×100 and 4×400-meter relays as well as in the field events which should yield some of the best weather Arkansas has seen all season.
The Austin Weather: It’s supposed to be a hot week in Austin, Texas in the first full week of April with temperatures slated for the mid to upper 80s and some clouds on Wednesday and Thursday.
Texas Relays History: The University of Arkansas has had success over the years at the Texas Relays including two relay and five individual titles. 2005 was the biggest and best year for Arkansas as it won both the 4×800 and distance medley relays for its first two relay titles. Individually, Maureen Scott was the last winner when she became the second Lady Razorback to win the steeplechase crown.
Last Weekend’s Breakout Star: For the Lady Razorbacks it was Danielle O’Reilly who showed signs of stardom last weekend when she competed at the MSSU Track & Field Festival. O’Reilly cleared a season best 12-9 1/2 in the pole vault to qualify for the NCAA Regional Championship. Her clearance is shy of her career mark of 13-1 1/2, but a 2006 best indoors or out.
Three Pole Vaulters: Thanks to Danielle O’Reilly, Arkansas now has three pole vaulters qualified for the 2006 NCAA Mideast Regional. Along with sophomore Danielle O’Reilly, junior all-American Jodi Unger and sophomore Stephanie Irwin are also qualified.
The Texas Schedule: With four days of high school and collegiate competition scheduled for this week, it was best to only list the event Arkansas will compete in this weekend. While events begin on Wednesday, Arkansas’ participation begins on Thursday at 1:00 p.m. with the women’s hammer throw. On Friday, Arkansas has a full slate of action beginning with the hurdles at 9:30 a.m. and running straight through 9:00 p.m. and the steeplechase. Saturday showcases two of Arkansas’ three pole vaulters and ends at 4:25 with potentially the 4×400-meter relay finals.
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.
A Pair in the 5,000: Against some of the toughest competition that it will face this year, a pair of Lady Razorbacks looked like seasoned veterans despite their freshman status at the Stanford Invitational. Christine Kalmer and Kelly Vrshek each posted NCAA regional marks in the 5,000-meter run even though it was their first time running the distance outdoors in an Arkansas uniform.
Lifetime Bests: Not only were Christine Kalmer and Kelly Vrshek’s 5,000-meter times good enough to qualify for the NCAA Mideast Regional, the marks were also lifetime bests for both runners. Kalmer finished in 16:41.93 and Vrshek in 16:45.31.
Kalmer Taking Charge Once More: During the 2005 cross country season, there was no question who Arkansas’ top runner was, it was Christine Kalmer. The leading Lady’Back in more than half of Arkansas’ races, Kalmer earned an SEC Athlete of the Week honor as well as all-conference and all-regional honors. During the indoor season, Kalmer watched teammate Penny Splichal take the spotlight as she learned the nuances of collegiate track and after a solid performance at the Stanford Invitational, appears to be ready to lead once more.
Vrshek Gaining Confidence: Freshman Kelly Vrshek has had a very good first year for the University of Arkansas and her performance at the USA Junior Cross Country Championships didn’t hurt. Vrshek finished 11th overall and was an alternate for Team USA’s NACAC cross country team
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
Arkansas at the Texas Relays: We mentioned it before, but it stands to mention again, the Lady Razorbacks will compete in several field events and relays at the 79th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays. The Lady Razorbacks have three athletes in the pole vault competitions, two in the javelins and two in the steeplechase, while seven student-athletes have nothing but relays on their slate.
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 already have 11 NCAA qualifiers and could make their first foray into the top 25 with the release of the first outdoor rankings scheduled for later in the week.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.