Lady’Backs Rolling: The Lady Razorbacks are having a tremendous outdoor season and it only seems like it will get better. With 24 NCAA automatic, provisional and regional qualifiers, Arkansas athletes have an opportunity to compete in 11 events at the regional and national championships were they held today. Leading the way is Arkansas’ distance crew who have earned 12 of the marks in the 1,500 to 10,000 meter run.
Welcome Home: For the first and only time this spring the Lady Razorback are competing at home. After five indoor track meets in Fayetteville, Arkansas enjoys the hard work of other schools during the outdoor season except for this weekend which falls between two major competitions in 2005, the Mt. SAC and Penn Relays.
Named After the Hall of Fame Coach: In the spring of 2000, John Lewis, the former CEO of the Bank of Fayetteville, and title sponsor for the Bank of Fayetteville Invitational asked that Arkansas’ outdoor meet’s name be changed to the John McDonnell Invitational in honor of the men’s track coach who at the time had won 34 national championships.
The Lady Razorbacks at the 2004 John McDonnell: It was an awful day in Fayetteville for the 2004 John McDonnell Invitational as rain and frigid conditions prevented anyone from performing at their best. The dangerous conditions forced several of the field events indoors to the Randal Tyson Track Center where Stacie Manuel cleared 14 feet, but the mark didn’t count as it was competed indoors. Overall, the Lady’Backs put together four NCAA regional qualifiers, three in the 100-meter hurdles.
The Weather Forecast: According to weather.com, the forecast for Saturday calls for partly cloudy skies and a high temperature of 68 degrees. If the forecast holds, the 2005 John McDonnell Invitational could be one of the nicest in recent memory.
Last Weekend at Mt. SAC: The Lady Razorbacks looked very good at the Mt. SAC Relays last weekend as they posted five NCAA regional and provisional qualifiers and improved on two others. Seniors led the way as Aneita Denton, Laura Jakosky, Beyonka McDowell, Alison Rush, Erica Sigmont, Penny Splichal and Kasia Williams each put together splendid performances. Denton’s 800-meter run was the third fastest in the world this year and the fastest by a collegiate. Junior Maureen Scott also improved in the steeplechase.
Seniors Look to Go Out on a High Note: The Lady Razorback senior class has been a huge part of Arkansas’ history and success over the past four years and with their final competitive seasons in mid form, they are doing their best to perform at the highest levels. Evidence of that came at the Mt. SAC Relays as each stepped up in their respective events to post NCAA qualifiers and you only have to look as far back as the indoor season to see their scoring potential at the SEC Indoor Championships. With just two months left in their Lady Razorback careers, expect each to perform at a higher level.
The Schedule: The schedule for the John McDonnell Invitational runs from 9:00 a.m. through 7:30 p.m., but not every event is one of focus. The hammer throws and javelin are conducted early for safety concerns before events on the track even begin. Running events begin at 1:00 p.m. with the unseeded sections of the 3,000 meters followed by other unseeded sections and prelims. Finals in the running events are scheduled to begin at 5:00 p.m. with the 4×100-meter relay. Most of the field events are to take place in the early afternoon.
Trackwire Rankings: The Lady Razorbacks opened the 2005 outdoor track season in a similar position to where they ended the indoor season, tied for 15th with 14 points. In week two of the rankings, Arkansas fell to 12 points in the rankings this week and to 21st overall. Arkansas is projected to score points in the 800 and 100 hurdles at the NCAA Championships this spring.
USTCA Power Rankings: After ending the 2005 indoor season ranked fourth in the country by the USTCA Power Rankings, they opened the 2005 outdoor campaign ranked 35th. While it seems like a large difference, it should be noted that Arkansas has yet to compete in several events this spring bringing their score down.
|Week One||T15th, 14 points||N/A||N/A|
|Week Two||T17th, 14 points||N/A||35th, 235.74 points|
|Week Three||21st, 12 points||N/A||43rd, 254.76 points|
Sigmont Runs a Qualifier: After a good finish to the indoor season, Erica Sigmont had taken her first SEC title in the mile when she was forced to sit down, preventing her from competing at the NCAA Championships. A return to action at the Mt. SAC Relays saw the Australian native run 4:23.04 to post the 13th fastest time in the NCAA this season.
Tops in the Region: Erica Sigmont was a regional finalist a year ago in the 1,500-meter run a year ago despite breaking her foot in the process. The injury prevented Sigmont from running at the NCAA Championships or from finishing the final of the regional, but her 2005 time of 4:23.04 currently ranks as the top time in the mideast region.
Pair of 1,500-meter Runners: For the Lady Razorbacks it’s a combination of old and new as Erica Sigmont, the senior, is joined by freshman Dacia Barr as a formidable 1-2 punch in the 1,500-meter run. Both are among the top 30 in the nation in the event and rank 1-5 in the mideast region.
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.
Tops in the Nation: Aneita Denton had not run an 800 since the outdoor season began, but got the first one under her belt with a bang when she took the collegiate lead in the event at 2:03.94. Her time is two seconds faster than Cal’s Chloe Jarvis’ mark of 2:05.61. Denton ran the time at the Mt. SAC Relays against a world-class field, taking the relays title in the process.
Mt. SAC Relays Champion: It has been a while since a Lady Razorback has taken a Mt. SAC Relays Championship, but in 2005, Aneita Denton broke that string. Denton cruised to a time of 2:03.94 in Walnut, Calif., to take the invitational 800-meter title.
Number Three in the World: It was announced at the Mt. SAC Relays that Aneita Denton’s 800-meter run was the second fastest time in the world this year outdoors, but following the weekend’s updates it turns out that it was the third fastest. The top time in the world was run by Kenia Sinclair in Florida on April 16, one day prior to Denton’s run. Coincidentally, Sinclair is also the individual who prevented Denton from claiming the Jamaican Indoor National record.
Two Titles: Coming into 2005, the Lady Razorbacks had only won one Texas Relays Championship and that came in 2000 when Arkansas used Amy Yoder Begley, Tracy Robertson, Daphne Harris and Jessica Dailey to win the distance medley relay. The 2005 quartet of Dacia Barr, Aneita Denton, Paige Farrell and Erica Sigmont doubled Arkansas’ 2000 effort by not only taking the distance medley title, but also the 4×800 giving the Lady Razorbacks three Texas Relays Championship trophies.
Martin Posts a Qualifier: While Arkansas did win two Texas Relays titles, one of the most significant performances came from sophomore high jumper Michelle Martin, who qualified for the NCAA Regional meet with a high jump of 5 feet, 8.75 inches. A career best for Martin, she cleared 5-8 last spring but was unable to meet the regional qualifier.
Big Shoes to Fill: Michelle Martin follows in the footsteps of former Lady Razorback Jessica Johnson who qualified for the NCAA Championships last season in the high jump. While Martin has yet to make it to the big dance, she is on her way as her predecessor only made it as a junior and senior and Martin is just a sophomore.
The Trackwire Dandy Dozen: The Trackwire Dandy Dozen is the formula by which Trackwire sets up its rankings and currently four Lady Razorbacks dot the list. Aneita Denton leads the way ranked first in the 800-meter run while Kasia Williams sits at seventh in the 100-meter hurdles. Alison Rush is ninth in the 10,000 meters and Stacie Manuel is 10th in the pole vault.
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.
Over 20 Again: Perhaps its the return “home” to California that makes her perform at an even higher level, but Beyonka McDowell has had a pair of majestic long jumps in the “Golden State.” For the second time in as many meets, McDowell leaped over 20 feet, this time 20-5.75, improving on her jump of 20-5 at the beginning of the season.
Fourth Best: We should also note that McDowell’s long jump of 20-5.75 ties her for the fourth best long jump in Arkansas history, matching the mark of Toshei Woods effort in 1993 in Knoxville, Tenn. The Lady Razorback school record is held by Woods at 20-10.
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.
National Qualifiers: Midway through the 2005 season, the Lady Razorbacks have 24 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. The major events that Arkansas is qualified in at this point are the 5,000, 10,000 and pole vault competitions with four in each. Other significant events include the 800, 1,500, steeplechase and 100 hurdles.
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.
A Tremendous Homecoming: For Lady Razorback freshman Dacia Barr, the Texas Relays was a homecoming for the Austin, Texas, native. One of the outstanding products of Lake Travis High School, Barr returned to Mike A. Myers Stadium and in front of friends and family helped the Lady Razorbacks win not just one but two Texas Relays titles in the 4×800 meters and distance medley relays.
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.
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.
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.
The Next Record: After setting the weight throw record indoors, Brandy Blackwood is now in search of the hammer throw record which was set by Marie LeJour in 2002. Her Texas Relays toss of 186-1 ranks fourth all-time in UA history and she needs to put another four feet on her toss to break LeJour’s mark.
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.
Four Vaulters Qualified: Following strong performances by the Lady Razorbacks at the Texas Relays, they now have four pole vaulters qualified for the NCAA Regional meet. At Texas Stacie Manuel, Jodi Driggers and Danielle O’Reilly each cleared 12-11.5 to make the standard and guarantee their spot in Bloomington in May.