What a Weekend: For the first time in years the weather was grand at the John McDonnell Invitational and the Lady Razorbacks took full advantage of it. Posting 18 NCAA qualifiers on the day, Saturday, April 21, was certainly Arkansas’s most productive of the outdoor season. Of the 18 marks that Arkansas captured, most were either new qualifiers or improvements on old ones which make it an even better turnout for the Lady Razorbacks.
Stacked Events: As with any track meet some events do better than others and for the Lady Razorbacks, last weekend highlighted the pole vault and 200 meters. Three of Arkansas’s four pole vaulters cleared 13 feet and the Lady Razorback 200-meter runners went 1-2-3-4, all with marks under 24 seconds.
Splitting Once More: The Lady Razorbacks are splitting up once again in an effort to further improve upon its NCAA qualifiers. The vaulters and throwers are going to the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, Pa., while the sprinters and jumpers go north to the Drake Relays. Arkansas’s distance team heads out west for the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational. The Lady Razorbacks will have three of the four time zones covered this weekend.
Her Best Weekend: Senior LaKeisha Martin has been a key role player for the Lady Razorbacks for the past three seasons, but has come into her own this spring. She has posted qualifiers in both the 100 and 200-meter dashes and assisted both the 4×100 and 4×400-meter relay teams to regional qualifiers. At the John McDonnell Invitational, Martin qualified or assisted in all four of the aforementioned events for her best weekend as a Lady Razorback.
With a Capital K: For years we in the sports information office have had it wrong. It is LaKeisha with a capital K and not Lakeisha with a little K.
First Qualifier: LaKeisha Martin popped her first ever NCAA qualifier at the Jim Click Shoot-Out to open the outdoor season. She ran 23.93 into a head wind of 0.8 m/s in the 200-meter dash.
Since Then: Since her first qualifier, Martin has dropped her 200-meter time by a half second to 23.47 and her 100-meter dash has gone from 12.02 to 11.55 (although over the allowable wind, 4.2 m/s).
Where They’re Headed: We mentioned before that Arkansas is splitting up three ways, but here’s the breakdown. Six athletes are headed to the Penn Relays to compete in the pole vault, shot put and javelin. Seven athletes are on their way to Stanford to compete in the 1,500, steeplechase and 5,000. The remainder of the team, 15 athletes, are going to Drake and will concentrate mostly on relays with several tackling individual events.
The Schedules: Arkansas’s schedules for the weekend are quite varied, but easy to determine. The Penn Relays contingent competes only on Thursday while the Cardinal Invite group is scheduled for Sunday only. The Drake Relays group has events scheduled for Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Arkansas at the Penn Relays: The Lady Razorbacks have had modest success at the Penn Relays with 11 Championship of America victories, two in the relays and nine individuals. Last season, Jodi Unger took the championship in the pole vault making her the third Lady Razorback to win the Penn Championship and making that event Arkansas’s most decorated. She joined former Lady’Backs April Steiner and Stacie Manual as Penn Relays title winners in the vault.
Defending Champion: Jodi Unger added Penn Relays Champion to her list of credentials last spring when she cleared 13-5 1/4 at the meet to take the title. She now has a chance to repeat in 2007 and after a great weekend at home could be looked on as one of the favorites to win.
14 Feet: That is the mark that Unger has gone after all year. 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.
Three-Time all-American: Jodi Unger is one of three Lady Razorbacks to earn three all-America honors in the pole vault during her career. She is chasing April Steiner’s school record of four set between 2001-03.
The Lady Razorbacks at Drake: Arkansas does not have the history as some other teams at the Drake Relays, but that doesn’t mean that the Lady Razorbacks have not had success at the meet. Arkansas has won two Drake Relays titles over the years including a world leading 4×800-meter relay title in 2005, Arkansas’ last Drake title. Arkansas has also won the 4×200-meter championship at Drake.
Qualifiers: Arkansas’s list of NCAA regional and provisional qualifiers grew tremendously over the weekend and is now at a robust 31. 29 of those marks are regional qualifiers and have been set by 22 individuals or teams in 14 different events. Arkansas athletes are well represented in the sprints, relays and field events with a spackling of middle distance and distance runners in the mix. Loaded events for Arkansas this season are the 200 meters (4), 400 meters (3), 100 hurdles (4), 5,000 meters (3) and pole vault (3).
Just for Training: Dacia Barr entered the 800 meters at the John McDonnell Invitational as a training exercise for her preferred event, the 1,500. She is also a budding 5,000-meter runner and has qualifiers in both the longer events. Then she ran the 800 and clocked 2:08.45, well inside the NCAA regional standard.
One of the Premier 1,500 Runners: After two years of knocking on the door, Dacia Barr is emerging as one of the premier 1,500-meter runners in the country. Her Stanford Invitational time of 4:18.00 in the event still stands as the fifth fastest in the nation and second in the mideast region behind Michigan’s Nicole Edwards (4:16.47).
Near the End: The outdoor season is quickly drawing to a close. Following this weekend’s Penn/Drake/Cardinal competitions, the Lady Razorbacks only have a twilight meet at John McDonnell Field before they embark for the SEC Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
SEC Championship Credentials: Media members wishing to attend the SEC Outdoor Track Championships at the University of Alabama need to contact Jason Kirksey in the Alabama Sports Information Office. Kirksey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another Stellar Time: Jessica Cousins has been assaulting the Lady Razorback 400-meter records all season, but who knew she would have a go at the 200-meter mark as well. At the John McDonnell Invitational, Cousins ran 23.07 with a 2.9 tailwind. She nearly became just the third Lady Razorback to ever dip under 23 seconds for the race and is the third fastest Lady Razorback behind Olympians Veronica Campbell and LaShaunte’a Moore.
Cousins Makes it Two: With her 400-meter leg in Arkansas’s sprint medley relay, Jessica Cousins made it two school records for the spring season keeping her total of Arkansas school records at five. During the brief 2007 outdoor season she broke the 400-meter record at the Jim Click Shoot-Out and improved the sprint medley relay mark which she already had her name attached to at the Texas Relays.
Blistering: That might be the best way to describe Jessica Cousins pace in the 400 meters this season. Indoors she exploded at the SEC Championships to set the school record, then broke it two more times to settle at 52.60. Outdoors she opened her season with a school record performance of 52.81. What could be next, perhaps 51?
All-America: Jessica Cousins earned her second and third all-America certificates during the 2007 indoor season. She took her first in the 400 meters when she finished fifth (coincidentally, it was the highest finish by any Lady Razorback), then helped the 4×400-meter relay to a seventh-place finish for her second all-America honor.