Most Productive: The Razorback Invitational was the Lady Razorbacks most productive weekend to date in terms of NCAA qualifiers as they picked up five additional marks and one improvement to bring their total to seven. Arkansas’ qualifying marks came from the middle distances, multi events, relays and field disciplines proving head coach Lance Harter’s theory of a well-rounded squad.
Coming Up: The Lady Razorbacks plan to split its forces this weekend with eight distance runners traveling to the UW Invitational in Seattle, Wash., and most of the Arkansas sprint crew heading to Norman, Okla. The split squad should give Arkansas the best opportunity to add to its list of NCAA qualifiers as it prepares for the New Balance Collegiate Invitational.
First of Two: This weekend is the first of two consecutive weeks that the Lady Razorbacks are on the road. Following the competitions in Washington, Oklahoma and New York, Arkansas returns to Fayetteville to complete its season with the Tyson Invitational, SEC Championships, last chance meet and NCAA Championships.
A Stunning Effort: The Arkansas coaching staff has been singing the praises of senior Etienne Chaplin throughout the fall and the Chicago, Ill., native came through at the Razorback Invitational with a near NCAA automatic qualifier. Chaplin scored 3,986 points to miss the NCAA mark by just 64 points. Along the way she posted career bests in three of the five events and nearly made it four as she was just one inch off her shot put best.
Third Best: We didn’t notice it at the time, but Etienne Chaplin’s pentathlon mark of 3,986 points is the third best effort by a Lady Razorback in school history. She trails only Deedee Brown’s SEC Championship effort of 4,141 from the 2002 season and Beyonka McDowell’s SEC Championship run of 4,076 points from 2005.
The Potential: One would think that with career bests in three of the five events of the pentathlon that the ceiling for Etienne Chaplin may be reached. Not so according to Arkansas’ coaches who see her improving in all five disciplines of the competition. Based on Chaplin’s five career bests at this moment, she has the potential to score 4,024 points.
Schedules: In the interest of saving space, we included just the two events Arkansas is competing in at the UW Invitational as well as the entire tentative schedule for the J.D. Martn. Arkansas’ runners toe the line for the 5,000 of the UW Invitational at 9:00 p.m. central time on Friday and at 6:10 p.m. on Saturday for the 3,000. The J.D. Martin also begins on Friday with the pentathlon, but Arkansas runners will only see action on Saturday in the individual events.
Rankings: The Lady Razorbacks opened the season ranked ninth in the preseason rankings released in mid Dec. but that could change on Wednesday, Jan. 30 with the first set of rankings based on 2008 results. With the new format that the USTFCCCA has adopted there is no telling where the Lady Razorbacks could end up, but with seven NCAA qualifiers, they should be in solid positioning.
First Pentathlons: WE talked about Etienne Chaplin’s stunning pentathlon opener last weekend but we should also mention the efforts of Peter-Gaye Beckford and Lauren Cox who were competing in their first collegiate multi-event competitions. The tandem scored 3,462 and 3,367 points, respectively, and was at or exceeded their personal bests in each discipline.
A Lady’Back Record: During her first collegiate pentathlon, senior Peter-Gaye Beckford set a Lady Razorback record. Her long jump of 19-10 1/4, exceeded the mark of Deedee Brown set during the 2002 season.
1-2-3: While we are on the subject of the pentathlon, we should point out that the Lady Razorbacks are currently 1-2-3 on the SEC descending order list for the event. Number four on the list is Jasmine Dacus of Ole Miss who scored 2,788.
Another Solid Opener: Senior Dacia Barr is a veteran of the NCAA Championships and the two-time all-American wasted no time in getting herself considered for the 2008 Indoor Championships. Barr cruised to a 4:47.73 in the mile at the Razorback Invitational to secure a provisional qualifier and the 10th best mark in the nation. After the race, Barr spoke about being tired because it was her first race, but the mile prodigy is poised to crush her personal best of 4:44.43.
Career Opener: It should be noted that Dacia Barr’s 4:47.73 is a career best opener for the senior.
Limited Contingent: We mentioned earlier that just eight athletes are traveling to Washington and that the sprinters will make their way to Oklahoma. All told, 20 Lady Razorbacks are competing this weekend. The Washington contingent sets its sights on 3,000 and 5,000-meter qualifiers while the sprinters see action in the 60, 200, 400, 800 and 60 hurdles.
Irwin Gets a Qualifier: After two weeks of misses at 13-2, Stephanie Irwin finally flew over that bar and 13-6 1/4 to get her NCAA qualifier. Irwin’s jump wasn’t a career best, but her attempts at the next bar 13-9 1/4 would have been for the two-time all-American.
Going for the Automatic: After they each cleared 13-6 1/4 last weekend, Stephanie Irwin and Katie Stripling each moved the bar to the NCAA automatic standard of 13-9 1/4. Both had some very good attempts at the height and seem ready to make the bar in the near future.
Two in the Top Six: The tandem of Stephanie Irwin and Katie Stripling are the best 1-2 punch in the NCAA pole vault field. Stripling is currently ranked third in the country with her 13-8 1/4 effort and Irwin is sixth with her 13-6 1/4.
What a Year, in Two Weeks: In just two weeks, Katie Stripling has already established herself as one of the nation’s best collegiate pole vaulters. She won her second collegiate event, first indoors, at the SEC-Big Ten Challenge and for two weeks has held the nation’s best pole vault mark at 13-8 1/4. Stripling’s one loss in two weeks was to aspiring Olympic hopeful and near 15-foot vaulter April Steiner.
Top Five: With her clearance of 13-8 1/4, Katie Stripling put herself in elite company, top five among Arkansas pole vaulters. The Lady Razorbacks have a long list of all-American pole vaulters and Stripling’s effort at the Arkansas Invitational puts her among that group.
SEC Field Athlete of the Week: For her effort last Friday evening, Katie Stripling was named the SEC Field Athlete of the Week. The honor is the second of Stripling’s career joining her honor from last spring after she won the Penn Relays pole vault competition. Stripling is the eighth Lady Razorback to take an athlete of the week honor indoors and the second pole vaulter (April Steiner two times).
Stripling’s History: A native of Jonesboro, Ark., Katie Stripling came to Arkansas with little experience in the pole vault as she floated between the high jump and vault in high school. Redshirting her freshman season (2006), Stripling had a decent indoor season in 2007 and exploded on the scene outdoors with her first 13-foot jump and the Penn Relays Championship of America.
A Stunning Opener: Senior Makeatha Cooper did not compete indoors in 2007 but wasted no time making a name for herself in 2008. The Grand Prairie, Texas, native clocked one of the fastest times in recent Lady Razorback memory in the 60-meter hurdles and notched a solid NCAA provisional qualifier with her 8.30 last Friday night.
Backing it Up: After flying to an opening meet 8.30 at the Arkansas Invitational, Makeatha Cooper backed up her performance with an 8.36 at the SEC-Big Ten Challenge last weekend. Making the task even more impressive was that the Bloomington, Ind., track was not nearly as fast as Arkansas’ Randal Tyson Track Center which could lead to big things down the road.