A Week to Prepare: The Lady Razorbacks took last weekend off in preparation for the SEC Championships. Arkansas typically takes the weekend off as a final tune up for the meet and should go into the championships fresh and ready to compete.
Not Everyone: While the majority of the Lady Razorbacks got last weekend to rest, freshmen Denise Bargiachi and Kelly Vrshek did get a chance to fuel their competitive fires. Both competed at the USA Junior Cross Country Championships and earned alternate spots on Team USA for the World Championships and NACAC games.
The SEC Championships: There is no question that the Southeastern Conference is one of if not the toughest league crown to claim as six teams rank in the top 15. Last season, Tennessee won the league title on its way to the national championship and Arkansas took second at the conference meet only to finish 19th at the NCAA. LSU holds the league record for most indoor conference titles with 10 but Arkansas is not too far behind with three since the 2000 season.
Last Year at the SEC Meet: It was bittersweet for the Lady Razorbacks at the 2005 SEC Championships as they barely missed on their attempt to claim the conference title for the fourth time in school history. Getting off to a fast start, the Lady Razorbacks were in good shape, but failed to get the help they needed from the rest of the league, eventually succumbing to the Tennessee Lady Vols, 135.5-120
2005 SEC Championship ResultsFeb. 25-27 • Randal Tyson Track Center • Fayetteville, Ark.
Three in Six Years: The Arkansas Lady Razorbacks have perennially been among the best in the league with eight consecutive top six finishes, but did you know that since it won its first SEC indoor track title in the winter of 2000, it has won three of the past six conference championships indoors. Ironically, two of the three titles Arkansas has failed to win both came in Fayetteville when Florida and Tennessee won in 2002 and 2005, respectively.
Last Time in Gainesville: The Lady Razorbacks came into the 2003 SEC Championships as a long shot to do much of anything let alone win a Southeastern Conference Championships. Thanks to the heroics of commissioner’s trophy winner Christin Wurth, Angel Heath and a crop of young talent, Arkansas pulled off the surprise of the meet when they dominated the distance fields and won the league title.
The Schedule: The SEC Championships are contested over a three-day period with multi-events dominating the opening evening of action. Saturday and Sunday’s events begin at 10 a.m., but Arkansas’ participation won’t begin until noon Saturday and 11:30 a.m. Sunday. The only finals contested on Saturday include the long jump, shot put, pole vault and 3,000 meters leaving 12 event finals to be run on Sunday.
Arkansas’ Participation: While the Lady Razorback lineup has yet to be set; one can expect that Arkansas will load the distance races. With a majority of its roster filled with distance runners, Arkansas should have people in the mile, 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs. The pole vault will also be a huge event for the Lady Razorbacks.
The Trackwire Ranking: The Lady Razorbacks were missing from the first Trackwire.com ranking released on Tuesday, Jan. 17. As the season has progressed, Arkansas is still absent from the rankings and likely will be in week six. Junior Jodi Unger is the only Lady Razorback considered in the Trackwire Dandy Dozen and she is factored in as the sixth best pole vaulter.
Career Bests: Every year someone steps up at the Tyson Invitational and does something unexpected and 2006 brought Arkansas’ pole vaulters to the front. Junior Jodi Unger and sophomore Stephanie Irwin each cleared career bests in the event to put them in solid spots to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
Sixth: By virtue of clearing 13-6 1/4 at the Tyson Invitational, junior Jodi Unger placed herself in a tie for sixth on the NCAA qualifiers list. The clearance is a career best for Unger, who before this season had never cleared 13 feet, and makes her just the fifth Lady Razorback to ever clear 13 feet.
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 three of her five competitions in 2006 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.
Unger Qualifies at Opener: Junior Jodi Unger didn’t waste any time to her indoor season when she posted her first NCAA Provisional qualifier for the year at the Arkansas Invitational. Jumping an impressive 12-11 1/2 at the meet, Unger equaled her career best with the effort.
Tops in the Conference: Penny Splichal’s 3,000-meter time of 9:31.57 is a Southeastern Conference leader and makes her the tentative favorite heading into the championships. Splichal has scored at the distance twice in her three years of competition, finishing as high as third in the 2002 meet.
Splichal Posts Second Qualifier: Senior Penny Splichal is making the most of her final season of collegiate eligibility and her performance at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational was no exception. Posting her second NCAA Qualifier in as many races, she cruised to a time of 16:28.81 in the 5,000, well under the provisional qualifying standard of 16:45.
The 3,000: Penny Splichal’s first NCAA provisional qualifier came in the 3,000 meters when she ran 9:31.57 at the Razorback Invitational. Just under the NCAA provisional mark of 9:35, Splichal is ranked 34th in the nation at the distance.
Two-Time NCAA Performer: Penny Splichal is not stranger to the NCAA Championships as she has been their twice before, but her first foray into the indoor meet would be a different experience. Splichal’s two NCAA meets were both outdoors in the 10,000-meter run and she has yet to be among those selected to participate at the indoor meet.
First Since: If it were not for 0.69 seconds, Penny Splichal could have been the first Lady Razorback distance runner since Christin Wurth to qualify for the NCAA Championships in three or more events. Wurth’s senior season of 2003 saw her post qualifiers in everything from the 800 meters to 5,000 indoors, a feat which remains one of the most impressive in NCAA history.
Dominating the SEC Distances: For years the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks have dominated the distance races at the SEC Championships. In fact since 1998, Arkansas runners have won 16 of the 24 races contested between the mile and 5,000 meters or 66.67%. In 2005, Erica Sigmont won Arkansas’ first mile title since 2001 when she took the league championship in 4:54.40.
The 5,000: There is no event that Arkansas has been more dominant in than the 5,000-meter run. Winning all but three 5,000-meter titles since joining the league in 1992, Arkansas hopes to reclaim that championship in 2006 after missing out for the past two seasons.
Irwin Wins: Sophomore Stephanie Irwin didn’t do it in pretty fashion but whatever she did do happened to work as she won the championship section of the pole vault at the New Balance Collegiate Invite. Only clearing 12-7 1/2, Irwin was lucky to make that as she, as well as the rest of the competition, did not bring her ‘A’ game to the floor.
Irwin Qualifies: She did it as a true freshman so it should come as no surprise that Stephanie Irwin would qualify for the NCAA Championships as a sophomore. Irwin vaulted over 13-4 1/4 at the Tyson Invitational to improve upon her career best which she set at the SEC Championships in 2005.
Boatright Continues to Impress: One of Arkansas brightest up and coming stars is sophomore Tominque Boatright. An NCAA qualifier in the 400 meters already, Boatright looked very good in New York when she finished sixth in the 400-meter dash and notched a 53.3 second split in the distance medley relay. A 100-200 meter runner when she arrived at Arkansas, Boatright was moved to the longer race because of her stamina and the move so far has paid dividends.
A Qualifier in the 400: The Razorback Invitational was not only good for Arkansas’ pole vaulters and distance runners, but to 400-meter runner Tominque Boatright as well. Still a fledgling at the distance, Boatright ran to an NCAA qualifier in the event at 54.38 and looked solid doing it.
Chasing Arkansas’ Record: While still a second away, Tominque Boatright probably has the best chance of any Lady Razorback in 2006 to break an Arkansas record. Boatright ran 54.38 at the Razorback Invitational to qualify for the NCAA meet and is chasing Adwoa Gyasi-Nimako’s time of 53.48 which she ran in March of 2004 at the NCAA Championships. Coincidentally, Gyasi-Nimako was the last Lady Razorback to compete at the NCAA meet in the event.
Boatright Healthy and Ready: Tominque Boatright had a tremendous indoor season in 2005, then at the NCAA Championships was injured in her leg of the distance medley relay and never fully recovered during the outdoor season. Now with some time off, Boatright is once again healthy and could challenge Arkansas’ 400-meter record which she came close to breaking last season.
Six Qualifiers: So far this season, the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks have recorded six NCAA provisional qualifiers in the 400, 3,000, 5,000, 4×4 relay and pole vault. That number could increase this weekend at the SEC Championships which always produces fast times.