Another Solid Outing: The Lady Razorbacks continue to improve with each week of the indoor season. In what was supposed to be a weekend off, Arkansas sent five athletes to Norman, Okla., and was impressed by the results. Senior Tiavannia Thompson popped a career best in the 60-meter hurdles to qualify for the NCAA Championships and Lakeisha Martin had career bests in the 60 meters and long jump.
Championship Season: Arkansas’ coaching staff has a philosophy to prepare its athletes for what they call “Championship Season” and that begins this weekend at the SEC meet in Lexington, Ky.
The SEC Championships: Since the millennium, the University of Arkansas Lady Razorbacks have had tremendous success at the SEC Championships no matter what its location. Beginning with the 2000 season, the Lady Razorbacks have three championships, and two second-place finishes in seven meets.
Last Time in Lexington: The Lady Razorbacks would probably like to forget the last time the SEC Championships were held in Lexington, Ky. The 2004 meet featured a pair of international superstars in the making, but despite that, Arkansas placed sixth at the meet, its worst finish at a conference championship since the 1997 season when it placed seventh.
Last Season at the SEC Championships: The 2006 SEC Indoor meet was certainly not Arkansas’ best performance, but did showcase several breakthroughs. Senior Penny Splichal became the first Lady Razorback since the 2003 season to pick up a distance double in the 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs (ironically, the 2003 championship was also held at the University of Florida). In the middle distances, Dacia Barr and Paige Farrell each grabbed runner-up points in the mile and 800 meters, respectively and Jodi Unger was also a conference runner-up in the pole vault.
2006 SEC Indoor ChampionshipsStephen C. O’Connell Center • Gainesville, Fla.
|3.||#1 South Carolina||78.5|
Arkansas’ 2007 Outlook: The Lady Razorbacks have a very talented, although young team in 2007 and should be competitive at the conference championships. Arkansas will likely rely heavily on the distance races and pole vault and hope to pick up points in the sprints, field events and relays.
The Weekend Schedule: The SEC Championships are conducted over three days with the first consisting of just the multi events. Beginning at 4:30 p.m., Friday’s competition should last until at least 9:30. Day two is when the things really heat up with the bulk of competition. Saturday and Sunday’s action begins at 10:00 a.m. and is scheduled to run through 7:00 p.m. on Saturday and 5:00 p.m. on Sunday.
Arkansas’ Participation: The Lady Razorbacks are scheduled to compete in just about every competition at the SEC Championships, but as many would guess, will be heavy in the distances. Nearly half the Arkansas roster is scheduled to compete in a race from 800 meters or more with four participating in the pole vault and the rest sprinkled throughout the three-day meet.
Around the Corner: For those that have not realized it, the NCAA Championships are around the corner. Media credentials may be requested on-line at LADYBACKS.com by clicking on the NCAA link on the front page.
School Record: On Saturday afternoon, Feb. 3, sophomore Christine Kalmer made Arkansas history when she broke the Lady Razorback school record for 3,000 meters at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational. Running 9:10.62, she smashed the seven-year-old mark of five-time all-American Lilli Kleinmann (9:11.81) by more than a second.
First Indoor Qualifier: Christine Kalmer had never qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships before the Razorback Invite. Thanks to her effort at the Armory, though, she has guaranteed herself a spot at the NCAA Championships with her first auto qualifier.
First Since: Christine Kalmer’s automatic qualifier at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational is the first by a Lady Razorback in nearly two years. The last to post an auto mark was Aneita Denton in the winter of 2005 when she ran 2:03 in the 800 meters.
Kalmer’s Career: In just her second year, Christine Kalmer has already had a very successful career. As a freshman she was the leader of Arkansas’ cross country team earning first-team all-conference and all-region honors on way to being named the SEC’s Cross Country Freshman of the Year. She continued her rise during the outdoor season when she qualified for the NCAA Championships at the Mideast Regional.
A Star is Born: Stephanie Irwin is one of those athletes that has been solid since the day she set foot on the Arkansas campus. Scoring in all four of the SEC Championships she has participated and qualifying for nationals each season, Irwin’s career has been memorable. Her 2007 season however is making her a star as she owns the fifth best vault in the nation.
Improving Every Week: Opening the year with a very good vault of 13 feet, 1 1/2 inches, Stephanie Irwin was a NCAA provisional qualifier, but in subsequent weeks she has cleared 13-0 1/4, 13-3 1/2 and 13-8 1/2. As the competition increase in stature so does the Mt. Ida, Ark., native.
New Balance Champion, Again: For the second straight year, Stephanie Irwin has battled and beaten her teammate Jodi Unger at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational. The victory is her second in as many years and makes her the first two-time pole vault champion in the competition’s history. She also cleared a season best with the win.
Arkansas’ Pole Vault Prowess: Look for the Lady Razorbacks to score big points in the pole vault at the SEC Championships. Junior Stephanie Irwin leads the conference with senior Jodi Unger right behind at third. If the two have a good meet, the Lady’Backs can look at scoring no worse than 14 points in the event. Added to the mix are redshirt freshman Katie Stripling and Megan Scott who rank fifth and 14th in the conference making the pole vault a potential 20-point-plus event.
She Does it Again: Senior Jodi Unger had a tremendous opener when she cleared 13-5 1/4, but her week two performance was even better as she vaulted over 13-6 1/4. Once again winning the competition handily, Unger matched her indoor career best with the performance.
14 Feet: That is the mark that Unger is going for this winter. 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.
Best Ever?: When speaking about the great pole vaulters that have come through the doors of the University of Arkansas you can’t have the discussion without Unger’s name. The Texas native has as many all-America honors (2) as all but one other Lady Razorback (Steiner) and broke the conference outdoor championship record of Steiner’s. Is Unger the best to ever compete Arkansas, probably not yet, but by the end of the 2007 seasons, she could be.
Unger: Jodi Unger had an amazing 2006 season, earning all-America honors in both indoor and outdoor track in the pole vault. She cleared personal bests during both seasons and her vault of 13-11 at the SEC Outdoor Championships set the conference championship record as well as placed second all-time in Arkansas history.
Rankings: The Lady Razorbacks’ season has been a bit of a yo-yo when it comes to the rankings, but the one consistent part is that both the Trackwire and USATCCCA predict that the Lady Razorbacks will fall somewhere in the 13-17 range at the NCAA Championships. Arkansas is ranked 13th in the USATCCCA poll and tied for 16th in the Trackwire rankings.
Lady Razorback Qualifiers: With the recent addition of Tiavannia Thompson in the 60-meter hurdles, the Lady Razorbacks now have 12 marks or times qualified for the 2007 NCAA Indoor Championships. Leading the way in Christine Kalmer’s automatic qualifier in the 3,000 meters which ranks fifth in the nation, but not far behind are Stephanie Irwin and Jodi Unger in the pole vault who stand tied for fifth and tied for seventh. Arkansas’ 4×400-meter relay is also ranked among the top 10 when you take out duplicate entries, ranking eighth heading into the week. Other potential qualifiers for the NCAA meet include Tominque Boatright in the 400 (16th), Christine Kalmer (14) and Dacia Barr (18) in the mile and Thompson in the hurdles (17).
Cousins Making Waves: Senior Jessica Cousins is making waves in her final tour with the Lady Razorback indoor track team. She is qualified for the NCAA Championships in both the 200 and 400-meter runs and her 23.69 at the Tyson Invitational in the shorter race currently ranks 23rd in the nation. She is also a key member of Arkansas’ 4×400-meter relay which also has a provisional qualifier.
First Individual Ranking: Always a member of Arkansas’ 4×400-meter relay which has been ranked among Trackwire’s Dandy Dozen, Jessica Cousins picked up her first individual ranking at the beginning of February when she was placed 12th on the 200-meter form chart. This is the first individual ranking for a Lady Razorback sprinter other than Tominque Boatright in several years.
Triple Threat: If she can keep up with her current pace, Jessica Cousins could become a triple threat at the SEC and NCAA Championships. She has shown that she has the speed for the 200 and the stamina for the 400 and coupled with a relay leg on Arkansas’ 4×400 team and the Lady’Backs have a hot commodity.
Distance Success: Arkansas’ bread and butter at the SEC Championships for years has been the distance races and the numbers certainly don’t lie. Since 1998, Arkansas’ distance specialists have won 18 Southeastern Conference titles in the mile, 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs. Of late the 3,000 has been the dominating event with an Arkansas runner winning the race in seven of the past nine years.
The 5,000: While the 3,000 has been the race that Arkansas has dominated over the past decade, the 5,000 has nearly been owned by the Lady Razorbacks. Since Arkansas joined the league in the winter of 1992, a Lady Razorback has won the SEC 5,000-meter indoor title 12 times in 15 attempts and Arkansas has never gone more than two years without a 5,000-meter title.
Trackwire Dandy Dozen: In its effort to rank teams Trackwire posts its individual rankings with the release of each poll. Arkansas finds six individuals and teams among the nation’s elite with the pole vault leading the way. Stephanie Irwin’s win at the New Balance moved her to fourth in the nation surpassing Unger who dropped to fifth. Christine Kalmer made huge strides in the 3K, going from unranked to sixth. Dacia Barr and Jessica Cousins made their debut on the Dandy Dozen with eighth- and 12th-place rankings in the mile and 200 meters, respectively. Arkansas’ 4×400-meter relay is ranked eighth.
Returning All-Americans: The Lady Razorbacks have seven athletes this winter who have earned all-America status during their careers. Tominque Boatright is the most decorated with three honors followed closely by Paige Farrell and Jodi Unger with two each. Dacia Barr, Jessica Cousins, Sasha Rolle and Brooke Upshaw each have one certificate to their credit.
SEC Champions: The Lady Razorbacks entered the 2007 indoor season with an honor it has not had in three years, SEC Champions. Arkansas’ cross country team dominated the conference championship held at LSU in October to win its 11th SEC Cross Country title.
17 SEC Championships: Arkansas’ 11 SEC Cross Country titles are the base of the Lady Razorback’s 17 conference championships in cross country, indoor and outdoor track. The Lady Razorbacks have also won three indoor and three outdoor titles.
The 4×4: One of Arkansas’ strengths in 2007 should be its 4×400-meter relay who returns to the track after a tremendous spring. With each of its four legs back and healthy, the Lady Razorbacks hope to improve upon their amazing NCAA Outdoor finish where they ran 3:28. Arkansas’ relay was started by Sasha Rolle and continued by Jessica Cousins and Paige Farrell before Tominque Boatright anchored it home.
Ranked 10th: Despite its third-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Arkansas is ranked 10th in the nation on the Trackwire Dandy Dozen. The Lady Razorbacks return all four of their runners from a year ago, but to be fair to the track prognosticators, Arkansas is currently holds the nation’s eighth fastest time.
Athlete of the Week: In late breaking news, senior Tiavannia Thompson was named the SEC’s Runner of the Week on February 20. Thompson posted a career best at the Sooner Open in Norman, Okla., by running 8.33 in the prelims to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
Year Eight: Believe it or not, but the Randal Tyson Track Center is eight years old in 2007. Opening its doors in February of 2000, the building is set to host its eighth NCAA Championships in March.
Postseason Cross Country Awards: Arkansas was highly decorated throughout the cross country season and the post season awards are one indicator. Lance Harter was named the SEC’s Coach of the Year for the 11th time. Freshman Brooke Upshaw won the league’s female athlete of the year award with fellow first-year Dani Parry taking the SEC Freshman of the Year title. Upshaw was also an all-American at the NCAA Championships.