The Conclusion: After five solid weeks of competition, the 2006 indoor track season is quickly coming to a close with the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. The Lady Razorbacks will send six competitors to the meet to compete in five events and have a good chance to surprise people on their home turf.
Year Seven: The University of Arkansas is proud to host the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships for the seventh consecutive season and are excited to have the opportunity to host for an eighth year in 2007. Currently the NCAA has not made plans for 2009.
Arkansas’ Competitors: The Lady Razorbacks qualified more than they are bringing to the 2006 NCAA Championships, but are bringing a contingent of seven athletes to the meet. Senior Penny Splichal leads the way in the 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs followed by junior Jodi Unger in the pole vault and sophomores Tominque Boatright, Jessica Cousins, Sasha Rolle and Paige Farrell in the 4×400-meter relay. Boatright also get a chance to compete in the open 400.
Young But Experienced: The Lady Razorbacks may be young with four of their six competitors being sophomores, but that doesn’t mean that they lack experience on the highest levels. Penny Splichal, the senior, has competed in two NCAA Outdoor Championships while Tominque Boatright and Paige Farrell each competed at the 2005 NCAA meet as true freshmen. Boatright ran the distance medley relay for the Lady’Backs while Farrell was in the open 800.
Last Year at the NCAA Championships: It was a bittersweet NCAA meet in 2005 as the Lady Razorbacks finished outside the top 10 for the first time since hosting the meet (19th), but watch senior Aneita Denton win the NCAA individual title in the 800 meters. Denton tallied 10.25 of Arkansas’ 12.5 points as she also ran on the Lady’Back distance medley relay. She teamed with Tominque Boatright, Paige Farrell and Erica Sigmont on that team and had Stacie Manuel competing in the pole vault.
|2005 NCAA Indoor Track & Field ChampionshipsRandal Tyson Track Center • Fayetteville, Ark.March 11-12, 2005|
The Schedule: The Lady Razorbacks have competitors on both Friday and Saturday of the NCAA Championships, although Friday’s competition is relatively sparse. Tominque Boatright begins Arkansas’ foray into the championship with the prelims of the 400 meters at 5:50 p.m. followed by the women’s 5,000-meter final with Penny Splichal. Saturday begins at 5:30 p.m. with the women’s pole vault and Jodi Unger followed potentially by the 400-meter final at 7:05. The 4×400-meter relay ends the meet at 8:20 p.m.
The Trackwire Rankings: The University of Arkansas was conspicuously absent from the Trackwire 25 for the first time in years throughout the 2006 season, but still feel as though they have something to prove. Arkansas’ Jodi Unger has been among Trackwire’s Dandy Dozen in the vault for the past several weeks and hopes to be joined by Arkansas’ 4×400-meter relay in the final release prior to the championship.
A Note to the Public: As a note to the public, the NCAA Track & Field Championships will be televised on ESPN 2 on Tuesday, March 14 at 2:30 p.m. The two-day meet will be wrapped up into a show that will run from 2:30-4 p.m., and will include highlights of races, interviews and the trophy presentations.
Cruising at the Last Chance Meet: Tominque Boatright has been running fast all season, but she took her efforts to a new level at the Iowa State Qualifier last Saturday afternoon. At the meet she ran 53.51 in the open 400, then got the 4×400-meter relay off to a tremendous start on way to its school record.
Last Year at the NCAA Meet: Running as a member of Arkansas’ 4×400-meter relay, Tominque Boatright pulled her hamstring in the opening 100 meters of her race, but fought through the pain to finish her portion of the competition and help the Lady Razorbacks finish eighth as a team.
Chasing Arkansas’ Record: Prior to the Iowa State Qualifier, Tominque Boatright was more than a second away from Arkansas’ school record in the 400 meters. After the meet, she is a mere 0.03 seconds away. Her time of 53.51 in the event was a personal best and brought her within moments of setting two school records that day. Boatright could break former Lady’Back Adwoa Gyasi-Nimako’s mark 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 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.
As Good As Ever: Senior Penny Splichal is in her final season of eligibility for the Lady Razorbacks and the Dickinson, N.D., native is certainly making the most of her opportunity. At the SEC Championships she won both the 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs and posted times in both events that qualified her for the NCAA meet. Throughout the year she has been Arkansas’ most consistent competitor and is hoping to go out on a high note at the NCAA meet.
First Indoor Championship: Penny Splichal is no stranger to NCAA competition, but the senior is a novice on the indoor 200-meter track. Splichal has been to two NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 10,000 meters but never to an NCAA indoor meet.
An Amazing Performance: There were all sorts of questions surrounding the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks at the 2006 SEC Indoor Championships, but Penny Splichal quickly showed the conference who the dominant distance power is when she ran to easy wins in both the 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs.
First Since: Penny Splichal’s sweep of the 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs at the SEC Championships made her the first Lady’Back since 2003 to accomplish the task. Former Lady’Back Christin Wurth was the last to do it and coincidentally, did it at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla. Since 1998, five Lady’Backs have produced a 3K-5K sweep at the SEC meet.
Almost Three: 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.
NCAA Qualifiers: In terms of raw numbers, the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks had a down year in terms of NCAA qualifiers, but their contingent at the national championship could be just as exciting. This season, Arkansas qualified eight individuals and relays for the NCAA meet including first-time indoor qualifier Dacia Barr.
Fifth at the SEC Meet: Armed with a young but talented squad, the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks knew that they were going to take some lumps at the SEC Championships, but instead they issued some. Many people thought that Arkansas would finish in the bottom half of the conference, but thanks to great performances by several Lady’Backs, Arkansas was fifth and close to the top three.
SEC Runner-Up: It came down to potentially the final jump of the competition and miss would have given Jodi Unger the SEC title, but a make by Georgia’s Kierney Jackson gave her the conference championship and left Unger to her first runner-up performance.
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. Since then she dropped into a tie for eighth, but 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 six 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.
USA Cross Country: Freshmen Denise Bargiachi and Kelly Vrshek performed very well at the 2006 USA Junior Cross Country Championships in Van Cortlandt Park in New York and for their efforts were named as alternates for Team USA at the World Junior Championships and the NACAC Games. The World Championships will be held in Fukuoka, Japan while the NACAC meet is in Orlando, Fla.
Bargiachi Named to NACAC Team: Freshman Denise Bargiachi was named to Team USA for the North America, Central America, Caribbean Cross Country Championships. She will compete on March 11, in Orlando, Fla., taking on the best of the western hemisphere. Bargiachi is one of six members of the US team.