Third at the SEC: The Lady Razorbacks fought valiantly, but their dreams of a fourth SEC Indoor Championship were squashed by the juggernaut which is LSU in 2008. Arkansas settled for third with 93 points which pleased head coach Lance Harter considering the numbers of illness and injury that have plagued the team over the last two weeks.
Three Champions: Not since the 2005 season has Arkansas walked away from an SEC Indoor Championship with three individual conference titles. Senior Etienne Chaplin, junior Denise Bargiachi and sophomore Katie Stripling were the victors over the weekend, each winning in impressive fashion.
First Titles: The championship trio of Denise Bargiachi, Etienne Chaplin and Katie Stripling each won their first Southeastern Conference championship at the SEC meet this weekend.
Next Up: The Lady Razorbacks are splitting up this weekend in an effort to maximize their chances to qualify for the NCAA Championships. A majority of Arkansas’ competitors will stay home for the Last Chance Meet at the Randal Tyson Track Center while a select few travel to the Univ. of Notre Dame to compete at the Alex Wilson Invitational.
Chaplin Takes Pentathlon Crown: Senior Etienne Chaplin won her first Southeastern Conference title last weekend when she came back from 40-points down in the 800-meter run to secure a solid victory. Her 4,095 points are a career best and NCAA Automatic effort and makes her the third Arkansas pentathlete to win an SEC Indoor Championship.
Two Qualifiers, One Competition: Not only did Etienne Chaplin put together an NCAA automatic qualifier in the pentathlon, but her long jump within that competition was also a provisional mark. Chaplin scored 4,095 points on way to her victory and then had a personal best in the long jump at 20-3 1/2.
A Lady Razorback Record: Etienne Chaplin’s long jump of 20-3 1/2 was not just a NCAA provisional qualifier, but also a Lady Razorback school record for a pentathlon. Her jump exceeded the mark of Peter-Gaye Beckford who set the record at 19-10 3/4 earlier this season.
Second Best: After posting the fourth best mark in school history in her first pentathlon of the year, Etienne Chaplin completed the second-best pentathlon last weekend. Chaplin scored 4,095 points to come up just 46 points shy of the school record of 4,141 points set by Deedee Brown during the 2000 season.
The Weekend Schedules: Arkansas’ last chance meet is scheduled to be short and sweet, at least for a full track meet. Beginning at 2:00 p.m. with the women’s shot put, the meets is scheduled to run through 8:45 p.m. That time schedule is subject to change based on the number of entries in each event. The Alex Wilson Invitational is a two-day affair with the women’s distance medley relay set for 8:00 p.m. Friday night.
Arkansas in the Rankings: We’ll see what happens when the latest USTFCCCA rankings are released on Wednesday afternoon, but so far Arkansas continues to stay in the top 10 nationally. Sitting in the number nine spot heading into the SEC Championships, the Lady Razorbacks could not have fallen too far in the rankings considering that they improved on some and added four NCAA qualifiers over the weekend.
Where they Started: Arkansas opened the year ranked ninth in the nation and moved up to as high as fourth in weeks one and two. The Lady Razorbacks have dropped back to nine in the most recent rankings, a position that they could remain in heading into the national championship next week.
Another 5K Champion: Denise Bargiachi became the ninth Lady Razorback to win a Southeastern Conference Championship in the 5,000 meters last Sunday when she dominated the field at the Randal Tyson Track Center. Bargiachi joins the elite ranks of Amy Yoder Begley (2), Andreina Byrd (1), Deena Drossin (3), Megan Flowers (2), Lilli Kleinmann (1), Jamie Park (2), Penny Splichal (1) and Christin Wurth (1) who combined have now won 14 5,000-meter crowns.
A Slight Surprise: Watching Denise Bargiachi win the SEC indoor 5,000-meter title was only a slight surprise to Arkansas’ coaching staff. If you look only at her indoor career, it would have been more of one as she had never finished better than seventh at the indoor championships. Adding her outdoor résumé to the mix you saw that she was the conference runner-up in the 10,000 meters last spring and that her training continues to improve.
A Better Qualifier: Coming into the SEC Championships, Denise Bargiachi’s NCAA provisional qualifying time of 16:31.35 in the 5,000 and was ranked 12th in the nation. Improving the mark by six seconds at the SEC meet, she moved up two spaces in the latest NCAA descending order list and is now 12th in the country.
Second Major Title, First Indoors: Katie Stripling is no stranger to the big meet or championship. While she did win her first SEC title this weekend, she is also the defending Penn Relays Champion. Stripling is the fourth Lady Razorback pole vaulter to combine a Penn Relays title with an SEC championship.
First Place: Having only finished first once in her collegiate career heading into the 2008 indoor season, Katie Stripling has tripled her first place finishes so far this year. She won the meet titles at the Arkansas Invitational, SEC-Big Ten Challenge and now at the SEC Championships to bring her total of individual championships to four.
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 win at the Arkansas Invitational, Katie Stripling was named the SEC Field Athlete of the Week. The honor is the second of Stripling’s career joining her award 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.
Diebold Comes Through: Freshman Tara Diebold was the real surprise of the SEC Championships pole vault when she cleared a personal best 13-6 1/2 to finish second. Diebold’s effort allowed her to finish second behind teammate Katie Stripling and gave the Lady Razorbacks a solid 1-2-4-7 finish at the meet.
Second on Misses: Tara Diebold’s pole vault at the SEC Championships was just a breath away from winning the competition and surprising everyone. Only a miss at 12-6 1/4 prevented a jump off between Diebold and teammate Katie Stripling for the individual championship.
Arkansas at the Last Chance Meets: The Lady Razorbacks are only competing with a handful of entries at the last chance meets this weekend. A crew of six makes its way to the Univ. of Notre Dame to run on its 300-meter flat track while a squad of six stays home to compete at the Last Chance Meet. Scheduled for Notre Dame is the mile relay and milers while the pole vaulters and hurdlers compete at the Tyson Center.
Where They Rank: Following a big weekend of marks and qualifiers, Arkansas’ NCAA Championship team is beginning to get sorted out. The Lady Razorbacks know for sure that Peter-Gaye Beckford, Etienne Chaplin and Christine Kalmer are going to compete at the SEC meet by virtue of their auto qualifiers. Others that seem likely to be in the picture include Katie Stripling in the pole vault (T5th) and Denise Bargiachi in the 5,000 meters (12th). Those on the bubble include the 4×400-meter relay (9th), Tara Diebold (pole vault, T12th), Stephanie Irwin (pole vault, T16th) and Makeatha Cooper (60 hurdles, 14th).
Continuing to Improve: Senior Makeatha Cooper continued her steady improvement in the 60-meter hurdles at the Tyson Invitational when she dropped her season and career best time to 8.26 seconds. Cooper had hovered between 8.27 and 8.30 for a couple of weeks before her latest improvement.
Consistency: If there is one thing that Makeatha Cooper has been this winter its consistent. She has run between 8.27 and 8.4 all season long and is poised to dip into the low 20s or teens. Always seeming to get stronger within each competition, Cooper’s finals times usually are marked improvements from her prelims mark.
More of the Same: We said earlier that Cooper gets better within the rounds of a competition and that formula held true at the SEC Championships. Cooper was the last qualifier to the finals with an 8.40 in prelims, but returned to the track the next day to clock 8.33 and finish fourth despite running in lane one.
SEC Cross Country Champions: The Lady Razorbacks won their second consecutive SEC Cross Country Championship in late October with a convincing win at the meet in Lexington, Ky. The title was Arkansas’ 12th SEC cross victory, the most by any school.
18-Time SEC Champions: The Lady Razorbacks are the most successful cross country/track and field team in the Southeastern Conference and their 18 SEC titles are proof. No other school has won as many titles since Arkansas joined the league in the fall of 1991 and only LSU has won more conference championships (19) than Arkansas has and that includes conference meets dating back to the early 80s.
Kalmer #4: With a splendid run at the UW Invitational last weekend, Christine Kalmer posted the fourth fastest 3,000-meter run in Arkansas history. Her time of 9:13.62 is one of the fastest in the nation and is Arkansas’ first NCAA Automatic qualifier of the season. Kalmer’s time trails her own school record by three seconds.
Chasing Herself: Christine Kalmer was three seconds shy of the Lady Razorback record which she set last season at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational. At the meet last season she clocked 9:10.62, exactly three seconds faster than her UW Invitational time to break the mark of Lilli Kleinmann who ran 9:11.21 in 2000.
Kalmer’s Year: Two races and Christine Kalmer already has her ticket to the NCAA Championships. After missing the first meet of the season returning from her native South Africa, Kalmer joined the Lady Razorbacks at the Razorback Invitational and ran a very competitive mile. After getting her feet wet, Kalmer returned to the track in the 3,000 at the UW Invite and posted a NCAA automatic qualifier.
Year Nine: It’s hard to believe, but the Randal Tyson Track Center begins its ninth year as the home of Arkansas Indoor Track and Field in 2008. The building was dedicated in February of 2000 and since it opened its doors to the public, more than 100,000 people have come to watch track and field at the highest levels.
Backing Up the Provisional: Junior Peter-Gaye Beckford was impressive at the J.D. Martin Invitational with a provisional qualifier in the long jump, she backed it up this weekend with an auto qualifier in the event and the third best jump in the country this year. Beckford launched herself to a distance of 20-10 1/2 for her auto mark which guarantees her spot at next month’s NCAA Championship.
Second Best: Peter-Gaye Beckford’s long jump of 20-10 1/2 was also impressive as it was the second best jump in University of Arkansas history. The mark was just three-quarters of an inch shy of Angel Heath’s 2003 long jump of 20-11 1/4 which she hit at the SEC Championships in Gainesville, Fla. Beckford’s mark also eliminated her then fifth-best jump in school history from the J.D. Martin.
Coming Around: What has been most impressive with Peter-Gaye Beckford this winter is how she has improved since last season. Beckford was good last season, but is quickly making a name for herself in 2008.
Another Strong Weekend: Not enough can be said about the effort Peter-Gaye Beckford put forth at the SEC Championships. Opening the competition with her second ever and personal best in the pentathlon, Beckford returned to the track on Saturday and Sunday for the long and triple jump competitions. All told, Beckford scored in both the pentathlon and long jump and matched the fifth-best long jump in school history on the final day of competition.
SEC Freshman of the Year: For her efforts throughout the cross country season and for her finish at the SEC Championships, Jillian Rosen was named the Southeastern Conference’s Freshman of the Year in Nov. Rosen finished fifth at the SEC Championships and 56th at the NCAA meet (Arkansas’ best finish).
A National Qualifier: It isn’t often that a true freshman can come into a program and be an immediate contributor, but Jillian Rosen has that potential. Her mile time of 4:43.90 at the Tyson Invitational was a massive personal best and has the Dallas, Texas, native confident of her abilities.
Five All-Americans: The Lady Razorbacks return five all-Americans to the track in 2008. Led by four-time honoree Tominque Boatright, Arkansas also has three-time award winner Paige Farrell, two-time certificate earners Dacia Barr and Stephanie Irwin and one-time honoree Etienne Chaplin.
Back-to-Back Qualifiers: Getting off to a slow start this season, Stephanie Irwin is back to her normal impressive self in the pole vault. Opening the year with two sub-par efforts, the Mt. Ida, Ark., native put together back-to-back weekends of 13-5 vaults and a third with a NCAA qualifying mark.
Two-Time all-American: Stephanie Irwin parlayed last season’s New Balance Collegiate Invitational Championship into a trip to the NCAA Indoor Championships where she earned her first all-America honor. The momentum carried outdoors where she earned her second.