The Finale: The NCAA Indoor Championships mark the end of the 2008 indoor track season. Arkansas has performed well throughout the year with school records, NCAA automatic qualifiers and numerous personal bests.
Year Nine: It’s hard to believe, but the Randal Tyson Track Center hosts the NCAA Indoor Championships for the ninth time this winter. 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.
Last Chance Weekend: The Lady Razorbacks got the job done on last chance weekend as senior Stephanie Irwin posted her qualifier at 13-7 in the pole vault at home and senior Dacia Barr and the 4×400-meter relay notched qualifiers at the Alex Wilson Invite in South Bend, Ind. The three qualifiers helped the Lady Razorbacks move up four spots in the latest rankings.
Last Year at the NCAA Meet: The Lady Razorbacks had six all-Americans at the 2007 NCAA Indoor Championships, grabbing nine points for a tie for 21st in the team standings.
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.
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.
Arkansas’ Schedule: The Lady Razorbacks are spread out for the NCAA Indoor Championships with the bulk of their competition taking place on Saturday. The long jump and 5,000-meter finals compete Friday night as well as the mile preliminaries. Saturday’s competition includes the pentathlon, pole vault, mile final, 3,000 meters and 4×400-meter relay.
Final Indoor Rankings: The Lady Razorbacks moved up the charts in the final indoor national rankings, going from 13th to ninth. Arkansas has been in the top 10 for most of the season dropping to the 13 spot in week six. The Lady’Backs earned 73.08 points in the final analysis, just about their average for the season.
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.
Kalmer #4: With a splendid run at the UW Invitational, 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 was 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 into the season Christine Kalmer already had 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.
Second Major Title, First Indoors: Katie Stripling is no stranger to the big meet or championship. While she did win her first SEC title last 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.
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.
Momentum: Momentum is a powerful thing in the pole vault and Stephanie Irwin is feeling it right now. Irwin cleared 13-7 at the Arkansas Last Chance Meet to qualify for the national championship and is vaulting her best at this time. Only time will tell if the momentum carries over to points and another all-America honor.
Arkansas Qualifiers: The Lady Razorbacks posted 18 NCAA qualifiers this season. The impressive part of that is four were automatic. It has been several years since Arkansas has placed four times among the nation’s automatic qualifiers.
Moving into Elite Company: Dacia Barr has improved just about every week this season, but it was her run at the Alex Wilson Invitational that has her in elite company. Barr ran 4:39.07 to post a NCAA automatic qualifier, the sixth-best mark in the nation and place herself among Arkansas’ all-time milers.
Number Four All-Time: Dacia Barr’s run at the Alex Wilson Invitational was the fourth fastest mile in Arkansas history and less than three seconds behind Arkansas’ school record. Barr now only trails Christin Wurth (4:36.94), Londa Bevins (4:37.19) and Trine Pilskog (4:38.53) on the all-time list.
A Five-Second Improvement: Coming into the 2008 indoor track season, Dacia Barr had a career best of 4:44.43 in the mile. She had steadily dropped that time to 4:43 and 4:42 before her huge breakthrough at the Alex Wilson which moved her into astounding company.
National Finishes: The Lady Razorbacks have fared well over the years at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Six top 10 finishes including five in a row between 2000 and 2004 highlight the list of finishes which includes points at every championship since 1990, a streak of 18 years.
A Late Add: Denise Bargiachi was left off the original list of accepted entrants to the NCAA Championships. Bargiachi had posted the 17th best time in the nation in the 5,000 meters and the cut off this season came at 16 making her the first one out in the event. Fortunately for Bargiachi and unfortunately for Michigan, the Wolverines Alyson Kohlmeier was hurt and could not compete leaving one spot open for the SEC Champion.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).