A Weekend Off: The Lady Razorbacks took last weekend off from competition in preparation for the SEC Championships. The time spent away from the track was much needed as several athletes had spent the past five weekends competing, four of those on the road.
The SEC Championships: For the 25th time in Southeastern Conference history the league will host a women’s outdoor track and field championship, this time in Nashville, Tenn. The 2005 Championships mark the first time in conference history that Nashville will play host as some of the top teams in the nation battle it out for SEC supremacy.
Last Season at the SEC Championships: Coming in with loads of potential, but also a sixth-place finish at the indoor championships, no one expected the Lady Razorbacks to do what they did at the 2004 meet in Oxford, Miss. Arkansas tallied 124 points on way to a first-place finish and its third-ever SEC Outdoor title. LSU made a valiant effort on the final day to knock off the Lady Razorbacks, scoring 114 points, but the duo of Veronica Campbell and LaSahunte’a Moore slammed the door in the 200-meter finals when they finished 1-3 in the event for 16 points.
2004 SEC Outdoor ChampionshipsOxford, Miss • May 14-16. 2004
Returning Champions: Arkansas took three SEC individual titles at the 2004 SEC Championships, but only one returns in junior steeplechaser Maureen Scott. Former Lady’Back Veronica Campbell took the 100 and 200 crowns last season. While Scott may be the only outdoor champion returning, several Lady’Backs are capable of leading the field. Aneita Denton is the indoor runner-up and national champion at 800 meters, Erica Sigmont took the indoor mile title and Stacie Manuel the pole vault crown during the indoor season. Going back, seniors Shiloh Whiting and Penny Splichal each took SEC titles during the 2003 outdoor season in the steeplechase and 10,000 meters, respectively.
A New Meet: While the 2004 SEC Championships was full of wily veterans who knew how to get things done, the 2005 meet is all about fresh faces. This season the “names” of past conference champions have gone away like Tiffany McWilliams of Miss. State and Hyleas Fountain of Georgia, but have been replaced by the likes of Paige Farrell and Stacie Manuel of Arkansas.
The SEC Schedule: As is the case with years past, the SEC Outdoor Championships competes mainly in the evening/night with only field events taking place in the heat of the day. Competition for the women begins at 4:00 p.m. on Thursday with the first day of the heptathlon. Friday starts at 1:00 p.m. with the hammer throw followed by the heptathlon at 4 and running races at 7. Saturday and Sunday bring a whole slate of events beginning at 1:00 p.m. each day.
When to See the Lady’Backs: Arkansas athletes will compete throughout the four-day SEC event, but a majority of the action takes place over the weekend. Beyonka McDowell and Whitney Anderson get things started with the heptathlon on Thursday. Preliminary competition on Friday and Saturday are vital events for the Lady’Backs if they wish to defend their SEC title from a year ago.
Picking Up Points When Available: In order for the Lady Razorbacks to have a chance at defending their SEC title, they have to pick up as many points as possible early in the competition. Events that could be favorable to Arkansas include the heptathlon with Beyonka McDowell, the hammer throw with Brandy Blackwood and the 10,000 meters with several Arkansas runners.
Trackwire Rankings: The Lady Razorbacks opened the 2005 outdoor track season in a similar position to where they ended the indoor season, tied for 15th with 14 points. In week two of the rankings, Arkansas fell to 12 points in the rankings and prior to the SEC meet are ranked 25th overall with 10 points. Arkansas is currently projected to score points in the 800 at the NCAA Championships this spring.
USTCA Power Rankings: After ending the 2005 indoor season ranked fourth in the country by the USTCA Power Rankings, they opened the 2005 outdoor campaign ranked 35th. Part of the reason for Arkansas’ lower ranking is that it doesn’t fill all the holes to get points. Some of the events Arkansas is lacking currently include the 400, 400 hurdles and triple jump.
|Week One||T15th, 14 points||N/A|
|Week Two||T17th, 14 points||35th, 235.74 points|
|Week Three||21st, 12 points||43rd, 254.76 points|
|Week Four||23rd, 11 points||40th, 283.58 points|
|Week Five||22nd, 11 points||44th, 284.93 points|
|Week Six||T25th, 10 points||N/A|
NCAA Champion: Senior Aneita Denton became the 10th woman to win a NCAA Individual championship in March when she took the 800-meter title at the indoor meet. Running 2:03.65, Denton held on after taking a commanding lead with a lap to go to take the crown and claim the Lady’Back’s 11th overall title and 8th indoors.
The UA Record: Aneita Denton rewrote the UA record book for 800 meters this winter when she recorded the top four times in the race. Capped off by what is potentially the third fastest time in collegiate history, Denton’s time of 2:01.96 destroyed the old record of 2:04.58 set by 2004 Olympian Nicole Teter.
Just off the National Record: Aneita Denton’s time from the SEC Indoor Championships of 2:01.96 could have been a national record for her native Jamaica, but that record was broken just weeks earlier and stands at 2:01.95. Aneita Denton was a mere 0.01 seconds off the record.
Tops in the Nation: Aneita Denton had not run an 800 since the outdoor season began, but got the first one under her belt with a bang when she took the collegiate lead in the event at 2:03.94. Her time is two seconds faster than North Carolina’s Erin Donahoe’s mark of 2:05.47. Denton ran the time at the Mt. SAC Relays against a world-class field, taking the relays title in the process. Since that time it has been three weeks and no one has come close to her mark.
Mt. SAC Relays Champion: It has been a while since a Lady Razorback has taken a Mt. SAC Relays Championship, but in 2005, Aneita Denton broke that string. Denton cruised to a time of 2:03.94 in Walnut, Calif., to take the invitational 800-meter title. She was Arkansas’ first winner at Mt. SAC since Christin Wurth and April Steiner each won an event in 2003.
Number 12 in the World: It was announced at the Mt. SAC Relays that Aneita Denton’s 800-meter run was the second fastest time in the world this year outdoors, but following the weekend’s updates it turned out that it was the third fastest. The top time in the world was run by Kenia Sinclair in Florida on April 16, one day prior to Denton’s run. Several weeks later, Denton now holds the 12th fastest time in the world this year behind numerous Olympic Games competitors and finalists.
Arkansas’ Competitors: The Lady Razorbacks are bringing 26 women to the SEC Championships in search of a fourth outdoor and 17th overall SEC title. Some of the busier competitors include Beyonka McDowell and Sydney Scarbrough who are each slated to try four events. Some of the more profitable events for Arkansas could be the distances and the pole vault as each race has numbers that favor the Lady Razorbacks.
Scott Looks to Repeat: We mentioned earlier that junior Maureen Scott is Arkansas’ only returning SEC Champion from the 2004 outdoor meet and in 2005 she hopes to defend the crown which she earned in the steeplechase. So far it appears that Scott has an excellent chance at defending that title as she enters the competition with a time that is 10 seconds faster than the field, but anything can happen at the SEC meet.
An All-American in the Steeplechase: Maureen Scott became just the second Lady Razorback to ever earn all-America honors in the steeplechase last season following in the footsteps of former Lady’Back Lilli Kleinmann.
Arkansas’ Steeplechase Dominance: Since the SEC added the steeplechase in the spring of 2001, Arkansas has been the dominating presence in the event. Winning three of the four competitions, Lilli Kleinmann got things started right when she ran 10:13.89 to set the conference record and win the inaugural race. Shiloh Whiting was Arkansas’ second winner in 2003 followed by Maureen Scott in 2004.
Blackwood Sets the Record: After only three attempts during the outdoor season, Brandy Blackwood claimed the Arkansas record in the hammer throw with a superb toss of 190 feet, 10 inches. Breaking her personal best in the event by four feet, Blackwood is coming off a tremendous indoor season with the weight throw which has helped her outside.
Blackwood Qualifies: After earning all-America honors for the first time at the NCAA indoor meet in the weight throw, Brandy Blackwood continued to impress in what has been an unbelievable season in 2005. Blackwood posted her first qualifier in the hammer throw with a strong toss of 183 feet, nine inches, well beyond the regional qualifier that sits at 177-8.
The Weight Throw Mark: Brandy Blackwood looked solid throughout her junior year indoors, but what was not mentioned much was that she was coming off knee surgery in the fall which started her behind the eight ball. She flourished during the outdoor season and now is looking better than ever as she crushed Marie LeJour’s school record in the weight throw by two feet with a toss of 65-11. She has since broken her own school record with another tremendous toss of 66-2.5.
Fastest in the World: Arkansas knew that it had four solid 800-meter runners, but no one expected them to do what they did two weeks ago at the Drake Relays. In front of a sell-out crowd, the Lady Razorbacks ran the fastest time in the world this year in the 4×800-meter relay. Dacia Barr, Aneita Denton, Paige Farrell and Erica Sigmont put together a clinic at the meet defeating the favorites from Michigan and placing themselves among the world’s best.
Farrell Back in the Swing: Freshman Paige Farrell earned all-America honors indoors in the distance medley relay thanks to a tremendous work ethic. Outdoors she started a little slow but is coming on strong as she posted an improved mark of 2:08.40 at the John McDonnell Invitational. The time puts her 40th in the nation and 10th in the Mideast region. If Farrell can equal her season best from the indoor campaign of 2:07.06, she’ll move up to top 20 in the nation and sixth in the region.
Two Titles: Coming into 2005, the Lady Razorbacks had only won one Texas Relays Championship and that came in 2000 when Arkansas used Amy Yoder Begley, Tracy Robertson, Daphne Harris and Jessica Dailey to win the distance medley relay. The 2005 quartet of Dacia Barr, Aneita Denton, Paige Farrell and Erica Sigmont doubled Arkansas’ 2000 effort by not only taking the distance medley title, but also the 4×800 giving the Lady Razorbacks three Texas Relays Championship trophies.
A Tremendous Homecoming: For Lady Razorback freshman Dacia Barr, the Texas Relays was a homecoming for the Austin, Texas, native. One of the outstanding products of Lake Travis High School, Barr returned to Mike A. Myers Stadium and in front of friends and family helped the Lady Razorbacks win not just one but two Texas Relays titles in the 4×800 meters and distance medley relays.
National Qualifiers: As the 2005 outdoor track season begins to close, the Lady Razorbacks have 26 NCAA automatic, provisional and regional qualifiers. Certainly an impressive list of qualifiers considering that Arkansas has posted marks in 11 of the 21 contested events and could potentially pick up another one or two once freshman Tominque Boatright returns to full action. The major events that Arkansas is qualified in at this point are the 5,000, 10,000 and pole vault competitions with four in each. Other significant events include the 800, 1,500, steeplechase and 100 hurdles.
Rush Dips Under 34: Senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush has led the Lady Razorback distance team throughout her final year and the Cincinnati, Ohio, native did it again at the Stanford Invitational when she completed 10,000 meters in 33:44.36. Now holding the 11th fastest time in the country, Rush’s NCAA automatic qualifier guarantees her a spot at the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year.
First Since: Making Alison Rush’s Stanford Invitational 10,000-meter run so impressive is that not only did she break 34 minutes, but she becomes the first Lady Razorback since Amy Yoder Begley in 2001 to accomplish the feat. Yoder Begley ran 33:59.96 to win the NCAA title in Eugene, Ore., that season.
Fastest Since: Alison Rush put herself in elite company when she ran 33 minutes for 10,000 meters. She became the first woman since 15-time all-American Amy Yoder Begley to break 34 minutes and the time is also the fastest since Yoder Begley ran 33:06.84 during the 2000 season, coincidentally, the last time someone cracked into Arkansas’ top five for the event.
Arkansas on the SEC Lists: The Lady Razorbacks are tops among the SEC in four of the 21 events contested and have individuals ranked high in nearly every event. Aneita Denton, Erica Sigmont, Maureen Scott and Stacie Manuel are the conference leaders. Based on the SEC top 10 lists, Arkansas would score an unfathomable 141 points at the conference meet.
Back to Her Winning Ways: Sophomore pole vaulter Stacie Manuel was once again back to her winning ways when she took the Ole Miss Invitational pole vault title with a modest jump of 12 feet, 11.5 inches. Competing for the first time since she took all-America honors in the event at the NCAA Indoor Championships, Manuel looked solid as she navigated the tough winds of the Oxford, Miss., track.
Two-Time Champion: As a freshman, Stacie Manuel shocked the conference by taking the SEC indoor pole vault title with a clearance of 13 feet, eight inches. The title earned her the conference’s indoor track freshman of the year honor. Manuel was sidelined in 2004 to injury but returned in 2005 to take the SEC title once again and is the first women’s pole vaulter to take two indoor titles. Manuel also became just the third woman in conference history to win two pole vault titles including outdoors.
Attempting to Become the First: Stacie Manuel is attempting to become the first woman in SEC history to win three conference pole vault titles when she takes to the runway on Sunday evening. The winner of two indoor titles, Manuel has been eluded by the outdoor championship in her one season, but hopes to rectify that in Nashville.
Returning to Form: Both Stacie Manuel and Danielle O’Reilly battled the wind and cold at the John McDonnell Invitational to clear 13-1.5 and improve their NCAA regional qualifiers. For Manuel it is a long way from the 14 foot mark she hit indoors at this time, but for O’Reilly it is a potential sign of things to come as she made the 13 foot barrier for just the first time this season.
Only the Fourth: Danielle O’Reilly’s vault of 13-1.5 makes her just the fourth Lady Razorback to ever clear 13 feet indoors or out in Arkansas history. Following in the footsteps of April Steiner, Jennifer Lincoln and Stacie Manuel, O’Reilly is now in elite company and can work to knock off her current teammate Stacie Manuel for bragging rights in the pit.
Over 20 Feet: Senior Beyonka McDowell looked impressive throughout competition at the Stanford Invitational, but it was her long jump that turned the most heads. Leaping to an Arkansas career best 20 feet, five inches, McDowell looked as if she had found the springs of old that carried her to the U.S. Championships in the summer of 2003.
First Over 20 Since: As with Alison Rush, Beyonka McDowell was also making waves with her performance at Stanford. Her long jump of 20-5 was the first time a Lady Razorback soared over 20 feet since Angel Heath and Kerri-Ann Mitchell accomplished the task in the spring of 2002. Each leaped 20-3 3/4 that season. McDowell’s effort could be the best long jump in UA history since Toshei Woods in 1993 as it stands just one-quarter inch behind the number five mark in Arkansas history.
Over 20 Again: Perhaps it’s the return “home” to California that makes her perform at an even higher level, but Beyonka McDowell has had a pair of majestic long jumps in the “Golden State.” For the second time in as many meets, McDowell leaped over 20 feet, this time 20-5.75, improving on her jump of 20-5 at the beginning of the season.
Fourth Best: We should also note that McDowell’s long jump of 20-5.75 ties her for the fourth best long jump in Arkansas history, matching the mark of Toshei Woods effort in 1993 in Knoxville, Tenn. The Lady Razorback school record is held by Woods at 20-10.
Also Qualified in the Hurdles: When we said that Beyonka McDowell had a weekend we meant it. Not only did she record a huge jump in the long jump pit, but she also recorded the two fastest 100-meter hurdles times of her Arkansas career when she ran 13.65 during preliminary action, then improving to 13.64 during finals. The efforts qualified McDowell for the NCAA regional championship in the event.
Seniors Look to Go Out on a High Note: The Lady Razorback senior class has been a huge part of Arkansas’ history and success over the past four years and with their final competitive seasons in mid form, they are doing their best to perform at the highest levels. Evidence of that came at the Mt. SAC Relays as each stepped up in their respective events to post NCAA qualifiers and you only have to look as far back as the indoor season to see their scoring potential at the SEC Indoor Championships. With just two months left in their Lady Razorback careers, expect each to perform at a higher level.
Millrose Games Champion: Senior Kasia Williams returned to her hometown of New York City hoping to improve on her 60-meter hurdles time and solidify her qualifier for the NCAA Championships. Instead she did more than that when she not only took the top time out of the preliminaries, but posted a season best at 8.27 seconds on way to a victory at the 96th running of the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden.
19th at the NCAA Indoors: Coming into the 2005 season very few would have believed that the Lady Razorbacks would be able to put together the season which they did. In fact even fewer would have believed it if you told them that Arkansas would finish 19th in the country at the NCAA Championships. Thanks to a NCAA Championship by Aneita Denton, a solid distance medley relay and Stacie Manuel’s pole vault, Arkansas tallied 12.5 points to place in the top 19 for the sixth consecutive season.
Second at SEC Indoors: Perhaps even more impressive than Arkansas’ 19th-place national finish was its second-place finish at the SEC Championships. Giving the eventual NCAA Champion Tennessee Lady Volunteers everything they could handle, Arkansas tallied 120 points with a very young squad.
Seven Individuals, Eight Honors: Seven Lady Razorbacks earned eight all-America honors during the indoor season. Of those seven, four took the first honors of their career with three of those four being freshman. Arkansas’ indoor all-Americans included Dacia Barr, Brandy Blackwood, Tominque Boatright, Aneita Denton, Paige Farrell, Stacie Manuel and Kasia Williams.