A New Beginning: After a long off season, the Lady Razorbacks get ready for the 2005 season with another new look. Last season it was the year of the sprinter for Arkansas and the 2005 squad’s identity has yet to be formed but it will certainly rely heavily on the distances as Arkansas retraces its roots.
First Meet Jitters: As is the case in most years, one can expect every team to come out with first-meet jitters. It could take a week or so to shake off the rust, but because of a short indoor season, don’t expect it to take too long.
Getting Their Feet Wet: While many athletes will be attempting to run their best times at the Arkansas Invitational, Arkansas’ athletes are looking to get a good start. While there may be a few NCAA qualifiers, Arkansas’ athletes are going to gear up for the Armory and Tyson Invitationals to get their qualifiers.
Competing in Fayetteville: The Lady Razorbacks welcome four and potentially five teams to Fayetteville for the Arkansas Invitational this Friday. Definite for the weekend include Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas A&M while Tulsa is a certain possibility.
First of Five: The Arkansas Invitational marks the first of five home meets for the Lady Razorbacks this winter. Following the one-day meet on Friday, Arkansas hosts the Razorback Invitational on Jan. 21-22, then goes to New York for a weekend before hosting the Tyson Invitational, Feb. 11-12. The Southeastern Conference Championships close out February on the 25-27, then the NCAA Championships end the indoor campaign March 11-12.
Last Year at the Arkansas Invite: The Lady Razorbacks’ 2004 opener was another small gathering of teams, but LaShaunte’a Moore made a name for herself right away as she cruised to the then third-fastest time in Arkansas history. Jennifer (Culp) Lincoln and Erin Anderson excelled in the pole vault and the Lady’Backs 4×400-meter relay showed the first signs that they were prepared to set the UA record with a solid performance.
The 2004 Cross Country Campaign: The Lady Razorbacks looked solid throughout the 2004 cross country season taking second-place finishes at both the Southeastern Conference and NCAA South Central Regional, then finishing 16th at the NCAA Championships. Led by a resurgent Alison (Zeinner) Rush, Arkansas looked as strong as it has in several years, a trait that should carry over to the track seasons.
The SEC Outdoor Champions: After a sixth-place finish indoors, the Lady Razorbacks shocked the rest of the SEC when they won the outdoor conference title in convincing fashion. While winning the last track title seems to be an advantage heading into the indoor season, it certainly isn’t when you look at the number of quality athletes that are no longer with the team.
Arkansas Invitational Schedule: The schedule for the Arkansas Invitational focuses on the late afternoon and evening. While some events begin as early as noon, most of the competition doesn’t begin until 4 p.m. when finals in the running events begin. Scheduled to last until 9 p.m., the meet could run long depending on the number of entrants, but with just six teams in the mix, no event should last much past its scheduled time.
Leading the Way: While she was second to her senior teammate most of the season, junior Maureen Scott decided to take a step toward the big time when she was Arkansas’ top finisher at the NCAA Championships. Finishing 84th overall, Scott was out of the running for an all-American honor but showed the heart and determination that should carry over to a fabulous track season.
Second SEC Finisher: Maureen Scott’s impressive run at the NCAA Championships should also be noted for the fact that she was the second Southeastern Conference runner to cross the line at the national meet. Coming in just behind Tennessee’s Felicia Guliford, Scott was a mere second from being the top SEC runner at the meet.
Scott’s Career: As a freshman, Maureen Scott began hot and stayed that way throughout her first season winning two races as an individual, even earning SEC Athlete of the Week honors. That year she took all-region honors and backed it up as a sophomore with another all-region certificate, but her sophomore year was not nearly as awe-inspiring as her first. Now in her third season, Scott is looking more and more like she did as a freshman and even though she hasn’t won any individual races, she has taken all-conference and all-region honors.
In Track: Maureen Scott has been a key element to Arkansas’ success over the past two seasons in track as well as cross country, but in 2004, the Mahomet, Ill., native made a statement when she won the SEC steeplechase and earned all-America honors in the event. Indoors, Scott has competed in everything from the mile to 5,000 meters and should do the same in 2005 as she attempts to compete in her first NCAA Indoor Championship.
Returning all-Americans: Arkansas returns four all-Americans to the roster in 2005 led by four-time honoree Erica Sigmont. She is joined by 2004 winners Aneita Denton, Maureen Scott and Kasia Williams. Sigmont has taken indoor honors in the mile and distance medley relay (two times) while Denton earned her honor in the 4×400-meter relay last winter. Scott and Williams each earned their honor outdoors in the steeplechase and 400-meter relay, respectively.
Williams Coming off Great Summer: Senior Kasia Williams had an excellent spring for the Lady Razorbacks qualifying for the NCAA Championships in the 100-meter hurdles and earning all-America honors in the 4×100-meter relay. Of course that was before the summer where she took her game to even higher heights. After just missing the Jamaican Olympic team in the hurdles, Williams was asked to compete for her native country at the NACAC Championships in Sherbrooke, Ontario, where she finished second overall in a stunning time of 13.27.
Picking Up Where She Left: That will certainly be the key for Williams this winter, can she pick up from where she left off. After a summer that saw many collegiate hurdlers leave their respective schools, Willliams could be in prime position to make a name for herself. Last winter, Williams concluded the indoor season with a best time of 8.30 which she ran at the NCAA Championships.
Where They’ll Compete: Arkansas’ coaches have yet to determine where each of its athletes will compete or even which ones will actually toe the line this Friday night, but a list should be coming by Wednesday afternoon.
Loads of Freshmen: It could be called a rebuilding year for the Lady Razorbacks based on the number of freshmen that dot the roster. The number of potential true freshmen competitors at the Arkansas Invitational is eight and includes Whitney Anderson, Dacia Barr, Tominque Boatright, Beth Fahey, Paige Farrell, Stephanie Irwin, Danielle O’Reilly and Sydney Scarbrough
Determined: The Lady Razorbacks were in search of a leader throughout the 2003 season and have gotten just that in 2004 with the emergence of senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush. The fifth-year student-athlete has already earned her bachelor’s degree and is pursuing her masters and that maturity outside the competition arena has made her a fabulous role model for the entire Arkansas squad.
At the NCAA Meet: Senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush may not have achieved her ultimate goal of becoming a cross country all-American at the 2004 NCAA Championships, but the fifth-year all-conference and all-region performer showed the grit and determination that has made her the Lady’Backs front runner most of the season when she battled from a less than spectacular start to pick up much needed points for the Lady Razorbacks.
Rush Continues to Lead: Senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush continues to lead the Lady Razorbacks this fall and looked as good as ever at the SEC Championships. Finishing third overall, her best finish in her four years, Rush was one of three Lady Razorbacks to earn all-SEC honors. Her top finish for the Lady Razorbacks is her fourth in four races this fall.
All-Region: Alison Rush earned her second all-region honor at the 2004 NCAA South Central Region Championships when she finished seventh overall in the field. Her first honor came during the 2003 season when she completed the same course 22nd overall and one full minute slower than her 2004 time of 20:54.
Leading Lady: Alison Rush asked Arkansas head coach Lance Harter what she needed to do to reach her full potential last spring and after a good meeting, she went out and exceeded his guidelines. The effort has paid off for Rush as she is now Arkansas top cross country runner and is poised to do something which she has not done in three years of competition, capture an all-America honor.
Manuel Ready for Action: It has been two years of quirky injuries for Stacie Manuel, but the 14-foot pole vaulter is feeling good and is ready to tackle the 2005 seasons. Manuel is fourth on Arkansas’ all-time indoor pole vault list at 13-8.25 and cleared 14 feet inside the Tyson center last spring but it was during Arkansas’ outdoor track meet so did not count in the records.
Already an All-American: Stacie Manuel earned all-America honors in her first indoor season with the Lady Razorbacks and because of injury has not returned to that plateau. Determined and ready, Manuel is shooting for not just an all-America honor but a significant placing at the NCAA Championships in 2005.