A Weekend Off: After two solid weeks of competition, the Lady Razorbacks took a weekend off to prepare for the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York, NY. The weekend hiatus probably did the Lady’Backs some good as they prepare for the more important meets coming up quickly.
The New York Meet: Arkansas’ participation in the New Balance Collegiate Invitational is its second in three seasons. Scheduled to compete in the highly competitive competition are the likes of SEC rivals LSU, South Carolina and Tennessee as well as some of the top teams in the nation.
Last Time in New York: The Lady Razorbacks were not spectacular, but they performed very well the last time they went to the New Balance Collegiate Invite. Finishing fourth as a team in a star studded event, Arkansas had several season best performances on the 200-meter banked track located at the Armory in New York City.
The Razorback Invitational: Arkansas looked spectacular at the Razorback Invitational, Jan. 21-22 at the Randal Tyson Track Center. Picking up seven NCAA qualifiers, Arkansas’ athletes looked very strong for a team that lost many of its top talent from a year ago. Arkansas’ qualifiers included Aneita Denton in the 800, Laura Jakosky in the 5,000, Kasia Williams in the 60 hurdles, Brandy Blackwood in the weight throw, Beyonka McDowell in the pentathlon and Jodi Driggers and Danielle O’Reilly in the pole vault.
The All-Time Lists: While some things tend to fly under the radar, Lady Razorback athletes cracking into the top five all-time performances tend to come to the top quickly. Four Lady Razorbacks ran or performed at the elite level at the Razorback Invitational with Brandy Blackwood throwing the second farthest weight throw, Beyonka McDowell notching the third-best pentathlon competition, Kasia Williams sprinting the fourth-best 60-meter hurdles time and Aneita Denton running the fifth fastest 800 meters.
Looking Good: One of the most impressive performances at the Razorback Invitational was that of Brandy Blackwood in the weight throw as she uncorked a career best toss of 64 feet, one-half inch. The throw was a personal best by almost four feet as Blackwood continues to improve in the event.
Number Two: Brandy Blackwood’s weight throw at the Razorback Invitational was not just a personal best for the Miami, Fla., native, but also the second best throw is Arkansas history. Just two inches behind Marie LeJour’s UA record set in 2002, Blackwood has a real chance to tie or eclipse the mark in New York.
Looking Ahead: On the horizon for the Lady Razorbacks following their jaunt to New York City is the Tyson Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center. Always a tremendous atmosphere, the Lady Razorbacks will welcome some of the world’s best athletes to their home on Friday evening for a USATF run meet followed by a large collegiate meet on Saturday. Action for the Tyson Invitational is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m. on Saturday.
The New Balance Schedule: The Lady Razorbacks are counted on to compete at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational all day every day as the schedule calls for events beginning at 9 a.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Freshmen Whitney Anderson and Sydney Scarbrough kick things off on Friday with the high jump at 9:05 a.m. with most of the action concluding at 4:30 p.m. Seniors Kasia Williams and Beyonka McDowell could have a chance to compete at the Millrose Games on Friday night at 9:15 p.m. depending on qualifying. Saturday’s action begins with the pole vault at 9:10 a.m. and runs through 5 p.m.
The Trackwire Rankings: The first trackwire rankings of the season came out and there was one thing missing, Arkansas. For the first time in several years the Lady Razorbacks did not make their way onto the initial Trackwire rankings list and remain absent through week four.
Trackshark.com: Another set of rankings that has picked up steam over the past couple of years is the Trackshark.com rankings. While not updated as regularly as the Trackwire rankings, Trackshark.com calculates numerous factors and reminds many of the BCS in football with its list of numbers and decimal points. However, in stark contrast to its absence in the Trackwire rankings, Arkansas ranks fifth on the nation in the Trackshark.com list.
|Week One||Not Ranked||N/A|
|Week Two||Not Ranked||N/A|
|Week Three||Not Ranked||5th, 54.73|
|Week Four||Not Ranked|
The Dandy Dozen: While some believe that Trackwire just makes up its rankings, we can say that there is a method to the list. Every event is ranked with what Trackwire believes are the top 12 competitors in the nation and those final rankings make up the team list. For Arkansas, three members of its squad are listed. On the list are Aneita Denton in the 800 meters, Erica Sigmont in the mile and Kasia Williams in the 60-meter hurdles. Their total according to Trackwire at week four accounts to four points.
Running for Relay Qualifiers: While every member of the Lady Razorback track team will be seeking NCAA qualifiers, Arkansas’ coaches are focused on the relays for the New Balance Collegiate Invitational. Putting together what they believe is Arkansas’ best quartets look for the end of each session to be Arkansas’ best moment. In the distance medley relay on Friday, Aneita Denton leads off with the 1,200 handing to Tominque Boatright for the quarter, Paige Farrell will run the 800 and Erica Sigmont anchors with the mile. In the 4×400-meter relay, the lineup is scheduled as Farrell, Boatright, newcomer to the relay Kasia Williams and Denton.
Going Home: For Kasia Williams, the trip to New York City is a trip home for the Brooklyn, N.Y., native. Leaving the Big Apple to pursue her running career at Barton County Community College, she came to Arkansas before the 2003-04 academic year and has been one of the Lady’Backs most consistent runners.
Fourth Fastest: She was fifth and after another outstanding run at the Razorback Invitational, Kasia Williams is now fourth on Arkansas’ all-time list in the 60-meter hurdles. Knocking herself off the charts, Williams is beginning to crack the stranglehold that former Lady’Back Kyla Shoemake has on the top three spots. Williams time of 8.29 seconds is just over one-tenth of a second slower than Shoemake’s UA record.
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.
Lady’Backs at the New Balance: Arkansas’ coaches have been gearing up for the New Balance as the beginning of a tough stretch of meets that culminates with the NCAA Championships and as such have chosen to let its athlete’s focus on specific events. Tominque Boatright will be Arkansas’ busiest competitor with three events while only 10 of the 25 athletes participating will see action in more than one race. The focus policy is especially evident with Arkansas’ distance team as many of them are tackling either the 3,000 or 5,000, but not both.
Back Up to Speed: Aneita Denton’s Lady Razorback career began with a stumble as she spent the first couple weeks of the 2004 indoor season in the hospital, but since that time she has been improving steadily and with a full year of training under her belt the improvements are quite evident. Denton has been counted on to run the anchor leg of Arkansas’ 4×400-meter relay and has already provisionally qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 800 meters.
Fifth Fastest: Four Lady Razorbacks set personal bests and cracked into Arkansas’ all-time top five at the Razorback Invite, but perhaps one of the surprises was Aneita Denton’s 800 meters. Running 2:07.55, Denton was by far the fastest runner at the Razorback and became the first Lady’Back since 1993 to make an appearance on the top five. While she still has a ways to go to meet the school record of 2004 Olympian Nicole Teter (2:04.58), a good field could give the Jamaican native that opportunity.
Second: Another impressive point about Aneita Denton’s 2005 season is that her 800-meter run that ranks fifth in UA history is also the second fastest in the NCAA this season. A little behind the number one time, Denton has already placed herself in solid position to qualify for the NCAA meet with her time.
Lady Razorbacks Against the NCAA: It is not a slogan to rally behind, but merely a statement that shows where Arkansas ranks with their eight NCAA qualifiers. Leading the way is Aneita Denton’s 800-meter run which sits second in the nation behind Tennessee’s Nicole Cook. Seniors Laura Jakosky and Beyonka McDowell rank fifth in the nation in the 5,000 and pentathlon, respectively, while Kasia Williams’ 60-meter hurdles sits at seventh. Arkansas’ pole vault trio of Jodi Driggers, Stacie Manuel and Danielle O’Reilly are all tied for eighth on the national list while Brandy Blackwood is 13th on the weight throw charts. If the NCAA Championships were held today, all eight marks would qualify for the meet.
Quietly Impressive: Slightly under the radar this season has been the performances of senior Beyonka McDowell. Two weeks into the season and McDowell has already either tied or broken her marks from the 2004 indoor season. With the season really just beginning, look for McDowell to eclipse all of her marks that she has set this year and perhaps improve upon her NCAA qualifier and second-best in UA history performance in the pentathlon.
Third Despite: One could easily make a case that Beyonka McDowell is just a young pup when it comes to the pentathlon despite her senior status. The case would be built squarely upon the fact that she has only competed in the event twice, but despite her novice standing she attacks the events like a seasoned veteran and for her efforts is quickly becoming one of Arkansas’ all-time best. At the Razorback Invitational, McDowell scored 3,827 points to place herself third on Arkansas’ all-time list.
Tops in the Hurdles: Beyonka McDowell ranks third in the pentathlon, but a closer look reveals that the senior holds the UA record in the event for the 60-meter hurdles. Clocking 8.52 at the SEC Championships a year ago, McDowell set the record and nearly eclipsed the mark at the Razorback running 8.55.
Freshmen Shine at Arkansas: Who said anything about first-meet jitters. If anyone said it around the Lady Razorback freshmen, they weren’t listening. Perhaps it’s being young and naive or maybe it’s a complete lack of appreciate for the level they have achieved, but Arkansas’ freshmen looked like seasoned veterans at the Arkansas Invitational. The best of the 13 newcomers last weekend had to have been Paige Farrell and Danielle O’Reilly who each nearly made the NCAA provisional standard.
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.
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.
Among the SEC: Now squarely into the indoor season, the Lady Razorbacks look quite impressive when you compare them to the rest of the conference. With 26 marks or times ranked among the top 10 in the SEC, the Lady Razorbacks stand to score somewhere in the range of 80-90 points at the SEC Championships based on those performances.
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.
Welcome to Arkansas Paige: Freshman and Springdale, Ark., native Paige Farrell looked very impressive in her season and career opener at the Arkansas Invitational when she finished first in the 400 meters. Running a career best 54.95, Farrell looked impressive in her race not taking the lead until the second lap, then holding on for the win. Looking more like a seasoned veteran, Farrell had perhaps the best sound bite of the meet following the race when she said that while she did have butterflies before she got started, but one she set foot on the track, running is running.
How Impressive is 54.95: For Paige Farrell, 54.95 is a tremendous opener as it almost met the NCAA provisional standard for 400 meters on a banked track of 54.40. Looking at the larger picture though, Arkansas’ fifth-best mark all time is 54.07 and times in that range are usually invited to participate at the NCAA Championships. If Farrell can focus on her training, there is certainly a chance for her to run in front of a true home-town crowd at the NCAA Championships come March.
First 800: Paige Farrell competed in her first collegiate 800-meter run as a part of one of the Lady Razorbacks two distance medley relays and was very impressive as she split either 2:09 or 2:10 depending on who’s watch you went by. Farrell had not run an 800 meters for several years making the feat even more impressive.
Fourth Time With a Pole: The 2003 SEC Indoor Freshman of the Year, Stacie Manuel was on the fast track to the top when she won the SEC indoor pole vault title that same season. She also looked impressive that spring but a series of injuries have kept the all-America on the sidelines. After taking eight months off from jumping Manuel picked up her polls for the first time after Jan. 1 and was using them for just the fourth time when she provisionally qualified for the NCAA Championships.
Good But Not Impressive: If Stacie Manuel had it her way, she would be back to flirting with 14 feet in the pole vault, but following a series of injuries that just allowed her to return to action Manuel cleared just 12-11.5. While the mark is good, it is not nearly the impression that Manuel wishes to make on her road to becoming a all-American again.
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.
Joining Manuel at the Top: Sophomore Jodi Driggers and freshman Danielle O’Reilly joined their teammate Stacie Manuel at the top of the SEC charts last weekend when they each posted their first NCAA qualifiers and cleared 12-11.5. The Arkansas trio at the top of the pole vault chart is joined by freshman Stephanie Irwin who ranks tied for ninth.
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.
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