Continued Improvement: The Lady Razorbacks began the year with lots of questions the biggest being how would a young team deal with the pressures of track in the Southeastern Conference. So far the answer has been pretty well. Arkansas has continued to show improvement in each of their first three competitions heading into the Powered by Tyson Invitational and could shock some people as the year progresses.
New York Summary: Arkansas broke a pair of school records, won a Millrose Games championship, qualified six marks for the NCAA Championships and had several breakthroughs at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational and Millrose Games in New York City last weekend. Brandy Blackwood broke the UA weight throw record with a monster toss of 65 feet, 11 inches while the distance medley relay team of two freshmen and two seniors dropped the Arkansas record by two seconds when they ran 11:09.09. Kasia Williams was the Millrose Games victor in the 60-meter hurdles.
Third Place: The New Balance Collegiate Invitational was a scored meet for the Lady Razorbacks and despite not running all of its runners in their primary events they still managed to finish third in the competition behind second-ranked LSU and seventh-ranked South Carolina but ahead of the likes of third-ranked Stanford.
The Powered by Tyson Invitational: For the sixth year, the University of Arkansas in conjunction with Tyson Foods, Inc. is proud to present the Powered by Tyson Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center. The opening meet for the Randal Tyson Track Center in February of 2000, the atmosphere has always been electric especially with the addition of USA Track & Field’s Visa Championship series in 2001. Numerous World bests and track records have fallen over the years at the Tyson meet making it one of the necessary stops for teams looking to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
The Visa Championships Series: For the fifth time, Arkansas and USA Track & Field are working in conjunction to bring the best athletes in the world to Fayetteville, Arkansas to compete. Scheduled to make appearances at the Friday night built for television schedule include former Lady’Back and two-time gold medalist Veronica Campbell, bronze medalists Lauryn Williams and Melissa Morrison-Howard and a host of others.
Welcome Back: The University of Arkansas welcomes two-time gold medalist Veronica Campbell and four-time pole vault all-American April Steiner back to Fayetteville to compete in the Visa Championship Series.
Last Season at the Tyson Invite: It was a record setting weekend for the Lady Razorbacks at the 2004 Tyson Invitational. Veronica Campbell broke the UA marks in the 60 and 200-meter dashes while assisting on Arkansas’ record-setting 4×400-meter relay. Numerous athletes qualified for the NCAA Championships at the meet as well, but perhaps the best race was Campbell’s 200 meters where she ran the world’s fastest time (to that point) at 22.51.
The Tyson Schedule: The schedule for the Tyson Invitational has flip-flopped from year’s past as the professional athletes take the stage on Friday night while the collegiates make their mark on Saturday. Set to begin at 7:00 p.m. on Friday the Powered by Tyson Invitational schedule calls for a made-for-TV spectacle that will encompass just two hours. Saturday’s action will last all day beginning at 9:00 a.m. and running through 10:00 p.m.
Seeded and Un-Seeded: Some of the events on Saturday, Feb. 12, will take just the top 15 entries in what will be designated the seeded section of those events. The remainder of the field competes in the un-seeded sections which typically take place earlier in the day.
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 five.
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||N/A|
|Week Two||Not Ranked||N/A||N/A|
|Week Three||Not Ranked||5th, 54.73||N/A|
|Week Four||Not Ranked||N/A||N/A|
|Week Five||Not Ranked||N/A||5th, 282.69|
The Power Rankings: Not only are the Lady Razorbacks looked upon favorably by Trackshark.com, but also by the power rankings administered by the US Track Coaches Association. In those rankings, which take the top two performers in each event for a particular team, Arkansas ranks fifth in the nation behind Nebraska, Arizona, Pittsburgh and Penn State. Big scorers in the rankings for the Lady Razorbacks include the distance medley relay, Brandy Blackwood in the weight throw, Stacie Manuel in the pole vault, Aneita Denton in the 800 meters and Erica Sigmont in the mile.
Sixth Annual: The 2005 Powered by Tyson Invitational is the sixth year in which Tyson has worked with the University of Arkansas to bring the top collegiate teams in the country to Fayetteville. This is the fifth time that Arkansas and Tyson have partnered for the USATF portion of the meet.
School Records Fall: Two school records fell at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational last weekend starting with Brandy Blackwood’s weight throw and concluding with the distance medley relay. The records were the first to be broken in 2005 and topped records that had been set in 2002 and 2003, respectively.
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.
Now One and Three: As is the case with any event, the good ones always seem to implant themselves among the top five in Arkansas history and Brandy Blackwood is no exception. The Miami, Fla., native now holds the first and third best weight throws in Arkansas history with three major competitions to go. She could hold the top five marks by the time her season is over.
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 then 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.
Fourth and 10th: With the Arkansas school record, one would think that Brandy Blackwood would be among the best in the nation at the event as she is, but perhaps not as high as some would think. Blackwood’s toss of 65-11 ranks fourth among Southeastern Conference throwers and 10th against the whole country.
Competing at the Tyson: A few Lady Razorbacks get to pull double duty this weekend at the Tyson Invitational, but for the most part many Arkansas athletes are competing in a single event. The big exception to the rule is Beyonka McDowell who gets to compete in four events at the Tyson. Lakeisha Martin is a three-event competitor while two-event athletes are Whitney Anderson, Tominque Boatright, Paige Farrell, Erica Sigmont and Kasia Williams
The Distance Medley Relay: Arkansas was seeking a qualifier for the NCAA Championships with a team of two seniors and two freshmen, what they got was a school record and a near automatic qualifier, missing the mark by 0.09 seconds. With Aneita Denton running her first 1,200-meter race, freshmen Tominque Boatright and Paige Farrell running the middle two legs and seasoned veteran Erica Sigmont anchoring the team, Arkansas posted a fabulous mark.
The Legs: On Arkansas’ record-setting distance medley relay, the Lady’Backs were hoping to get splits of 3:24, 55, 2:10 and 4:48. Instead, Aneita Denton led off with a time of 3:22. Tominque Boatright came back with a split of 54 in the 400 followed by Paige Farrell’s 2:07 in the 800. Erica Sigmont anchored the relay with a time of 4:44 to complete the record.
Arkansas’ Relay: The Lady Razorbacks’ distance medley relay stacks up well against the nation as it ranks third in the country heading into a big weekend of competition. Tops in the SEC, the Lady Razorbacks should be among the national leaders for the rest of the season.
Arkansas Athletes Against the Nation: The Lady Razorbacks so far stack up favorably against the rest of the NCAA when it comes to qualifiers. Of the Lady’Back’s 11 NCAA qualifiers, all but one would be a lock to compete at the national championships were it held today. Of the 10 times and marks remaining, four would be of scoring quality if all things remained the same.
Sigmont Returning to Form: In 2003, Erica Sigmont was a force to be reckoned with at the NCAA meets in the mile indoors and 1,500 meters outdoors taking all-America honors in both races. After a year that was riddled with injuries, Sigmont has returned for her swan song and looked as good as she did two years ago. Running a near career best 4:44 at the New Balance Collegaite Invite, Sigmont was just off a top five mark in UA history.
The Lady Razorbacks in the SEC: Arkansas is well represented among the Southeastern Conference’s top 10 lists with athletes in 13 different events. Leading the league in the 5,000, distance medley relay and pole vault, Arkansas appears that it could challenge for a top three finish at the conference championship if they can continue to improve over the next two weeks.
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.
Fourth Fastest: She was fifth and after outstanding runs at the Razorback Invitational and Millrose Games, Kasia Williams is now fourth and fifth 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 8.27 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.
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, four members of its squad and a relay are listed. On the list are Aneita Denton in the 800 meters, Erica Sigmont in the mile, Kasia Williams in the 60-meter hurdles and Stacie Manuel in the pole vault. The Lady Razorback distance medley relay is the highest ranked of five marks at sixth. Their total according to Trackwire at week five accounts to six points.
Rush-ing Around the Track: Senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush has continued to be one of Arkansas’ hardest working distance runners and that hard work paid dividends at the New Balance Collegiate Invite when she ran a career best 16:24.90 for 5,000 meters. Prior to the 2005 season, Rush’s career best had been 16:53 allowing her to crush her previous best by 29 seconds.
A Solid Qualifier: Alison Rush’s 5,000-meter NCAA provisional qualifier was the first indoor qualifier of her career and puts her in a solid position to run at the NCAA Championships. Sitting at 11th in the nation, Rush may have to improve by about 10 seconds to guarantee her a spot, but if the championships were held today she would be asked to participate.
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 an all-American again.
Getting Better: While it took her three competitions, Stacie Manuel finally cleared 13 feet once more when she vaulted 13-3.75 at the New Balance Collegiate Invite. The only competitor to make 12-11.5, Manuel moved the bar immediately to 13-3.75, then after that had two very good attempts at 13-5.
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.
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 Jamaica 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 fifth fastest in the NCAA this season. Not far off the number one time, Denton has already placed herself in solid position to qualify for the NCAA meet with her time.
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.
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.
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.
Sticking with the 800: Despite being a novice at the race, Arkansas’ coaches may keep Paige Farrell at the 800 meters if she continues to improve. A career best 2:17 heading into her freshman season, Farrell ran 2:10 in her first 800 meters, then split 2:07 at the New Balance Collegiate Invite.
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.
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.