At the Tyson Invitational: The Lady Razorbacks looked like a team ready to compete at the 2005 Tyson Invitational as they set two school records qualified a pair more and had most of its lineup primed and ready. Senior Aneita Denton took the collegiate 800-meter lead when she ran 2:03.91, also setting the UA record, while Brandy Blackwood continued to move up the national weight throw charts with a school record toss of 66-2.5. The best part about the Tyson was watching Arkansas’ athletes compete against most of the best athletes in the nation and hold their own.
The SEC Championships: Perhaps the best collegiate track and field competition in the country, the Southeastern Conference Championships has long been known for its times and marks that qualify for the NCAA Championships and for the fierce competitiveness for the conference title. Last season Florida swept the men’s and women’s titles at the University of Kentucky, but 2005 should introduce several other squads to the championship title picture.
A Blip on the Radar: Arkansas’ participation at the 2004 SEC Championships was marred by illness and injury and because of that the Lady Razorbacks finished sixth overall. The finish was somewhat of an anomaly as Arkansas has been among the top four in the league every season since 1998 and over that time finished out of the top two only once.
Last Year at the SEC Championships: For the Lady Razorbacks the 2004 SEC Championships was all about Veronica Campbell. The eventual two-time Olympic Gold Medalist was Arkansas’ star as she won the 200 meters and finished second in the 60. In the 200, Campbell crushed the SEC Championship record of former LSU star Dawn Sowell by two-tenths of a second when she ran 22.67. Arkansas’ pole vaulters were no slouches at the SEC meet as they claimed two of the top four spots in the competition led by Jennifer Lincoln’s second-place finish.
2004 SEC Championship ResultsFeb. 27-29 • Nutter Fieldhouse • Lexington, Ky.
Three of the Past Five: To say that Arkansas has had some success over the past several years in Southeastern Conference Championship action would be an understatement. The Lady Razorbacks have won three of the past five SEC Indoor Championship titles after claiming their first in the winter of 2000. Arkansas won back-to-back titles with the 2001 championship, and then took the 2003 crown in Gainesville, Fla.
The SEC Schedule: Contested over three days, the SEC Championships schedule begins with a light day of combined event competition on Friday, February 25 before the true wars of the SEC Championships kick off on Saturday. While only five of the 17 event finals will be contested on the first two days, Saturday’s competition is imperative to any team seeking the conference crown as it sets up the finals of six of the remaining 12 events.
Last Time in Fayetteville: The SEC Championships were last held in Fayetteville during the 2002 season where a tough Lady Razorback squad led by Commissioner’s Trophy winner Andreina Byrd fought valiantly in an effort to claim an unprecedented third consecutive SEC title but came up just short to Florida. Byrd won titles in the 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs to help Arkansas to 139 points but the effort came up just short to the Gators 147 a conference record in the current scoring system.
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. Week six saw Arkansas make its Trackwire debut with a18th-place showing and 11 points projected.
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 fourth in 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|
|Week Six||T18th, 11||4th, 56.00||5th, 288.91|
|Week Seven||T21st, 10||N/A||6th, 288.91|
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 sixth in the nation behind Nebraska, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Florida and Arizona 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.
Tops in the Nation: Senior Aneita Denton had a great run at the Tyson Invitational and her time of 2:03.91 in the 800 meters is the best in the nation at this time. Denton’s mark was not really a fluke considering she had run 2:05 just two weeks earlier, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise.
The UA Record: Aneita Denton’s time of 2:03.91 in the 800 meters broke the oldest Arkansas indoor school record. The mark had been held by former Lady’Back and 2004 Olympian Nicole Teter when she ran 2:04.58 during the 1992 season in Indianapolis, Ind.
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.
National Qualifiers: With just three weeks to go before the NCAA Championships, Arkansas looks to be stacked up well on the national descending order list. Holding one automatic and 12 provisional qualifiers, the Lady’Backs are poised to send six times or marks to the championships were it held today and have another two on the bubble. Leading the way is Aneita Denton with her automatic mark in the 800 followed by the sixth-ranked distance medley relay and 10th-ranked Kasia Williams in the hurdles.
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.
Now One, Two and Four: 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, second and fourth best weight throws in Arkansas history with two major competitions to go. When all is said and done, she could move former record holder Marie LeJour from the top five positions to fifth only.
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 12th: With the Arkansas school record, one would think that Brandy Blackwood would be among the best in the nation at the event and she is, but perhaps not as high as some would think. Blackwood’s toss of 66-2.5 ranks fourth among Southeastern Conference throwers and 12th against the whole country.
Conference Prospects: The Lady Razorbacks stack up favorably against the rest of the Southeastern Conference when you compare their marks to the rest of the league. Taking marks straight from the conference rankings, Arkansas has the potential to score 130 points which almost always wins, but that’s why they compete. It is unlikely that Arkansas will score 130 points and very likely that others will step up their games.
Number Two: Tominque Boatright came to Arkansas as a 100-200-meter sprinter but could see long term potential in the 400 meters. Running just her second open 400 meters, Boatright clocked a time of 53.60 which stands as the second fastest in UA history. A true freshman, Boatright’s time was just 0.12 seconds off the school record of 53.48 set by former Lady’Back Adwoa Gyasi-Nimako in 2002.
A Valuable Relay Leg: Tominque Boatright has been used extensively on the Lady Razorback’s relay teams, both the 4×400 and distance medley. In the DMR, Boatright was a major part of Arkansas’ school record time of 11:09.09 as she tackled the 400-meter leg of the race. As a part of Arkansas’ 4×400 relay, Boatright has run mainly the second leg, but did anchor one time.
Conference Leaders: An athlete’s time or mark during the course of the season rarely has anything to do with how they finish at the conference meet, but for the Lady Razorbacks it is interesting to point out that they are the top competitor in five events heading into the conference championships. Arkansas leaders include Aneita Denton in the 800, Alison Rush in both the 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs, the distance medley relay and Stacie Manuel in the pole vault.
A Return to Distance Prominence: The Lady Razorbacks have always lived and died by the distance races and 2005 will be no different. Arkansas is counting on big points in the 800, mile, 3,000 and 5,000-meter runs and leading that charge could be senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush. The fifth-year runner for the Lady Razorbacks is leading the conference in both events and has a chance to bring Arkansas back to the pinnacle of the conference in the distance events.
Rush-ing Around the Track: Alison 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.
Arkansas’ Distance Legacy: For a time the Lady Razorbacks were nearly unbeatable at the SEC Championships in the distance races as they took title after title, especially in the 5,000 meters. Since 1998, Arkansas athletes have taken 15 conference crowns in the mile, 3,000 and 5,000 meters as opposed to six by the rest of the league.
Arkansas’ Best Event: Looking at the past seven years, one would think that with six titles that the 3,000-meter run would be Arkansas’ best event. Taking a look even further back though, one notices that it is in fact the 5,000-meter run that has given Arkansas the most hardware. In 18 years of SEC Championship action, Arkansas athletes have won 11 individual titles, pretty good considering that Arkansas was not even a part of the league for the first five championships. Since joining the SEC Arkansas has taken 11 of 13 5,000-meter championships.
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 making up the team list. For Arkansas, five members or relays 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 Brandy Blackwood in the weight throw. The Lady Razorback distance medley relay is also on the list at sixth. Their total according to Trackwire at week seven accounts to 10 points.
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.
Returning 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 has returned in 2005 in an attempt to become the first SEC athlete to win two indoor conference pole vault crowns. Manuel is currently ranked number one in the league.
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.
SEC Career Scoring: Arkansas has won three SEC indoor titles and scored a lot of points in its years as a member of the SEC. A compiled list of those points show that there have been some who have been very successful in Tracy Robertson, Lilli Kleinmann, Amy Yoder Begley and Christin Wurth. While no current Lady Razorbacks dot the Arkansas top 10 list, Penny Splichal is on the outside looking in at 11th with 25 career points. She is 4.5 points behind former Lady’Back Trine Pilskog,.
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 Collegiate Invite, Sigmont was just off a top five mark in UA history.
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 sixth 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.