A Stellar Weekend: The Lady Razorbacks looked as if they were ready to compete for the long haul this past weekend when they traveled to Austin, Texas, and took home two Texas Relays trophies for the 4×800 and distance medley relays. To go along with the two titles, five Lady Razorbacks qualified for the NCAA Regional meet and two more improved their marks to give the Lady’Backs 19 NCAA qualifiers in just three weeks.
The 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.
Two Meets: The Lady Razorbacks get to compete in a pair of meets this weekend when they head to Los Angeles, Calif., and its suburbs to take on the fields at the Mt. SAC Relays and Pomona-Pitzer Invitational. Beginning on Friday, April 15 at Mt. SAC, the Lady’Backs go to Pomona on Saturday before returning to Mt. SAC on Sunday.
The Mt. SAC Relays: The Lady Razorbacks have a long history at the Mt. SAC Relays and it begins at the top with head coach Lance Harter. Harter was inducted into the Mt. SAC Relays Hall of Fame in 2003 and has been an active participant at the meet for more than 20 years ever since he was a coach at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. With that in mind, the bulk of the Lady Razorback’s races will take place in Walnut, Calif., at Mt. San Antonio College.
Change in the Mt. SAC Schedule: Due to a change in the Mt. SAC schedule this year, the Lady Razorbacks are set to do action on both Friday and Sunday at the meet, but Saturday’s action features high school athletes. This change in schedule will allow the Lady Razorbacks to send more athletes to the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational.
Concentrating on the Distances: The Lady Razorbacks history with the Mt. SAC Relays has always been in the distance carnival where they have excelled from year to year. Arkansas’ coaching staff hopes for more of the same in 2005 when they concentrate on the distance races again. With 11 of its traveling party of 17 running in races of 1,500 meters or longer, the Lady’Backs are making a big push to qualify athletes for the NCAA regional championships in the 10,000 and 1,500 this weekend.
A 10K Bonanza: Arkansas main event on the weekend is certainly going to be the 10,000-meter run where three Lady’Backs toe the line at Mt. SAC and another at Pomona-Pitzer. Running at 9:20 p.m. on Friday for Mt. SAC and 8:30 a.m. on Saturday for Pomona, Arkansas should have a good idea of how the weekend fairs by Saturday afternoon.
The Weekend Schedule: The Lady Razorbacks will be spread around this weekend with both the Mt. SAC relays and Pomona-Pitzer Invite. Beginning at 3:25 p.m. on Friday at Mt. SAC, Arkansas athletes will compete through 9:20 p.m. pacific. Saturday’s action at Pomona-Pitzer starts at 8:30 a.m. with the 10,000 meters and goes through 5:25 p.m. with the 200 meters with long breaks in between events. Sunday starts at 10:20 a.m. with the 100-meter hurdles and runs through 3:40 p.m.
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 continues to maintain its 14 points but dropped into a tie for 17th in the rankings with Wake Forest and Washington State. Arkansas is projected to score points in the 800, 10,000 and 100 hurdles 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. While it seems like a large difference, it should be noted that Arkansas has yet to compete in several events this spring bringing their score down.
|Week One||T15th, 14 points||N/A||N/A|
|Week Two||T17th, 14 points||N/A||35th, 235.74 points|
Martin Posts a Qualifier: While Arkansas did win two Texas Relays titles, one of the most significant performances came from sophomore high jumper Michelle Martin, who qualified for the NCAA Regional meet with a high jump of 5 feet, 8.75 inches. A career best for Martin, she cleared 5-8 last spring but was unable to meet the regional qualifier.
Big Shoes to Fill: Michelle Martin follows in the footsteps of former Lady Razorback Jessica Johnson who qualified for the NCAA Championships last season in the high jump. While Martin has yet to make it to the big dance, she is on her way as her predecessor only made it as a junior and senior and Martin is just a sophomore.
Coming Up: We should note that coming up next weekend is the John McDonnell Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center. Arkansas’ lone outdoor meet, the McDonnell Invite usually brings many of the local talents from the surrounding area including several big name schools that enjoy Fayetteville. The McDonnell Invitational is scheduled for Saturday, April 23.
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 Championships of 2:01.96 could of 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.
Denton Returning to Form: After some time off after the indoor season, Aneita Denton has now returned to form and she proved it at the Texas Relays when she split 2:04 in the distance medley relay on the final day of competition. Denton ran 2:01 indoors, but what makes her 2:04 impressive is that she did it alone without anyone around her.
Arkansas in California: The Lady Razorbacks are bringing 17 athletes to California this weekend with four competing at the Pomona-Pitzer Invitational and the rest at the Mt. SAC Relays. Heavy on the distances, the Lady Razorbacks are looking to bolster on their prowess at both the NCAA Regional and Championships.
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.
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.
The Trackwire Dandy Dozen: The Trackwire Dandy Dozen is the formula by which Trackwire sets up its rankings and currently four Lady Razorbacks dot the list. Aneita Denton leads the way ranked second in the 800-meter run while Kasia Williams sits at fifth in the 100-meter hurdles. Alison Rush is seventh in the 10,000 meters and Stacie Manuel is 11th in the pole vault.
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.
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 third 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.
Now the 5K: Alison Rush will run the 5,000 meters at the Mt. SAC Relays and now that she has achieved the 10K magic line, she is going for the same in the 5K which stands at 16 minutes. Several Lady Razorbacks have accomplished the feat with the latest being Christin Wurth in 2003 when she ran 15:54.99 at the Mt. SAC Relays.
National Qualifiers: After three weeks of competition, the Lady Razorbacks have 19 NCAA automatic, provisional and regional qualifiers. An impressive list considering that after the entire 2004 season they posted 28 qualifiers and none were of the NCAA automatic standard.
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.
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 indoors.
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.
The Next Record: After setting the weight throw record indoors, Brandy Blackwood is now in search of the hammer throw record which was set by Marie LeJour in 2002. Her Texas Relays toss of 186-1 ranks fourth all-time in UA history and she needs to put another four feet on her toss to break LeJour’s mark.
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.
Four Vaulters Qualified: Following strong performances by the Lady Razorbacks at the Texas Relays, they now have four pole vaulters qualified for the NCAA Regional meet. At Texas Stacie Manuel, Jodi Driggers and Danielle O’Reilly each cleared 12-11.5 to make the standard and guarantee their spot in Bloomington in May.
Irwin Looking Good Again: Freshman pole vaulter Stephanie Irwin shocked many at the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships when she cleared 13-1 and finished fifth at the competition. The Mt. Ida, Arkansas native was back at it at the Ole Miss Invitational when she stamped her ticket to compete at the NCAA regional by clearing 12-5.5. While not her best jumping day, she still guarantees herself a spot at the regional and gets another opportunity to jump at the Texas Relays.
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.
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.
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.
Defending Outdoor Champions: The Lady Razorbacks enter the 2005 outdoor season with a target on their back as they are the defending SEC Champions. Taking the outdoor title in stunning fashion, the Lady Razorbacks hit on all cylinders to take the championship, an accomplishment that they will have to have happen again should they have a desire to repeat.