FAYETTEVILLE – University of Arkansas senior Jodi Unger did not let the first meet of the year be an excuse on Friday night as she posted a NCAA qualifier in the pole vault at the Arkansas Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center. Unger’s mark was a near personal best in the event for the all-American, clearing 13-5 ¼ to finish second overall.
Unger was one of three Lady Razorback individuals or teams to post NCAA marks at the opening meet of the season. Joining the senior were junior pole vaulter Stephanie Irwin and Arkansas’ 4×400-meter relay team.
“It was a great opener,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “It met all of our expectations. These young ladies have been gone for four weeks and are just getting back into shape so this was a good barometer of where their training is. We picked up three NCAA qualifiers and nearly got several more in the 3,000 meters.”
Unger battled former Lady Razorback April Steiner for the meet’s top spot in the pole vault. Looking good throughout the competition despite a banged up knee suffered in practice, she passed her first three bars, then made her opening heights of 12-1 ½ and 12-7 ½ on her first attempt. She would clear 13-1 ½ on her second jump, then 13-5 ¼ on her third before ending her day at a personal best attempt of 13-9 ¼.
Irwin would match her teammate’s effort through the first two bars, clearing her final height of 13-1 ½ on her third attempt. She would take third place in the competition and be a part of a 2-3-5-8 Arkansas finish in the event. Redshirt freshman Katie Stripling and sophomore Megan Scott rounded out the Lady Razorback effort.
The Lady Razorback 4×400-meter relay ended the day with a third NCAA qualifier when they snuck under the provisional qualifier with a time of 3:39.28. With half its squad under the weather and each competing in multiple events on the day, the quartet of Sasha Rolle, Jessica Cousins, Paige Farrell and Tominque Boatright would match an experienced Texas A&M squad stride-for-stride finish just behind the all-America squad from 2006.
Rolle would lead off for the Lady Razorbacks with a 56-second split before handing to cousins who brought the Lady’Backs into first with Arkansas’ best 400-meters of the day at 54. Farrell would get passed early in her leg of the race, but hung with Texas A&M’s best runner before handing the stick to Boatright who also ran a 55-second leg.
Arkansas’ distance team showed no ill effects to their two-month break as a quartet of 3,000-meter runners nearly posted NCAA qualifiers. Sophomore Denise Bargiachi was the leader of the pack, missing on the NCAA mark by just five seconds. She was trailed by Dacia Barr, Brooke Upshaw and Miranda Walker in second, third and fifth who all posted sub-10-minute times.
The Lady Razorbacks are back in action next Friday night when they participate in the Razorback Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, visit LADYBACKS.COM.