SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Senior Jodi Unger completed her NCAA career in style at the 2007 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships by taking second in the pole vault in Sacramento, Calif., on Friday evening.
Unger looked strong at the opening heights, but hit a stumbling block at 13-7 ¼ as she missed the bar twice, but on her third attempt she sailed over to be one of four competitors to clear the height. On her next jump Unger would go clean once again as she jumped a career best 13-11 ¼ on her first attempt to temporarily take the event lead. Three jumps later, Arizona State’s April Kubishta would also make 13-11 on her first to reclaim the lead and put Unger in second. The two vaulters would battle at 14-3 ¼, but neither would clear the height giving Unger second place.
“What a competition,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “Jodi has improved ever year and to go out on top like this is a wonderful thing. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person. She also gets us on the scoreboard which we were hoping for, but her eight points are a bonus.”
Unger’s second-place finish is the best by a Lady Razorback pole vaulter in school history, eclipsing the third-place finish by former Lady’Back April Steiner at the 2003 NCAA Indoor Championships. Unger also earned her fourth all-America honor matching Steiner’s school record for a Lady’Back vaulter.
With Unger’s finish came eight points to the Lady Razorback cause placing them in a tie for 19th. Arizona State leads the way with 38 points followed by Southern California (27), LSU (26) and Texas Tech (23).
Joining Unger in the vault was junior Stephanie Irwin who also put together a solid day, clearing 13-3 ½ to take ninth place. Irwin also earns all-America honors for her performance, the second of her career.
In the 400 meters, it took a school record performance from junior Jessica Cousins to make the final and that is exactly what happened as she ran 51.96 in the semifinals to qualify for Saturday’s final. Cousins ran in the first heat of the competition and placed fourth in the heat to just miss one of the automatic qualifiers in the race. Forced to wait until the end of the second heat to determine her fate, Cousins was pleased to see that the second group of eight runners would run slower than the first allowing her to advance. Cousins’ school record is the third time she has set the mark this season and she becomes the first Lady’Back to ever dip under 52 seconds.
On the final day of the heptathlon, sophomore Etienne Chaplin did all she could in her quest for points and an all-America honor by setting personal best in all three events she competed in, but her final score of 5,587 points placed her 12th overall and one spot and five points away from all-America honors. Opening the second day with the long jump, Chaplin hit on her first jump by sailing to 19-6, nearly four inches better than her previous best. Her second jump came up just a centimeter short of her first, but the great effort moved Chaplin from 13th to 11th in the overall standings.
In the javelin, Chaplin waited patiently for her heat, the second of two to arrive, but didn’t let the delay interrupt her momentum as she again had a tremendous first attempt. This time however, she continued to improve with each throw ending wit a career best 120-4, more than four feet better than her previous best. In 11th place Chaplin’s day would end in the second heat of the 800-meter run where she started with hip four in a great field of half-milers. Setting herself up early, Chaplin rode the momentum of the heat around the track and finished her day with a time of 2:21.47, a two-second personal best.
The NCAA Championships conclude on Saturday afternoon with a live television broadcast on CBS between noon and 2:00 p.m. central time. Two Lady Razorbacks are scheduled to be on the air with Dacia Barr competing in the 1,500 and 400-meter run. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to LADYBACKS.COM.