FAYETTEVILLE – Freshman Kelly Vrshek moved up three places over the final half of the women’s 10,000-meter run at the Southeastern Conference Track and Field Championships at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville to lead a 3-7-8 finish by Arkansas’ distance team and move them to fourth place in the team standings.
From the outset, Auburn senior Angela Homan took the lead and never looked back and it appeared that Georgia’s Jill Steffens was going to be a decided second-place finisher as she opened a sizeable lead on the pack. Five Lady Razorbacks made up an eight-person pack that stayed in close proximity for the opening 3,000 meters before it began to stretch out and Vrshek established herself as the leader of the group. Running with Georgia’s Kristin Heffelfinger, the duo used each other to slowly reel in Steffens over the next 4,000 meters.
With 2,000 meters left, Vrshek passed Steffens to take second place and held the position until the final lap, when the Georgia junior found an extra gear and caught Arkansas’ freshman. Vrshek held off Heffelfinger for third overall and picked up six points in the team standings. Senior Jessie Gordon and freshman Denise Bargiachi took seventh and eighth to round out Arkansas’ scoring.
“Kelly showed tremendous courage tonight,” Arkansas head track coach Lance Harter said. “She didn’t let the fact that the Georgia girl got out in front bother her. I am very proud of the entire team today. Brandy Blackwood picked up some points in the hammer throw and Paige ran a tremendous 800.”
The hammer throw saw Blackwood throw right at her season best mark to take seventh in the overall standings. Competing in the second flight, Blackwood got her day started right with her longest throw, a 185 foot, 10 inch toss. Coming up a little shorter on her second, Blackwood fouled her next two attempts, then had another long throw on her final attempt, but came up just shy of her first throw.
In the first open competition of the weekend, sophomore Paige Farrell used her nervous energy to clock a two-second personal best in the 800-meter run. Taking the opening 200 meters out in a near personal best 26 seconds, Farrell took the lead by the second curve and pulled some of the nation’s best 800 meter runners around the track. Tennessee’s Leslie Treherne and Kentucky’s Georganne Way each made attempts to pass the Springdale, Ark., native, but without success through 600 meters as Farrell continued to lead the way.
Coming around the final curve it became evident that it was a two-person race between Farrell and Treherne. Farrell kept her opponent behind until the final straight where she was passed with just 50 meters left. Farrell’s time of 2:05.35 is well under her previous best of 2:07.17 which she ran at the Michael Johnson Invitational in late April and moves her from 19th to eighth on the national descending order list.
“Saturday is a big day for us,” Harter said. “We have a lot of people in preliminary races and the pole vault and steeplechase finals. If we can get another solid day tomorrow, I think that we could shock some people in the conference.”
Action at John McDonnell Field continues on Saturday with the women’s discus and long jump at 1:00 p.m. and runs through 9:30 p.m. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.