SACRAMENTO, Calif – Senior Aneita Denton made University of Arkansas track history on Saturday night at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships when she became the first Lady Razorback to win two NCAA individual titles in the same year by virtue of her 800-meter victory in a career best and Arkansas school record 2:02.84.
The NCAA indoor champion in March, Denton entered the finals as the top seed and as the favorite and did not disappoint those in the stands as she got a rousing ovation down the home stretch. Starting in lane four, Denton got off to a modest start and placed herself in third at the break. Coming through the 400-meter mark at 60 seconds, Denton was boxed in by three runners and looked for a way out. She got her opportunity with 300 meters to go when Nebraska’s Egle Uljas pulled to the lead on the outside along with Cal Polly’s Maggie Vessey. The opening allowed Denton to charge to the front of the pack and run side-by-side with Vessey to the home stretch. With momentum, Denton pulled away from the field and crossed the finish line 10 meters ahead of her competition.
“What a race,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “Aneita definitely deserves this title and is ready to run really fast. She could have panicked when she got caught in the box, but kept her head and executed when she got the opportunity.”
Denton’s title makes her only the second Lady Razorback to win two NCAA individual championships following in the footsteps of 15-time all-American and two-time NCAA Champion Amy Yoder Begley who took the indoor 5,000-meter title in 2000 and the outdoor 10,000-meter crown in 2001. What makes Denton’s accomplishment even more staggering than Yoder Begley’s is that she won both her titles in the same competitive season. Denton’s sweep of the indoor and outdoor titles also makes her just the third woman in NCAA history to sweep both 800-meter titles and the first since two-time Olympian Hazel Clark accomplished the task in 1998. Her time of 2:02.84 also breaks her Arkansas record in the event and is the 46th fastest in the world this year.
The Lady Razorbacks also picked up a point from sophomore pole vaulter Stacie Manuel who cleared 13 feet, 5 ¼ inches for the second time in three days. Looking solid once again in her warm up, Manuel soared over the first two bars before approaching 13-1 ½. With the bar over 13 feet, Manuel came down the runway and looked good on her way up, but on the way down clipped the bar slightly, but not enough to knock it off its perch allowing her a clearance at 13-5 ¼. Manuel then had three very nice attempts at 13-9 ¼, but knocked the bar down on each attempt to place her in a three-way tie for seventh.
The Lady Razorbacks ended the NCAA Outdoor Championships with 11 points which placed them 22nd overall.
Senior Beyonka McDowell concluded her outdoor track eligibility on Saturday afternoon when she scored 5,039 points in the heptathlon for 24th in the overall standings. McDowell endured heat in the upper 80s and no cloud cover for two days as she competed in seven different events testing her speed, agility, skill and endurance. Saturday’s competition began with the long jump, one of McDowell’s stronger events. Hitting an average jump on her first attempt at 17 feet, 3 ½ inches, she struggled on her second attempt and stepped out of the leap. Needing a big jump on her third attempt, McDowell soared to 18-2 ½ to pick up 715 points.
She returned in the javelin and picked up a very nice toss in her second attempt at 99-11, but was unable to better the effort on her last throw finishing the throwing event with 485 points.
The heptathlon concluded with the 800-meter run and after a solid first 300 meters, McDowell began to fade from the lead pack. She continued to fight down the back stretch of the second lap, catching Houston’s Krystal Ward at the curve, but the effort she exerted caught up to her as she was passed at the tape. McDowell concluded the competition with a time of 2:43.40.
For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.