On This Day: Tina Sutej Wins SEC Title, Breaks Collegiate Record
Winning an individual title in the SEC Championships is special on its own. When you establish a collegiate record in the process, the achievement becomes euphoric.
Razorback junior pole vaulter Tina Sutej accomplished that mission on May 14 at the 2011 SEC Championships held in Athens, Georgia, as she cleared a lofty height of 15-1 ½ (4.61) to break the collegiate record of 15-1 (4.60) set in 2006 by UCLA’s Chelsea Johnson.
Adding another milestone to the achievement was improving the Slovenian national record. It marked the third time she had accomplished the feat during the 2011 outdoor season.
Having already deposed of the SEC opposition, with LSU’s Rachel Laurent and Neal Tisher of Mississippi both making 13-9 ¾ (4.21) and missing 14-1 ¾ (4.31), Sutej cleared 14-7 ½ (4.46) before raising the bar to the record-setting height.
She promptly cleared it on her first attempt.
“I just felt great coming into this meet,” Sutej said in an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article. “I was a little bit nervous at the beginning, but everything was fine. The weather was great. I felt great, and I was just ready to jump high. I’m so happy right now.”
Sutej was equally pleased to supply an expected 10 points from her performance towards the team score.
“That’s what they expected from me, and that’s what I expected from myself,” Sutej stated. “So, I’m happy that I did it.”
Arkansas assistant coach Bryan Compton praised the work Sutej had put in to make the record a reality.
“It’s a national record, so nobody’s done that before,” Compton noted in the article. “She’s a special kid. She prepares every day and takes care of herself with the training program, the weight room and conditioning. She’s a special one. They don’t come around too often.”
The 2011 season became a special one for Sutej, garnering the status as a finalist for the Bowerman award.
Starting with an indoor season in which she was selected as Track & Field News women’s indoor Collegiate Athlete of the Year, Sutej broke the indoor collegiate record with a clearance of 14-10 ¾ (4.54) to win the SEC Indoor title.
Sutej earned SEC Indoor Field Athlete of the Year honors in 2011 and 2012 and claimed the 2011 SEC Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year award.
During 2011, Sutej went undefeated throughout the season until a silver-medal finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, where she cleared the winning height and placed second on misses.
Over the course of the 2011 and 2012 indoor seasons, Sutej won 13 consecutive meets and became the first Razorback in the women’s program to claim a pair of NCAA Indoor titles.
A five-time All-American, with two NCAA Indoor victories and a pair of NCAA Outdoor silver medals, Sutej claimed seven medals among her eight SEC Championship appearances. She collected five gold, a silver and a bronze.
Sutej’s total included three gold medals at SEC Indoor (2010, 2011, 2012) after a bronze in her freshman season (2009). At SEC Outdoor, she claimed gold twice (2010, 2011) and silver (2012).
Later in the 2011 season, Sutej earned a silver medal at the World University Games.
Sutej represented her native Slovenia in two Olympic Games (2012, 2016), placing 11th in Rio de Janeiro. She has also competed in five World Championships and eight European Championships, competing indoors and outdoors in each competition.
During the 2019 outdoor season, Sutej equaled her national record of 15-1 ½ (4.61) that she first set in 2011 and improved it to three times to 15-6 ¼ (4.73). In 2020, Sutej improved her indoor national record to 15-6 ½ (4.74).