Unger Cousins win regional titles Arkansas second

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Senior Jodi Unger and junior Jessica Cousins each won NCAA Mideast Regional titles on Saturday to pace the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback track team to a second-place finish at the meet on Saturday in Columbia, Mo.

The pair is two of 10 Lady Razorbacks who earned their way to the NCAA Championships at the meet and took Arkansas’s fourth and fifth regional titles in the event’s five-year history. Unger’s pole vault championship is Arkansas’s second in the event (April Steiner, 2003) and Cousins’ 400-meter title is a first by a Lady Razorback.

“I’ve said from the beginning that this meet is the gateway to the NCAA Championships and to get as many people qualified as we did is great,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “Our 400-meter runners were outstanding and I am extremely proud of all our athletes. This is going to be one of the largest groups we have ever taken to the national championship so I can’t ask for much more.”

Arkansas’s 400-meter dash was certainly an entertaining event for those faithful to the Lady Razorbacks. Cousins and teammate Tominque Boatright each got off to solid starts with Cousins setting up in the lead early on. As the group moved into the third turn, it appeared that Cousins was the one to beat and Boatright was in the middle of pack. Down the home stretch, Cousins increased her advantage and the Missouri crowd cheered as Boatright made up loads of ground on the field and crossed the finish in second place. The 1-2 finish by the Lady Razorbacks was also a first and the 18 points were key to Arkansas’s final team finish.

The pole vault competition was interrupted by the severe weather in the area for more than an hour, but the delay didn’t seem to bother the Lady’Backs. Joining Unger on the runway were teammates Stephanie Irwin and Katie Stripling and the threesome placed 1-3-8 in the event to snare an additional 17 points to Arkansas’s cause. Unger would clear 13-3 ¾ to take the event win on misses over LSU’s Katelyn Rodrigue. Irwin and Stripling would each sail over 12-11 ¾, but the difference in placing also came down to misses. Irwin made every bar on her first attempt including her ending height while Stripling had two misses.

In the 1,500-meter run, junior Dacia Barr appeared to be in cruise control once again as she motored around the track. Staying with the leaders but not taking the lead for the second straight day, Barr and the field came through the 800-meter mark at 2:17, but rather than go as she did at the conference championship final, Barr sat and waited until 350 meters to go before making a bold move. Behind two Tennessee runners and one from Michigan, Barr would shoot down the homestretch and easily pass the Lady Volunteers. Waiting just too long to make her final move, Barr would finish second to Michigan’s Nicole Edwards by five-hundredths of a second.

The Lady Razorback 4×400-meter relay also earned a spot at the NCAA Championships when they placed third in their race. The quartet of Sasha Rolle, Boatright, Paige Farrell and Cousins ran a splendid race with Boatright and Cousins riding the momentum of their 400-meter final to the tune of 52-second splits. The Lady’Backs entered the break point in fifth position but Boatirght moved all the way to second by the handoff thanks to a great backstretch. Cousins anchored the squad to third.

Arkansas’s day began with the 4×100-meter relay and despite using two alternates on the team that entered the final with the third best time, the Lady Razorbacks placed sixth with the team of LaKeisha Martin, Peter-Gaye Beckford, Courtenay Brown and Rolle. With a great time earlier this season, Arkansas holds the third fastest at-large time for the NCAA Championships and could be a participant.

Overall, the Lady Razorbacks are guaranteed 10 participants at the NCAA Championships with another nine on the bubble and at the discretion of the NCAA Track and Field Committee who meets next week to determine the final list of qualifiers. That announcement is scheduled for Tuesday, May 29.

The Lady Razorbacks conclude their season in two weeks at the NCAA Championships in Sacramento, Calif. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to LADYBACKS.COM.