Unger Irwin pace Lady'Backs to four qualifiers

FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas pole vaulters Jodi Unger and Stephanie Irwin where two of a quartet of University of Arkansas Lady Razorback NCAA provisional qualifiers on the second day of the Razorback Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Center on Saturday afternoon.

The four qualifiers were just some of the impressive performances put together by Lady Razorback athletes at the meet which concluded Saturday evening.

“We are improving all over,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “We had several lifetime bests and picked up some more qualifiers. This is certainly the best day of competition that we have had so far this season.”

Unger and Irwin would mirror each others performances in the pole vault, entering the competition at the same height, 12 feet, 1 ½ inches, then clearing that height and the next two bars without a miss, including their season best mark of 13-1 ½. For Unger, the clearance is her first time over 13 feet in competition in her career, while Irwin broke the barrier for the second time indoors.

“Jodi and Stephanie looked very good,” Harter said. “Jodi was able to improve on last week’s performance and Stephanie is back to where she was last year which is very encouraging. They certainly were the catalysts for us today.”

Rounding out the Lady Razorback stranglehold on the pole vault was sophomore Danielle O’Reilly who took fourth overall with a jump of 12-1 ½. Former Lady’Back April Steiner won the competition, outdistancing the field with a world-class jump of 14-5 ¼.

The 400-meter dash saw Boatright notch her first qualifier of the year when she cruised to a time of 54.38 to finish second overall. Sneaking in just under the cut off for provisional qualification (54.40), Boatright looked very strong in her race getting off to a solid start and holding on over the final 50 meters when muscles tend to seize up in the all-out sprint.

Senior Penny Splichal continued to make her final season of track eligibility a memorable one when she easily won the 3,000-meter run in a provisional qualifying time of 9:31.57. Sitting in second through the first several laps, Splichal took the lead near the mile mark and never looked back. With 1,200 meters left in the race, Splichal had built a seven-meter lead on Brittany Brockman of Baylor and a solid 30-meter lead on the rest of the field. She would take the competitions top honor with a four-second victory.

Also competing well for the Lady’Backs in the 3K were sophomore Tiffany Redlarczyk, freshmen Denise Bargiachi and Kelly Vrshek and senior Jessie Gordon. The first three clocked personal bests in the event, while Gordon missed by seconds.

Junior transfer Tiavannia Thompson also recorded a pair of solid performances when she took second in preliminary competition, then blistered the field in the 60-meter hurdle finals. Clocking 8.59 in the latter competition, Thompson notched her career best in the event which she just began to run after never competing indoors.

Freshman Christine Kalmer rounded out Arkansas’ list of special races when she finished fourth overall in the mile in her first competition on an indoor banked track. Kalmer, a South African native, had never stepped onto an indoor 200-meter oval prior to arriving at Arkansas and despite the limited training on the smaller track, recorded a team best time of 4:57.71 in the event.

The Lady Razorback are back in action in two weeks when they compete at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York, N.Y., Feb 3-4. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.