Warm weather brings qualifiers to Lady'Backs

FAYETTEVILLE – University of Arkansas head track coach Lance Harter was hoping for good weather at the John McDonnell Invitational, anticipating that his Lady Razorback team was ready to run fast. His wish came true and the Lady Razorbacks responded with 16 NCAA regional qualifiers on Saturday with 14 either improving or qualifying for the first time.

Arkansas’ successful day at John McDonnell Field brought Arkansas’ total list of athletes with NCAA marks to 30, a vast improvement from last season’s 21. Coming into the day, the Lady Razorbacks held 24 NCAA qualifying marks.

“What a day,” Harter beamed. “We could not have asked for a better day and our kids stepped up. We have not had a qualifying day like this is several years and I could see it coming with the kids training over the past couple of weeks. They have been doing some amazing things in practice, but we haven’t been able to take it to the track until today. I think that we will only improve as the season continues.”

Some of Arkansas’ best marks of the day came in the pole vault, javelin and 200-meter dash. Three qualifiers were earned in the vault; a school record was nearly set in the javelin and four 200-meter times qualified for the regional championships.

The vault contingent was led by Jodi Unger who finished second overall and first among collegiates with her season best of 13-5 ¼. Just behind their teammate were Arkansas natives Stephanie Irwin and Katie Stripling who finished third and fourth overall with identical jumps of 13-1 ½. The three Lady Razorbacks finished behind former Lady’Back and aspiring Olympian April Steiner who cleared 14-9. Perhaps the most impressive jump on the day was that of Stripling who cleared her previous personal best by seven inches and the 13-foot mark for the first time in her career.

Arkansas’ javelin throwers were led by Carly Bloomfield whose toss of 155-8 was the second-best throw in Lady Razorback history and just three feet short of the school record. Bloomfield’s mark is her third personal best in as many competitions and gives her two of Arkansas’ all-time top five throws. Peter-Gaye Beckford finished second in the competition while only taking three throws so that she could compete in other events and her toss of 153-3 also cracked Arkansas’ all-time top five and is fourth on the list.

In the 200 meters, eight Lady Razorbacks stepped on the track during the six-heat timed final and dominated the final standings placing 1-2-3-4. Jessica Cousins led the Arkansas sweep of the top spots with a career best 23.07, although wind aided. Her time would have cracked into Arkansas’ top five marks at number three had it not been assisted by the elements. Tominque Boatright finished second with a career best 23.30 followed by LaKeisha Martin, 23.47, and Sasha Rolle 23.62. Martin would also run a personal best in the 100-meter dash to finish fifth and add a new qualifying mark to Arkansas’ growing list.

After a solid 100-meter hurdle preliminary, the Lady Razorbacks got after it in the finals and notched another NCAA mark. Makeatha Cooper finished second overall and ran a career best time of 13.33. Tiavannia Thompson ran a qualifier in the preliminaries before hitting a hurdle in the finals, but sophomore Megan Thompson popped a regional mark in the finals of the race when she ran 13.88, a two-tenths improvement from her career best before Saturday.

Other Lady Razorbacks to post regional qualifiers at the John McDonnell Invitational included Dacia Barr (800), the 4×100- and the 4×400-meter relay

The Lady Razorbacks go back out on the road with split squads next weekend at the Penn Relays, Drake Relays and Cardinal Invitational. For more information about Lady Razorback track or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to LADYBACKS.COM.