Denton, DMR Team Shine For Lady Razorbacks

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas' distance medley relay team of Aneita Denton, Tominque Boatright, Paige Farrell and Dacia Barr overcame adversity to finish eighth and make All-America in the women's NCAA Indoor Track Championships on Friday night. =

Denton set the quartet up nicely by passing the baton in fourth place after her leadoff 1,200-meter leg.

Boatright stepped on the rail early in her 400-meter leg, however, but maintained fifth position despite grabbing at her hamstring several times.

Farrell, a freshman from Springdale, then got Arkansas up to second place with a rousing 2:08 800-meter leg.

Barr, the Lady Razorbacks' freshman miler subbing for injured Erica Sigmont, ran a creditable 4:46 anchor leg to assure Arkansas one point in the team standings.

Michigan won in 11:08.24. Arkansas clocked 11:17.11.

"That was awesome," said UA coach Lance Harter. "Aneita set us up perfectly and then our three freshmen took it from there."

Farrell said, "Our goal was to make All-America and we did."

Earlier, Denton qualified fastest in the 800-meter run in 2:04.70, the fourth fastest UA women's time ever.

Neisha Bernard-Thomas of LSU, the reigning NCAA Outdoor 800 champion, qualified second in Denton's heat and sixth overall in 2:06.23, while pre-race favorite Nicole Cook of Tennessee limped home out of the running with a hamstring injury.

"Aneita made it look easy," Harter said. "She's scary. I think she's going to do some amazing things this year."

Farrell settled for a time of 2:11.27 and did not reach the finals in her first NCAA race.

"Paige was a little overwhelmed," Harter said. "She was a long shot to make the finals, but just to qualify in that race as a freshman is a rare thing. Then she came back strong in the DMR."

Denton entered the season with best times of 2:09.49 indoors and 2:05.55 outdoors, but she blazed to a school-record 2:01.96 at the Southeastern Conference Championships two weeks ago while finishing second to Cook.

"I've been improving a lot," Denton said. "I could see much improvement in practice, and I knew I was going to run a good time after this last week of practice. In the finals, it's going to be the best person who wins."

Kasia Williams of Arkansas ran the second fastest 60-meter hurdles time in school history but just missed qualifying for the eight-person final.

Williams, a personable senior from Brooklyn, N.Y., was ninth in 8.17 -- just off the school standard of 8.16 set by Kyla Shoemake in 1998.

"I'm happy to get a personal best, but disappointed not to make the finals," Williams said. "This will just motivate me for outdoors."

Virginia Powell of Southern Cal qualified fastest in 7.94, followed by Priscilla Lopes of Nebraska in 8.00. Yvonne Mensah of Illinois, the eighth-place qualifier, clocked 8.15. Powell won the final in 7.97, with Lopes second at 7.99.

Harter had hoped Williams could make the finals, but he said, "In that race, if you hiccup once it's over."

Williams' hiccup came on the fourth hurdle.

"I got out to a real good start, but I hit the fourth hurdle with my heel," Williams said. "If not for that, I would have made the finals. I still thought my time would be good enough, but the second heat was very fast."

Williams had the 17th fastest time in the NCAA outdoor meet last season and then tried unsuccessfully to make the Jamaican Olympic team.

Cook's injury dealt a blow to Tennessee's chances in the team competition, but Lady Vols sophomore Tianna Madison eased the sting by winning the long jump at 22-3.

Madison and two UT teammates, senior Toyin Olupona and freshman Courtney Champion, all qualified for the 60-meter dash finals. Olupona matched Fana Ashby of Auburn for the best qualifying time -- 7.24.

Tennessee finished the first day in first place with 21 points, followed by Texas with 19 and Miami with 14.

Chaunte Howard of Georgia Tech won the high jump at 6-3.50 before enthusiastic fans on Friday afternoon and narrowly missed at 6-4.50., which would have been a Randal Tyson Center record.

"This championship means a lot to me," Howard said. "It's hard to be on top. Everybody is chasing you, and it's a long fall."

Gaelle Niare of SMU chased best, but took second at 6-3.50 on misses.

Kimberli Barrett of Miami won the shot put at 59-4.75 on her last throw, besting Michelle Carter of Texas (58-7.25) and Florida senior Candice Scott (57-11).

"It was hard not to throw in the towel before my last throw," Barrett said. "You're told as an athlete to rely on your training, but it's hard to think that way. When you get in the ring you just have to focus on your physical cues and not freak out."

Lindsey Gallo of Michigan qualified fastest in the mile in 4:44.66, while Tiandra Ponteen of Florida was the quickest 400-meter qualifier in 51.62.

Five SEC athletes, including Hazelann Regis of LSU and South Carolina runners Natasha Hastings, Shevon Stoddard and Stephanie Smith, reached the 400-meter final, set for 6:55 p.m. today.

Ida Nilsson of Northern Arizona won the 5,000 meters in 15:50.20. Tremedia Brice of Texas Southern took the 200 in 22.90.

In today's events, Arkansas has qualified Beyonka McDowell in the pentathlon, Brandy Blackwood in the 20-pound weight throw, Stacie Manuel in the pole vault and Denton in the 800.

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