Lady'Backs Take Second Texas Relays Title

AUSTIN, Texas -- Arkansas tripled up with four of a kind at the Texas Relays.

The No. 15 Lady'Backs entered the 78th Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays with just one team title to their credit -- the distance medley relay in 2000 -- but left Saturday with their second of the weekend.

Seniors Erica Sigmont and Aneita Denton and freshmen Dacia Barr and Paige Farrell of Springdale, who teamed to take the 4x800-meter relay on Thursday, romped to an easy win in the distance medley in 11:23.73 before a meet record 22,500 in Mike A. Myers Stadium to cap Arkansas' best showing at Austin in April.

Oklahoma was second, nearly nine seconds behind in 11:32.47.

"It feels awesome," Sigmont said. "It's my senior year and we've finally done it and we did it twice. I feel good."

The Lady'Backs added three NCAA Mideast Regional qualifiers in the pole vault Saturday and senior Kasia Williams ran a wind-legal and personal best 13.13 to take third in a record-quick 100-meter hurdles.

Jodi Driggers, Danielle O'Reilly and Stacie Manuel all cleared 12 feet, 11.5 inches in the pole vault to match the standard and Lady'Backs freshman Stephanie Irwin of Mt. Ida did not make a height, but she is already qualified for the regional.

If not for an untimely hamstring injury to freshman Tomanique Boatright on Friday night in the sprint medley, the Lady'Backs might not have run the DMR on Saturday.

But Boatright pulled up before handing off to Farrell, leaving the All-American frosh and NCAA indoor 800 champion Denton -- who would have run the anchor -- with fresh legs.

Sigmont, who took control of the 4x800 relay with a strong third leg, led off on the 1,200 segment Saturday and took the lead early.

She took the brunt of the headwind going down the backstretch and opened it up with the wind at her back in the final 150 meters. Sigmont widened the lead to 30 meters before handing off to Farrell, who tore through the windy backstretch and extended the lead over Oklahoma.

Denton, who ran four of the five fastest Arkansas indoor 800 times ever during indoor season, stretched the lead to more than 50 meters before passing the baton to Barr.

Barr, an All-American member of the eighth-place DMR at the NCAA indoor meet, had the easiest job of all maintaining the advantage and she cruised home unchallenged.

"These are kids that a lot of people counted out," said assistant coach Lonnie Greene. "People didn't think they'd be doing what they're doing, but they believe. They're strong and willing to do whatever we want them to do.

"I'm just so proud of them."

It was a great opening weekend for Sigmont, a three-time All-American who has been plagued by season-ending foot injuries. Sigmont has missed the end of the 2003 cross country, 2004 outdoor and 2005 indoor seasons with a variety of stress fractures and other ailments.

Even when healthy, Sigmont has not looked as strong as she did this weekend.

"I feel a lot more confident," Sigmont said. "I've done a lot more speed workouts and my turnover feels so much easier. I just feel like there's always another gear to go into. It was tough into that wind, but I think I'm stronger than everyone else."

She gave Arkansas sizable advantages each time she took the baton and appeared to have speed to burn after working with Greene.

"I love relays," Sigmont said. "We go into the event excited and it's a real fun experience. When you win as a team, it's a lot sweeter than winning as individuals."

She looked confident in taking the lead, even against strong winds on the backstretch both Thursday and Saturday.

In fact, all the Lady'Backs looked unfazed by the wind while others noticeably faltered and Harter said his group is particularly strong right now after their first "load" phase of training for the outdoor season.

Williams needed a personal best to win the 100-meter hurdles and she got that while coming in third behind Ashlee Williams of Texas, who broke the meet record with her win in 12.82. NCAA champion Priscilla Lopes was second in 12.89.

"She ran very well," Greene said. "She's consistent. The start is usually the best part of her race and she didn't have that today. But on the back end, she came back on the field. But we can correct the first five (meters) and the back end will take care of itself. I'm really proud of her.

"We're coming into this meet off a whole lot of work, so I'm really, really excited. I can't imagine when we back off what's going to happen. I just thank God 150 times over. He's good."

Greene said the reasons for Williams' improvements over last season are many.

"She's stronger," he said. "She's very efficient. She's fitter in every aspect. My goal is just to get her faster. My goal for her is to get in the NCAA final. From there, anything can happen."

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