Lady'Backs Look To Add Regional Qualifier

FAYETTEVILLE -- One week before scattering to the Penn Relays and Drake Relays, the Arkansas women's track team will use today's John McDonnell Invitational to tune up and perhaps add another qualifier for the NCAA Regionals next month.

The No. 17 Lady Razorbacks already have 24 qualifying performances in 11 events for regional and national competition.

"That's one of our largest contingents," said UA coach Lance Harter. "It's a tribute to our 'babies,' and how our veterans have nurtured the young ones along."

Senior Aneita Denton, the NCAA indoor champion at 800 meters, showed the way last week at the Mt. SAC Relays by running 2:03.94 -- third best in the world this year.

"Aneita is blessed with incredible talent," Harter said. "This week, she'll run the 1,500 meters to break the monotony."

Arkansas senior Erica Sigmont has already run the 13th best collegiate time in the 1,500 -- 4:23.04 at Mt. SAC, where fellow seniors Laura Jakosky, Beyonka McDowell, Alison Rush, Penny Splichal and Kasia Williams also performed well.

Williams has the fifth fastest NCAA 100-meter hurdles time of 13.13 and is projected to score at the NCAA Outdoor Meet in Sacramento, Calif., along with Denton and Rush.

Rush has the seventh fastest 10,000-meter time of 33:44.36.

Arkansas has qualified four pole vaulters: Stacie Manuel, Jodi Driggers and Danielle O'Reilly at 12-11.5 each and Stephanie Irwin at 12-5.5.

All four will be in today's competition starting at 3 p.m.

Last year, rain and cold at the McDonnell meet drove the vaulters indoors, where Manuel cleared 14 feet. The mark didn't count as an outdoor standard, but was impressive nonetheless.

Two weeks ago at the Texas Relays, the UA quartet of Dacia Barr, Denton, Paige Farrell and Sigmont won both the distance medley and 4 x 800 relays -- just the second and third relay titles ever by the Lady'Backs there.

"That's the best time I've ever had in Austin, Texas," Harter said.

Arkansas sophomore Michelle Martin added a career-best 5-8.75 in the high jump at Austin.

Beyonka McDowell, a multiple-event specialist, has long-jumped 20-5.75 this season for Arkansas, and last week she turned in a 13.64 in the 100-meter hurdles.

Women's running-event finals begin at 5 p.m. today.

"We've tried to schedule it where the wind helps some events and doesn't hurt others," Harter said. "It usually blows the most from about noon to 5 p.m. this time of year in Fayetteville. We'll have the 800 at 5:40, the 3,000 at 6 and the 1,500 at 7:10. We've addressed strength and speed this week."

Harter would still like to qualify Jessie Gordon in the 5,000 meters and Tiffany Redlarczyk in the steeplechase at Penn. Whitney Anderson, a versatile freshman sprinter from Russellville, is also a potential qualifier.

Arkansas has announced three new signees this week, and should add more.

"Notre Dame will have the best women's recruiting class, but we could be in the top three or four," Harter said.

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