Arkansas Can't Hold Lead At Penn

PHILADELPHIA -- Holding a lead on the 1,600-meter anchor leg of the distance medley relay is tough enough.

Try being a freshman and carrying three All-Americans on your back.

That was the pickle Arkansas freshman Dacia Barr found herself in Friday at the 111th Penn Relays at Franklin Field after taking the baton following Aneita Denton's 800-meter leg.

Barr held the lead into the wind for nearly 1,200 meters while Duke anchor and 2005 NCAA indoor mile runner-up Shannon Rowbury sat on her heels and drafted like a NASCAR driver.

Looking more likely to be blown away than break the breeze, the wispy thin Barr ran courageously, unwilling to give back the lead her teammates had worked to give her even while she knew she was being set up by some savvy veterans on her tail.

The slowed pace allowed North Carolina's Erin Donohue – fourth in the NCAA indoor mile -- and Villanova's six-time All-American Marina Muncan back into the race after their respective teams had trailed by six and seven seconds entering the final leg.

Rowbury finally, mercifully, took the lead from Barr with 450 meters to go, pulling Donohue and Muncan along and leading Duke to the win in 11:10.14 to North Carolina's 11:11.48.

Villanova was third in 11:12.76 and Arkansas' team of Erica Sigmont, Springdale native Paige Farrell, Denton and Barr was fourth in 11:19.48.

"Dacia is just a freshman and she was able to hang with them for as long as she did," fellow freshman Farrell said. "It's a good sign for her in the next four years."

Seeded sixth, the Lady'Backs effort was a far better finish than last year when the Lady'Backs took ninth in the DMR and it was an improvement from the same group's eighth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships last month.

Arkansas knocked off Stanford, Georgetown and Tennessee on Thursday, three teams who finished ahead of the Lady'Backs at the NCAA indoor.

"Poor Dacia," said a sympathetic Lady'Backs coach Lance Harter. ‘Holding off a 4:35, a 4:36 and a 4:38 miler. That took a lot out of her.

"They used her like a donkey. They really did."

Harter moved the senior and Southeastern Conference indoor mile champion Sigmont from anchor to the leadoff 1,200-meter leg hoping she, Farrell and his NCAA 800 champion Denton would build a lead big enough for Barr to hold.

The plan worked flawlessly until just near the end of Denton's leg.

Sigmont battled the wind for three laps and passed the baton to Farrell in first place.

"Once I was in the lead, I was like, ‘Ahh, I don't want the lead. I want to sit behind someone and get the wind blocked,'" Sigmont said. "It started off slow because no one wanted to take it, but I had to get us in good position.

"(Barr) knew there were some top milers on her. I felt sorry for her."

Farrell, part of the same foursome that won the DMR and the 4x800 at the Texas Relays earlier this month, blew away Duke's quarter-miler on the 400 leg with a 54.0 split to Lindsey Owen's 56.1.

Farrell widened the lead to more than 10 meters for Denton, who opened up the spread as large as 30 meters on her opening leg before she faltered in the final 150 meters and allowed the Blue Devils 800-leg Lauren Matic to reduce the margin to nil entering the anchor leg.

"We said we had to get (Barr) the biggest lead we possibly could," Harter said. "We wanted Aneita to put us where we were untouchable, but unfortunately she wasn't out of contact.

"(Barr) became the perfect victim."

The Lady'Backs had another highlight Thursday when junior Stacie Manuel cleared a season-best 13 feet, 5.5 inches in the pole vault.

Manuel was the defending champion but came in second to Kansas' NCAA champion Amy Linnen, who cleared 13-10.

Arkansas freshman Danielle O'Reilly tied teammate Jodi Driggers for fifth at 12-3.5.

Today at Penn, Arkansas' men will run the 4x100 and 4x200 preliminaries at 11:25 a.m. and 12:40 p.m., respectively, with the group of Omar Brown, Tyson Gay, Michael Grant and Wallace Spearmon Jr.

The women will field a team in the 4x1,500 of long distance specialists Jessie Gordon, Penny Splichal, Maureen Scott and Alison Zeiner-Rush.

The No. 1 Razorbacks will try to win their second straight distance medley relay and 16th overall with Adam Perkins, Terry Gatson, James Hatch and Said Ahmed at 2:45 p.m.

Meanwhile, the Lady'Back foursome will leave Philadelphia today at 6 a.m. and head to Des Moines, Iowa, for the Drake Relays.

Farrell and Denton will make the cross country trek to run in the 4x400-meter prelims tonight and will join Barr and Sigmont on Saturday to challenge Michigan for the 4x800-meter relay title.

"Michigan thinks they have the best 4x8 in the United States, so we want to get a shot at them," Harter said. "We think if we have everybody in position, it will be close."

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