Sigmont, Denton, Williams Advance For Lady'Backs

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Erica Sigmont was happy to be randomly drawn into the same preliminary heat with Arkansas teammate Aneita Denton in the women's 800 meters of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Wednesday.

"I was telling Aneita that this felt just like a practice," Sigmont said after placing second in the heat and advancing to today's semifinal round. "We just stayed relaxed and tried to qualify."

Denton, the NCAA Indoor champion, settled for third place in her heat in 2:05.73 for the 10th best qualifying time. Sigmont was sixth overall in 2:05.29.

"That was perfect," said Arkansas women's coach Lance Harter. "Both Erica and Aneita ran a good, steady pace and advanced."

Kasia Williams, a UA senior from Jamaica like Denton, went her teammates one better by advancing through two stages of the 100-meter hurdles to Saturday's finals.

Williams thus should become the second sprint hurdler in Lady Razorbacks history to make All-America, joining Kyla Shoemake who earned her honors in 2005.

"I'm just happy to be in the finals," Williams said. "I was so nervous that I was going to fall. The track was so wet and the hurdles were slippery. I hit one of them -- I don't know which one."

Williams ran a 13.21 in the preliminary round for second place in her heat behind Virginia Powell of Southern Cal (12.95), then clocked a careful 13.23 for seventh place in the semifinals while Powell was winning in her lifetime best of 12.73 despite a headwind.

Williams seemed surprised upon hearing that Powell had said the track was in good condition.

"I liked it," Powell said. "I don't even think about anything when I'm running. Now I've got a whole day to regroup."

The finals of the 100-meter hurdles are scheduled for Friday night.

"I'm very excited about it," Williams said. "This is what I came here for -- to get to the finals and score for my team. Now that I'm in the finals, it's time to get down and dirty."

Harter said Wednesday's cool if wet conditions were actually good for the distance runners.

Maureen Scott of Arkansas, however, just missed advancing in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. She clocked 10:17.70 for 15th place, and 14 runners made it to the finals.

Harter said Laura Jakosky of the Lady'Backs was a long shot in the late-evening 5,000-meter semifinals, but said she had a chance to reach the finals if she ran well.

Harter had felt confident that Denton, Sigmont and Williams would all qualify, but he said, "There's always a concern when you get to this level. A stumble here or a hesitation there can knock you out of it."

Sigmont, who missed the finals of the 1,500 meters two years ago, said, "This time our race was nice and steady the whole way. I was a bit cold in warmup, but I was fine during the race."

Unlucky in 2003, Sigmont said, "People were running 4:15s in the heat that year in the 1,500. That time will probably win the final this year. I had a bitter taste about Sacramento after that, but the 800 race tonight brings some perspective to this place."

Denton, like Sigmont, was happy to have her teammate in her heat.

"Because we train together so much, we were used to it," Denton said. "We wanted to stay as close to each other as possible during the race. Erica made a big move on the final curve, but there was no need for me to go with her.I just wanted to make sure we got the automatic advance."

Denton said she did not know heat winner Maggie Vessey of Cal Poly, but said, "I think she ran close to her personal record. I'm just taking these races one step at a time."

Denton has run as fast as 2:01.96 indoors.

Marshevet Hooker of Texas, a sophomore sensation, qualified fastest in the women's 100-meter dash in 11.33.

In the 400 meters, freshman Natasha Hastings of South Carolina qualified first in 52.75.

Tianna Madison, a Tennessee sophomore, led the women's long jump prelims with a mark of 22 feet, one-quarter inch.

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