In the process of burning out the field with a 59.4 first lap, however, Denton perhaps inadvertently hurt the chances of senior teammate Erica Sigmont, who just missed advancing with her 11th-place time of 2:05.95.
"It's like someone said this morning, you had one great one and 15 good ones in the 800 today," said Arkansas women's coach Lance Harter. "A lot of All-Americans didn't make the final, and Erica was one of those."
Sigmont, who has a season of cross country eligibility left but will not use it because of persistent injuries, fought back tears after completing her UA career.
"I just didn't stay relaxed when they opened a gap on me," Sigmont said. "I got uptight."
Harter said, "It was more of an Aneita-type race. Aneita comes from a speed background, but she also has the strength from paying her dues on a lot of long runs. She can run different types of races and that makes her unpredictable."
Despite the quick opening lap, Denton said she felt as if she was "cruising" during the final 400 meters.
"She's just a lethal package," Harter said about the reigning NCAA Indoor champ.
Arkansas assistant coach Lonnie Greene credited Sigmont with a "great race and great senior campaign."
"Today I think she was just thinking a bit too much," Greene said. "She backed off a little in the second lap, and then was not in a position to charge to the house when she made her move on the final curve."
Both UA runners were a bit unnerved at the start of their heat, first by having to wait in place for two minutes on the track, then by a false alarm on an apparent false start.
When Mable Kunihira of Oral Roberts flinched a bit ahead of the gun in Lane 5, the starter fired his pistol twice. But after a brief discussion, no false start was assessed.
"When that girl inched forward, they said I wobbled a little, too," Sigmont said.
Denton said about the original two-minute delay, "I don't like that. It messed up my concentration."
Still, Denton said she liked Thursday's sunny weather much better than Wednesday's day-long cool mist.
"I had to sit so long before the race Wednesday, I got cold," she said.
The weather for Saturday's final is supposed to be sunny and in the 80s -- which should suit the Jamaican fine.
"I feel pretty confident about the final," Denton said. "I know I have a good chance."
Stacie Manuel of Arkansas also qualified late Thursday night, for the pole vault finals on Saturday with her clearance of 13-5 1/4.
Earlier Thursday, Arkansas junior Brandy Blackwood placed 24th among 27 competitors in the hammer throw with a sub-par best throw of 177 feet, 8 inches.
Blackwood, who has a best mark of 192-9, started with throws of 167-5 and 174-7.
"She needed to have that third throw first and then go from there," said UA field events coach Bryan Compton. "She just got a little tight coming into a big meet. She knew she was behind the eight-ball, with all these great throwers."
Jenny Dahlgren of Georgia had the best qualifying throw of 218-5.
Arkansas distance runners Maureen Scott and Laura Jakosky showed up in the early-afternoon heat to cheer Blackwood on.
Scott, who ran a season-best 10:17.70 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase on Wednesday night, still missed advancing to the finals by about three seconds.
"Lance felt I could run 10:10, but I fell off the pace in the fifth lap and knew I needed to get back up there," Scott said. "I was seventh in my heat and hoped that would be good enough, but I missed advancing by one place."
Scott said there's a chance she'll compete in the USA Championships at Carson, Calif., later this month.
Jakosky, who labored to 12th place in her heat of 14 in the 5,000-meter semifinals after midnight CDT on Wednesday, said, "I don't know what happened. I set up really good early in the race, but I lost my focus after six or eight laps. My focus started getting fuzzy."
Had Jakosky matched her season's best of 16:25.88, she would have advanced. But she clocked a pedestrian 17:03.43.
"I still have a cross country season of eligibility left," Jakosky said. "I'm looking forward to working with our young runners, and we also have some good freshmen coming in."
Lady'Backs freshman Dacia Barr passed four runners in the final 300 meters of her 1,500-meter heat Thursday night, but did not advance to the finals with her time of 4:25.65. The final qualifier had a time of 4:18.93. Marina Muncan of Villanova was fastest with 4:15.21.
Denton Blazes To 800-Meter Finals; Sigmont Misses
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