EUGENE, Ore. – The No. 7 Arkansas women’s track and field team capped its 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships with the program’s first-ever national title in the 4x400-meter relay and finished in eighth place overall with 30 points.
Arkansas tallied three school-record performances at the meet. Two came Saturday in the 4x400-meter relay and in the 3,000-meter steeplechase by Grace Heymsfield.
“I think that the idea that you can have those types of quality performances at this meet at this point in the season is a tribute not only to the athlete but also to the program as far as the way the training has been designed is to get them ultimately ready,” Arkansas coach Lance Harter said.
“We are getting PR performances at the right time of year which is a confirmation to the staff that our plan and program works and it works in the right format because it’s really tough to have a peak indoors and carry another outdoors and add to that cross country. Most physiologists tell you that you can’t do it, it’s impossible, so maybe we are defying some science, but the end result speaks for itself.”
With Saturday’s final result, the Razorback women now have five top-10 NCAA finishes at the outdoor championships and the program’s first since 2004.
Arkansas’ 30 points represents the program’s third-highest NCAA total and the most scored by a Razorback team since a 31-point showing in 2001. The NCAA title in the 4x400-meter relay is the program’s 15th national event win overall, and fifth at the outdoor meet.
In the final event of the week, the 4x400-meter relay team of Chrishuna Williams, Sparkle McKnight, Gwendolyn Flowers and Regina George teamed up for a school-record performance worthy of the NCAA title it produced. George took the baton on the anchor leg and surpassed Kendra Chambers to anchor the Razorbacks to a time of 3:27.09, knocking more than a second off the school record of 3:28.42 set by the same foursome in March at the Texas Relays.
Saturday’s showing also made Arkansas the seventh-fastest team outdoors in collegiate history. The NCAA title is the Razorbacks’ first outdoor win since Aneita Denton won at 800 meters at the 2005 NCAA Championships in Sacramento, Calif. Flowers and George win an NCAA title in the final race of their Razorback careers. McKnight is a junior and Williams is a sophomore.
Having threatened the school record earlier this season, Heymsfield finally claimed the mark as her own with a run of 9:57.18 in the event final of the 3,000-meter steeplechase. She finished in seventh place in the race to give Arkansas two team points. The Razorback junior is the first runner in program history to dip below 10 minutes, replacing the previous school mark of 10:01.52 set by Lilli Kleinmann in 2001. Heymsfield was making her NCAA outdoor debut appearance.
Stephanie Brown earned the team’s first points of the day with a sixth-place finish in the event final of the 1,500 meters. The Razorback junior established a new personal best with her time of 4:14.58 to secure three points toward the team’s total. With Saturday’s effort, she eclipsed her previous best by just .02 with the time of 4:14.60 she ran earlier this year at the Mt. SAC Relays. It was Brown’s first NCAA appearance at 1,500 meters.
A day after completing a school-record performance in the heptathlon, Makeba Alcide was back on the track with teammate Kirsten Hesseltine for the high jump. Alcide finished 12th overall with a final clearance of 1.80m/5-10.75. In her NCAA debut appearance, Hesseltine established an outdoor PR with a final clearance of 1.77m/5-9.75.