Nate Allen is a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, Allen is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has authored three books about the Razorbacks.
UA women distance themselves from pack
Arkansas runner Grace Heymsfield competes in the 2014 SEC Outdoor Championships on Saturday, May 17, 2014 in Lexington, Ky.
FAYETTEVILLE -- It can prove too grinding going the distance at the SEC Outdoor Championships in May, Arkansas Coach Lance Harter says, when so many mainstays have been going the distance since September.
Harter's pillars for an SEC cross country women's championship last fall started not so fresh while the sprinters and field event competitors rared to go for indoor track through the winter and then through the college outdoor season that lasts into the NCAA Outdoor Championships in mid-June.
That toll on his distance runners, Harter says, along with power ratings that place SEC track and field competition vastly above all leagues, probably contributed to his women's teams not winning the SEC Outdoor title since 2004 while customarily finishing second or third.
This season Harter's Razorbacks won their 22nd and 23rd SEC titles. They won SEC cross country last fall and the SEC outdoor title last weekend. Arkansas scored 123 points at the meet in Lexington, Ky., as they held off Florida (116.5) and Texas A&M (113).
Florida was favored, while A&M was the reigning defending champion.
Three of Harter's cross country mainstays -- Diane Robison (15:48.25), Dominique Scott (15:53.94) and Grace Heymsfield (15:55.30) -- clinched it. They combined for 24 points with a 1-2-3 finish in the 5,000 meters, the meet's second-to-last event Sunday. It came on the heels of Scott's first-place finish and Robison's third-place effort in Friday's 10,000 meters. Heymsfield, of Elkins, also was a repeat winner Saturday in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Only Bryan Compton's pole vaulters scored more for Arkansas, with Sandi Morris (14 feet, 9 inches) Danielle Nowell (13-11 1/4) and Cabot's Ariel Voskamp (13-11 1/4) sweeping the top three spots and Megan Zimlich finishing seventh (13-1 1-4) for a total of 26 team points.
"Winning outdoors is tough for us," Harter said Monday, noting that sprints and jumps oriented teams often win the SEC Outdoor. "If you really try and keep a cross country team going at an elite level, it really stretches you out more so outdoors."
Harter said his star threesome ran fresher than fall down the stretch, leaving Florida All-American Agata Strausa (15:58.14) a distant fourth.
"Diane had gotten away," Harter said. "Dominique had to overhaul the Florida girl, and she got by her with maybe 250 meters to go, but Grace didn't pass her until near the end.
"Grace was way down but then looked like she had a rocket pack on her and took off flying by her. She hit her so quickly -- and Agata Strausa is a very good athlete -- that she had no chance to react."
Neither did Heymsfield's teammates. They had no time to realize the meet-clinching math before the 1,600 relay closed the meet with Arkansas needing only to finish eighth out of eight. Arkansas ended up adding six points for its third-place finish in the 1,600 relay with a season-best time of 3:29.58.
"Most of them even after the 5,000 didn't correlate we had won this thing," Harter said. "When we did, the reaction of the kids was just overwhelming."
Sports on 05/21/2014