Hog Calls:

Razorback women’s track and field team goes distance

By: Nate Allen
Published: Monday, May 15, 2017
Taliyah Brooks of Arkansas runs her heat of the 60 meter hurdles prelims Friday, Feb. 10, 2017 during the Tyson Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Complex in Fayetteville.
Photo by Ben Goff
Taliyah Brooks of Arkansas runs her heat of the 60 meter hurdles prelims Friday, Feb. 10, 2017 during the Tyson Invitational at the Randal Tyson Track Complex in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE — From his Razorbacks’ Thursday Day One 1-2-3-4 standing in the two-day heptathlon through Friday’s 1-2-3 Arkansas placing in the pole vault, Arkansas Coach Lance Harter suspected they would finish Saturday night winning the SEC Outdoor Women’s Track and Field Championship in Columbia, S.C., by a greater margin than he initially imagined.

“I think it was a situation where once we got the ball rolling the momentum became infectious to everyone,” Harter said. “That all started with the heptathlon. To be able to go 1-2-3-4, that’s a historical precedent to the SEC. You get a 29-point lead, that kind of makes everybody else start chasing.”

Arkansas did get some heptathlon help. Georgia rested six-time NCAA champion heptathlete-pentathlete Kendell Williams for the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

However, you can only compete with those competing against you. And Arkansas’ heptathletes outpointed all in their SEC path.

Still, even with Taliyah Brooks, Springdale Har-Ber alum Payton Stumbaugh, Crossett’s Kelsey Herman and Leigha Brown finishing Friday’s heptathlon first through fourth for 29 team points and Cabot’s pole vaulting twin sisters Lexi and Tori Weeks both 14-7 1-4 with Lexi first on fewer misses and Tori second plus Desiree Freier, 14-4 for 24 team points, Harter was unconvinced that Arkansas had it clinched.

“Some people were saying on Thursday like we had it won,” Harter said Sunday upon his return to Fayetteville. “But I said, I’ve got LSU down to score 100 points (which runner-up LSU did), and we have got to make sure we take care of business to score over 100. The multi and the pole vault gave us a good solid halfway point, but you just never know what else will happen.”

Harter corrected himself. He had inadvertently omitted something big happening Thursday night. Freshman Taylor Werner, in the first 10,000-meter run of her life finished second for the first eight of Arkansas’ meet-winning 128 points.

“Taylor Werner got second in the 10,000, and that was something else that started the ball rolling,” Harter said. “I guess she was our first scorer since the hep finished the next day.”

Werner would be far from the last tallying Arkansas’ points. The Razorbacks dominated the nation’s by far strongest women’s track and field conference.

Among the Arkansas notables were Nikki Hiltz 4:17.94, winning the 1,500, senior Daina Harper, 52.16 winning the 400-meter dash and senior Valerie Reina of Tontitown via Springdale Har-Ber running a lifetime 16:18.06 not only scoring four fifth-place team points but advancing her to the NCAA West Preliminary Qualifying meet in Austin, Texas.

Harter’s women now have won three consecutive SEC Cross Country-Indoor-Outdoor triple crowns and 10 consecutive SEC championships starting with the 2014 Outdoor.

With only four Razorbacks senior women departing this summer and All-American steeplechaser Devon Clark returning off redshirting, Arkansas’ string of SEC successes seems apt to span through this time next year.

“I think it was a situation where once we got the ball rolling the momentum became infectious to everyone. That all started with the heptathlon. To be able to go 1-2-3-4, that’s a historical precedent to the SEC. You get a 29-point lead, that kind of makes everybody else start chasing.”

— Lance Harter, Arkansas Women’s Track and Field Coach

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