EUGENE, Ore. — An all-around stellar performance by the No. 7 Arkansas women’s track and field team put the Razorbacks on the board on day three of the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championships. The Razorbacks combined for 14.5 points in pole vault and the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
“We made our move today and we’re starting to take care of the final two days of competition,” said Head Coach Lance Harter. “Sandi Morris, Ariel Voskamp and Danielle Nowell scoring in pole vault, then we come back in the steeplechase and Grace Heymsfield and Jessica Kamilos both run a lifetime best. It’s been a great day. It is strength in numbers, everyone is out there pulling together for a solid day. I couldn’t ask for anything more.
The powerful vaulting crew of Sandi Morris, Ariel Voskamp, Danielle Nowell and Megan Zimlich made Arkansas the most-represented school in the pole vault and put the Razorbacks on the board. A fourth-place finish by Morris at 14-3.25 and fifth-place finish by Voskamp at 13-9.25 gave the Razorbacks their first nine points of the meet. Nowell tied for eighth place to earn half a point and bring the total to 9.5 points.
A school-record performance by both Grace Heymsfield and Jessica Kamilos earned five more points for the Razorbacks en route to a 14.5 point day. Heymsfield broke her own school record for the second time this season, clocking 9:49.01 for a sixth-place finish. Her original record was 9:53.65 set at the Payton Jordan Invitational earlier this season.
“We were definitely conscious of both of us being in the race, it’s always nice to have a teammate,” said Heymsfield. “We just wanted to secure our top eight positions for both of us. With the prelims, you never know how you’ll feel two days later but thankfully our training prepared us to be able to run strong today in the finals.”
Following a personal-best performance of 10:01.06 in Wednesday’s semifinals to advance to the finals, Kamilos shaved 11 seconds off her PR and surpassed Heymsfield’s school record, notching a seventh-place finish in 9:49.25. She becomes just the second Razorback in school history to run a sub 10-minute steeplechase in school history, alongside Heymsfield.
“I definitely didn’t expect this today,” said Kamilos. “Grace came in with the goal to break 9:50, so we’re obviously extremely happy with what we got.”
On the men’s side, the No. 4 Arkansas track and field team extended their team total to 11 points, following a fourth-place finish by Patrick Rono in the 800-meter on day three.
In his first-ever NCAA Championship finals appearance, Rono was part of the four-man cluster at the finish line, notching a fourth-place spot at 1:46.46, a new personal best for the junior. Only two-tenths of a second separated the top-four finishes.
“It was a great experience,” said Rono. “I didn’t necessarily accomplish my goal but I set a PR and got All-American in my first-ever outdoor finals. I gained a lot of experience and had great day overall, I’m happy about my performance.”
His previous PR was a 1:46.49 performance at the 2013 West Preliminary. He still owns the No. 7 all-time best time in school history.
“I’m extremely proud of Rono to run cross country and come back out here during outdoor season and nail a PR, just two-tenths of a second away from a national title,” said Head Coach Chris Bucknam. “To accomplish what he did on the final race of the year, I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Freshman high jumper Ken LeGassey just missed the 7-0.5 mark and ended the day at 6-10.75 in his first NCAA Championship experience, finishing in the top 15.
The Razorbacks will have four more scoring chances on the final day of competition with the 4x400 relay, steeplechase and two triple jumpers.
“We need to get as many points as we can tomorrow,” said Bucknam. “We’ve got a number of great athletes competing tomorrow with Kebenei in the steeplechase, two All-Americans in triple jump and a strong 4x4. Our goal is to compete to the very end to the best of our ability and secure as high of a finish as we can. I feel good about the athletes we have competing and hope that we can put some good points on the board on the final day.”