Eugene, Ore. – Arkansas’ women took to the track Thursday afternoon at Historic Hayward Field looking to advance to the finals in their respective events with hopes of finishing the NCAA Championship meet this weekend as a National Champion.
“I’m extremely proud of Lexi [Jacobus],” said head coach Lance Harter. “That was a very tough competition because of the swirling winds, it took its toll on a lot of good vaulters, but she’s a great competitor and battled hard for a runner-up finish. We got through to the finals in the 1,500-meters and the steeplechase with Nikki [Hiltz] and Devin [Clark], and they both ran really well to advance. We knew with the 4-x-400-meter relay it was an anomaly that they got the chance to be here, but it’s a great experience for those young women. With our sprint relay, we had hoped they’d advance but we ended up as one of the first two out, so that was unfortunate. but now we’re in scoring positions for Saturday and hopefully, we can try to keep ourselves in a top-10 finishing position,” Harter finished.
The first event on the track for Arkansas Thursday afternoon was the 4-x-100-meter relay of Kiara Parker, Jada Baylark, Janeek Brown and Taliyah Brooks. The third-place team at the SEC Championships, where they set the school record of 43.26, Arkansas finished with a time of 43.57 that equaled the fourth-fastest performance in program history from the relay team of Brooks, Stumbaugh, Harper, and Parker from last season.
Nikki Hiltz’s magical run this spring will continue as the senior sprinted the final 100-meters to assert herself as the heat winner (4:14.09Q) and advances to Saturday’s final in the women’s 1,500-meters. Hiltz has qualified for the NCAA final in the event in back-to-back seasons following a runner-up finish last season. Arkansas now has a finalist in the 1,500-meters for the fourth time in the last six years.
“I felt really good,” said Hiltz. “I think with 100-meters t0 go I wanted to test my fitness a little bit and it went better than I could’ve ever imagined. I feel really good and very confident going into the final. Last year being two one-hundredths of a second away from it [a national championship], there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about that race. Definitely fueling my fire a little bit, but I feel good about it.”
Devin Clark was up next in the prelims of the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase. The junior from Spring Branch, Texas secured her spot in Saturday’s final by turning in a time of 9:57.19Q finishing fifth in her prelim heat. Clark returns to the final in the steeplechase for the first time since 2016 where she finished fifth in a lifetime-best 9:49.25.
Freshman Janeek Brown returned to the track after running the third leg of the sprint relay to take on the prelims of the women’s 100-meter hurdles. Brown, who finished eighth in the 60-meter hurdles during the indoor championships, will look to improve on her indoor performance as she advanced to the final of the 100-meter hurdles running a school record time of 12.80Q taking second in her prelim to grab the second auto-Q spot from the heat.
“Obviously she’s a freshman so you don’t concern yourself with her intensity, you just have to go in there and be mistake-free,” said associate head coach Chris Johnson. “She went out there and executed her race, I mean what more can you ask of her, she ran a personal-best as a freshman at one of the biggest meets of her life. I think she went out and executed well, now we just have to get ready for the final on Saturday,” said Johnson.
“[Janeek] is so mature beyond her years in competition,” said Harter. “She was in the lead, they took the lead away from her and she battled back to get that automatic-qualifier finish. She is going to be a great one, she just needs more of that type of experience and to get stronger and faster. She’s going to be re-writing record books, shes truly unique, and she has now asserted herself as a legitimate player in the 100-meter hurdles final. you’re going to have to be on point if you want to beat Janeek Brown in the final on Saturday,” Harter finished.
Alexis Jacobus was clean through first five bars of competition, the only athlete in the field to clear 4.15m, 4.30m, 4.40m, 4.45m, and 4.50m on first attempts. Jacobus, the reigning indoor champion finished the meet at 4.50m (14′-9″) as the NCAA runner-up trailing only Kentucky’s Olivia Gruver who defended her outdoor title from last year. Sister Tori Hoggard finished tied for 12th-place with a best of 4.15m (13′-7.25″).
Also competing on Thursday afternoon were Jayda Baylark who finished in 22nd-place in the 100-meters running 11.51 seconds, and Rylee Robinson who finished the competition in the pole vault with no height.
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