COLUMBIA, Mo. (Univ. of Ark.) - The No. 6 University of Arkansas women's track and field team finished in third place at this weekend's SEC Outdoor Championships in Columbia, Mo. The Razorbacks finished the meet with 109 points behind five event titles, three of which were won Sunday. On the last day of competition, Arkansas collected SEC titles in the 400 meters, 400-meter hurdles and 4x400-meter relay.
The Razorbacks finished the weekend with five conference wins, including victories earlier in the weekend by Makeba Alcide in the heptathlon and Grace Heymsfield in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. The team's finished marked the fourth straight top-four finish at the SEC Outdoor Championships. The top-four teams at this year's SEC meet were separated by just 11 points.
"It's another one of those exciting SEC meets," head coach Lance Harter said. "When you talk about four of the top six teams in the United States and five of the top 10, you're talking about the best of the best. To be able to match up with them and go head-to-head, I'm just really proud of our crew because they never gave up. Some of the doubles and triples they pulled off this weekend are without parallel."
Arkansas capped its weekend with a first-place performance in the 4x400-meter relay, the program's third in the last four years. The team of Gwendolyn Flowers, Regina George, Sparkle McKnight and Chrishuna Williams combined for a winning time of 3:30.06, more than a second faster than the event runner-up. George has been part of all three Arkansas SEC champions in the 4x400-meter relay. Sunday's win was the second relay title for Flowers who was also part of the 2011 team.
"That race came down to being third or fourth in the team race," Harter said. "Florida is the No. 3 team in the nation and it came down to duking it out with them. I think all top-four teams this weekend had a great meet. I don't think any one of us can really look back and talk about too many hiccups. It seemed like every event was a perfect matchup."
The team's first win of the day came from George who successfully defended her title at 400 meters. The Razorback senior posted a season-best time of 51.74 to secure the event title. George is the sixth won in SEC history to win consecutive 400-meter titles. In her first of two individual event finals, McKnight was third in the race with a time of 53.01. The teammates combined for 16 points toward the team's total.
One hour later, McKnight was back on the track for her signature event. The Razorback newcomer won the program's first-ever SEC title in the 400-meter hurdles, breaking the school record in the process with her time of 55.71. McKnight is the first runner in Arkansas history to dip below 56 seconds, eclipsing the previous school mark of 56.46 set by Brittany Hyter in 2011. McKnight now owns the No. 1 and 3 times in school history.
"Coming into the championships, I was having second thoughts about doubling up but my coach told me I could do it," McKnight said. "I've been practicing hard so I was strong enough. I just came out here and did the best I could do for my team. Before the (400-meter hurdles) race, my mom called me and said 'Sparkle, the only thing I want today is a win from you,' so I had to just go out there and do it for her."
Competing in her first of two event finals Sunday, Stephanie Brown picked up three points for the Razorbacks with her sixth-place finish at 1,500 meters. The middle-distance standout crossed the finish line in 4:19.12. About an hour later, Brown duplicated her sixth-place finish, this time at 800 meters. She had a final time of 2:08.00, worth three points to the team's total.
Ivanique Kemp ran to a fifth-place finish in the final of the 100-meter hurdles. Running out of lane five, the Bahamas native posted a time of 13.25, her fastest wind-legal time of the season. In other event finals, Heymsfield returned from her steeplechase win Saturday to pace the Razorbacks to a 5-7-8 finish at 5,000 meters. George was back on the track for the finals of the 200 meters where she finished in eighth place.
In the team's lone field-event score of the day, Tamara Myers finished fourth in the triple jump to earn five points. She finished the competition with a season-best mark of 12.99m/42-7.25. Myers posted a 15-place improvement over her 19th-place finish last year at the SEC meet as a freshman.
A tape-delayed broadcast of the 2013 SEC Outdoor Championships will air May 23 on ESPNU at 7 p.m. (CT). Arkansas' postseason schedule continues May 23-25 with the NCAA West Preliminary in Austin, Texas. After national qualifiers are decided, the collegiate season will come to a conclusion June 5-8 with the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore.
Team Standings (FINAL)
1. Texas A&M - 117
2. LSU - 112
3. ARKANSAS - 109
4. Florida - 106
5. Georgia - 87
6. Missouri - 49
7. Kentucky - 46
8. South Carolina - 40
9. Tennessee - 39.50
10. Mississippi State - 35
11. Auburn - 32.50
12. Alabama - 20
13. Vanderbilt - 16
14. Ole Miss - 9
8. Regina George - 23.38 [1 point]
1. Regina George - 51.74 [10 points]
3. Sparkle McKnight - 53.01 
6. Stephanie Brown - 2:08.00 [3 points]
6. Stephanie Brown - 4:19.12 [3 points]
5. Grace Heymsfield - 16:15.75 [4 points]
7. Shannon Klenke - 16:24.42 
8. Semehar Tesfaye - 16:28.30 
9. Jessica Kamilos - 16:28.48
10. Diane Robison - 16:37.87
--. Kaitlin Flattmann - DNF
5. Ivanique Kemp - 13.25 [4 points]
1. Sparkle McKnight - 55.71 (SR) [10 points]
--. Flowers/George/McKnight/Myers - DNF
1. Flowers/Williams/McKnight/George - 3:30.06 [10 points]
4. Tamara Myers - 12.99m/42-7.25 [5 points]
19. Rebecca Gorden - 36.20m/118-9