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Top women’s vaulters square off

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas senior Sandi Morris had the collegiate indoor pole vault record for a few hours earlier this season before Stephen F. Austin senior Demi Payne took it away.

Morris will try to get the record back going against Payne head-to-head Saturday at the Arkansas Open meet at the Randal Tyson Track Center.

Events begin at noon with the women’s pole vault at 3 p.m.

The meet is designed for athletes as a last chance to qualify for the NCAA Championships, which will be held March 13-14 in Fayetteville, but the Morris-Payne duel creates some buzz.

“This meet suddenly got a whole lot more interesting,” said Lance Harter, Arkansas’ women’s coach. “The two best vaulters in the country are going to be battling it out to see if one of them can set the record again.”

Morris cleared 15-1 1/2 at the Arkansas-Texas dual Feb. 17 — after 11 p.m. on a Friday — to break the collegiate record of 14-11 set by Texas’ Kaitlin Petrillose at the 2014 NCAA meet.

Payne vaulted at the Texas A&M invitational the next afternoon and cleared 15-2 1/4 to break Morris’ record. Payne has since pushed the record to 15-7, while Morris has cleared a best of 15-3.

Payne and Morris have combined for the top nine pole vaults ever in the women’s college ranks, with six by Payne and three by Morris.

Morris had considered skipping Saturday’s meet because she has vaulted every weekend this season, but she couldn’t resist the chance to compete against Payne.

Harter said that when Payne entered the Arkansas Open, Razorbacks field events coach Bryan Compton asked Morris what she wanted to do.

“Sandi said, ‘Hey, I don’t get but a few more times to break the record in my career, so let’s go,’ ” Harter said.

Harter said it makes sense Payne is going to vault at Arkansas prior to the NCAA meet.

“You always want to compete where the NCAA meet is being held,” Harter said. “Plus, it’s a chance for her to vault high again because our runway is super, super fast.”

Saturday will be the second time this season Morris and Payne have vaulted at the same meet. Two weeks ago at the New Mexico Classic, Payne won at 15-3 1/2 where Morris took second at 14-11 1/2.

“You feel kind of like whoever gets the record last is probably going to keep it for a while,” Morris said last week after clearing 14-8 1/2 to win at the Tyson Invitational. “But anything can happen in the pole vault. It’s crazy.”

The big event for Arkansas’ men’s team Saturday is the 1,600 relay with Marqueze Washington, Kenzo Cotton, Omar McLeod and Jarrion Lawson.

The Razorbacks rank seventh nationally with a best of 3:06.98. The top teams compete at the NCAA meet, and Coach Chris Bucknam said he wants his Arkansas men’s team to move higher.

“We need to run faster because we’re trying to get in the top four to get in the fast heat at nationals,” Bucknam said. “You want to run against the best to be at your best.”

Arkansas also is sending its distance medley relay team to Notre Dame, where Bucknam said the top teams in that event are running.

“You don’t want to run it by yourself,” Bucknam said. “We need the competition we’ll get at Notre Dame.”

 

From: http://www.nwaonline.com/news/2015/feb/20/top-women-s-vaulters-square-off-2015022/

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