It was an exciting meet for the University of Arkansas-Little Rock Track and Field team Feb. 7, 2021. The South Alabama University’s Jaguar Invitational in Birmingham, Alabama revealed how the athletes’ hard work has been paying off, and brought newfound confidence for The SunBelt Conference which will occur on the dates Feb. 22, 2021 and Feb. 23, 2021. Ever since Head Coach Johnathon Behnke took over the team almost three years ago, he has worked to make UALR track more competitive. After this meet, he was confident in reporting that Arkansas-Little Rock is now a threat in the Sun Belt Conference.
There were many highlights from this meet with Arkansas-Little Rock student athletes. Competing against fifteen other strong southern schools in the NCAA only made the Trojans look more intimidating. Multiple athletes broke personal and school records to set forth new ones: allowing the team to place high in the NCAA.
In men’s high jumping, sophomore Johnathon Jones not only set a new Personal Record of 7’1, but is now ranked second in the Sun Belt conference and eighth nationally. This is extremely impressive considering he had red-shirted last indoor season competing unattached with a PR of 6’11.50. Compared to his competition, Jones feels he is in a good place right now to remain in the top ten, but has plenty of work ahead of him if he wants to make top five. Despite a recent obstacle that has presented itself in the form of a nagging knee problem ,with proper care, Jones will be able to overcome this injury to have a great conference.
An intersquad battle ensued during the 800 meter men’s race as sophomore Colby Swecker, junior Ricardo Banks , and freshman Logan Nelson gave the other schools a run for their money. The first 200 is well-known as the hardest part of the 800 as it can not be run too fast or the runner will suffer later on. As the men stayed relaxed for the first 400 as they should, Swecker was feeling confident and made a move to pass a preceding runner and Banks followed instantly. Working together, they moved up through the ranks finishing hard and placing well. In their heat, Swecker took second and Banks third: overall finishing sixth and seventh. For his first season running indoor track Nelson running and finishing the way he did was impressive. He took 13th overall. On top of this, all three set new personal records where Swecker ran a 1:53.79, Banks a 1:53.95, and Nelson a 1:57.04.
Speeding things up to the men’s 60 meter race, freshman Cameron Jackson set a new personal record of 6.77 seconds and ranked second in the Sun Belt conference. From the gun to the finish line in heat 2 lane 4, Jackson was relentless in the race. Jackson was also able to beat the 200 meter top runner during this race. He qualified for finals where he ran in lane 3 and took first. Based on these races, Jackson has set himself up nicely for having a chance at winning conference in his event.
Gaining new distance in men’s weight throw, sophomore Isaiah Parker did something extraordinary. Parker’s first throw went 15 meters which was a personal record. For his second throw, he beat his brand new personal record immediately with a throw of 16.28 meters. Clearly training has been going well as he has gotten the technique down for the spin, and followed it with a powerful throw. The key to conference for Parker will be further improving his technique in order to be successful.
In the women’s mile, senior and women’s distance captain, Kimberly Boni, broke new ground in her collegiate athlete career. Boni ran an impressive 5:16 mile which ranked her as 16th in Conference. After three years of battling multiple injuries, Boni has made this year different. Since cross country season in the fall, she has been preparing for the conference race and by trusting in her training and coaches, Boni is expected to triumph.
Persistence and intense focus is what led freshman Avianna Trinidad to reach new heights in women’s pole vaulting. Trinidad continued to clear each jump smoothly making it over the bar. It wasn’t until the fifth jump, though, that there was victory. Trinidad tied the Arkansas-Little Rock school record with a height of 12’5 meters.
In the women’s 60 meter race, Little Rock athletes set two personal records. It began with the block starts. Neither one wasted a single second taking full advantage of their opportunities. Kendall Johnson ran a 7.71 second dash, and Maliyah Holland a 7.84 making for two very smooth and fast races. Both are expected to do well at conference.
During this season, indoor track athletes have already faced some big challenges including limited meets and competition due to COVID, along with no spectators or fans at the meets. Despite these challenges, their dedication and persistence keeps them moving forward. The Arkansas-Little Rock track team has become increasingly mentally motivated to take advantage of every opportunity to improve. “What I have learned from this sport so faris to bet on yourself,” Jones said. “The bar will always go up and if your confidence doesn’t move when the bar does then you’ll never clear it”.