Friday, June 03, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot trio leads nation in NCAA vault finalists

Special to The Leader

FAYETTEVILLE – Cabot, Ark. likely will outscore many large universities at the NCAA Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships June 9 and 11 in Eugene, Ore.
University of Arkansas freshmen All-American twin sisters Lexi Weeks, the NCAA Indoor champion and SEC Indoor and Outdoor champion, and Tori Weeks, and senior three-time All-American Ariel Voskamp all represent Cabot for Coach Lance Harter’s Razorbacks.

“Yeah, the little town of Cabot probably has more pole vaulters at the National Championships than any university out there,” Arkansas Women’s vault coach Bryan Compton said. “Three girls at the NCAA Championships from the same town on the same team in the same event, that’s pretty unheard of.”

Apparently it has Cabot all atwitter.

“Our high school Twitter page tweeted about three Cabot girls going to Nationals and it hit home how three of us from this one little town of Cabot are going to Nationals representing the University of Arkansas,” Lexi Weeks said. “It’s pretty incredible.”

Their bond is even more incredible.

The Weeks sisters, both athletically renowned since birth it seems, compete without a shred of envious sibling rivalry.

Tori Weeks, with personal records of 14-feet, 5 1/4-inches in both indoors and outdoors, is a 2016 indoors All-American, was sixth nationally and third in the SEC, and SEC Outdoor runner-up to Lexi. That easily would be every other schools’ freshman phenom if not performing at the same school as her sister.

“Yeah, I guess it’s kind of different,” Tori said. “She has always been a couple of inches ahead of me and obviously she’s been amazing and I hope I live up to that next year. It’s been awesome being able to vault with her and Ariel and Megan (Zimlich) and being able to train with Sandi Morris (the UA grad, 2015 NCAA Indoor champion and 16-foot Olympic hopeful and 2016 World Indoor Championships runner-up). I don’t know if I got all the results I expected this year, but I did get a PR indoors and outdoors and that’s pretty exciting. I’ve jumped 14-5 and hopefully at Nationals I’ll jump 14-9.”

Lexi Weeks not only became the first freshman to win the NCAA Indoor women’s vault, but also became the first freshman to ever surpass 15-feet at 15-2 1/4.

“I finished indoors with a national championship in the pole vault and I wanted to carry that momentum on to outdoors,” Lexi Weeks said. “And I think I did. I jumped high 14s several times and I jumped 15 twice outdoors. I am very satisfied that three of us have qualified going to Nationals and I think we all have a chance of placing.”

The twins have surpassed Voskamp in jump height, yet never cease looking up to her.

“They still see me as a leader,” Voskamp said, as both nodded vigorous assent. “And that really means a lot to me. Because we go to meets and Tori and Lexi are jumping 14 and Lexi is jumping at collegiate records, but they are very down to Earth and they do listen to what I have to say.”

Voskamp has experienced what the Weeks twins have not, like last week’s NCAA West Preliminary in Lawrence, Kan.

The prelim, of which the sole purpose is winnowing a 48-entrant field in each event to 12 for Nationals, compels great vaulters to enter at unaccustomed low heights then be out of rhythm with interminable time between vaults.

“I told them it’s really long, save your energy and make that first attempt,” Voskamp said.

Andrew Irwin, the graduated Razorbacks’ Men’s NCAA champion, twice failing to advance out of the tedious Regional process, warned them, too.

“He told us, ‘Don’t Andrew it,’” the Weeks twins said.

The Cabot three have the same vault pedigree. Prior to Compton, all were coached by Morry Sanders of the Arkansas Vault Club, and coached in about every other event by Cabot coach Leon White.

The three may be so down to Earth because they were too tired in high school to loft their heads in the clouds.

“Honestly I did whatever Coach White wanted me to do,” Voskamp said. “My main events were the hurdles and the 4x400 and 200, and sometimes the jumps and the pole vault.”

Lexi Weeks added, “I ran the 400, both relays, the long jump and pole vault.”

Tori Weeks said, “I did both relays, pole vault, triple jump, sometimes long jump, 300 hurdles. I think about last year and doing five or six different events all day long. It’s kind of a relief going just to the pole vault.”

They were good at those events, too, and considered doing more in college. The twins combined hold 12 school track and field records of the 18 total high school events.

Lexi Weeks holds the Cabot High School record in the pole vault, 100-meter hurdles, 400-meter dash, long jump and heptathlon points, winning the heptathlon in 2015 with 4,481 points.

Tori holds the school record in the 300-meter hurdles, 800-meters and triple jump. They both ran legs of the school record 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams, and Tori is second in school history in the 400 (third is their mother, Amy Weeks) and she lost last year’s heptathlon to Lexi by one point – the closest heptathlon in Arkansas history.

So what do they do with so much track meet spare time?

“You cheer on your teammates,” Tori said, knowing their senior mentor cheers for the twins.

“It’s a joy watching Voskamp kind of lead the twins,” Sandi Morris, still training with the Razorbacks while rehabbing a fractured wrist before the Olympic Trials, said. “Having Ariel here, they felt at home when they got here and they continue to jump really high and improve.”