When the University of Arkansas women’s track and field team captured the 2019 NCAA National Championship last month it solidified Fayetteville, Arkansas, claim as the Track Capital of the World.
It was the 45th national title for Arkansas, between the men’s and the women’s programs.
Arkansas’ legendary head coach Lance Harter has coached a total 481 All-Americans and 25 NCAA event winners in his stellar 29-year career.
Among the individual NCAA national champions Harter has coached is Amy Yoder Begley, who won the outdoor 5,000 meters in 2000. Yoder Begley is a graduate of East Noble High School. She was born in Syracuse.
The 2019 title went down to the wire with the Razorbacks and Southern Cal tied at 56 points entering the finale event — the 4 x 400-meter relay. Arkansas was the runner-up to Texas Tech in the event by a mere .30. The USC Trojans had two of their runners collide in the exchange zone and they dropped the baton, costing them a shot at the championship.
The Razorbacks finished with 64 points compared to 57 for the second-place Trojans.
Middlebury played a role in the championship as 2006 Northridge High School graduate Megan (Jackson) Elliott is the Director of Operations for the Arkansas program. She has held that position since 2014. She was a graduate assistant in the program from 2011-13.
At Northridge, Elliott was a four-year letterwinner in both cross-country and track and field.
She was a three-time team MVP and a four-time All-Northern Lakes Conference selection in cross-country. Elliott took first place in the NLC meet, IHSAA sectional and regional from 2002-05. She was a four-time state qualifier, finishing 13th in 2002, sixth in 2004, and 11th in 2005. Northridge was the state runner-up in 2002 while the Raiders were fourth in both 2004 and 2005.
During her freshman track season at Northridge, she was on the 4 x 800 relay that captured NLC, sectional and regional titles before the foursome of Elliott, Kayla Miller, Lynn Pezzanite and Tiffany Brenneman placed eighth at the state meet (9:30.82).
Northridge again won the NLC, sectional and regional championships in 2004 before the 4 x 800 relay of Pezzanite, Megan E. Miller, Stephanie Swendsen and Elliott were seventh at the state meet (9:22.81).
Northridge’s 4 x 800 won NLC and regional championships in 2005. The Raiders capped the season by winning the state championship at Indiana University in Bloomington in a then-state record time of 9:08.33. Members of the squad were Megan Miller, Aimee Gingeirch, Pezzanite and Elliott.
After Northridge, Elliott went on to compete at Arkansas where she lettered all four years in both sports. She placed fifth in the NCAA Championships in 2006 and helped the Razorbacks to a pair of Southeastern Conference championships in cross-country, In track, she was a four-time All-SEC competitor and a four-time NCAA Regional qualifier in the steeplechase. Elliott was a second team All-American in the event in 2008.
Elliott was also an Academic All-American throughout her Arkansas career.
At East Noble, she was a four-time state champion, once in cross-country and three times in the 3,200 meters in track. She held the state record for the 3,200 from 1996 until 2011 when it was broken by Waverly Near of Culver Academy.
Yoder Begley is a 2001 Arkansas gradate, who was a two-time NCAA champion and a 15-time All-American. Yoder Begley was the 2000 SEC Female Athlete of the Year.
Yoder Begley placed third in the 10,000 meters at the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon, in a personal best time of 31:41.60. She finished 26th in the event at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
In 2009, she won the 10,000 meters at the USA Track & Field Championships and went on to place sixth in the IAAF World Championships in Berlin. She recorded a personal best time of 31:23.78.
She is married to Westview High School and Arkansas graduate Andrew Begley.
As a senior at Westview, Begley captured the state cross-country championships in 1994.
While at Arkansas, he was part of nine NCAA Championships and 12 SEC crowns, earning All-American honors three times. He won the 5,000 meters are the 2000 SEC indoor championships.
He qualified for the 2000 U.S. Olympic Trials in the 10,000 placing 16th in 29:28.79.
The couple currently coach the Atlanta Track Club.
Greg Keim can be reached at email@example.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 326. Follow Greg on Twitter @gkeim_TGN