FAYETTEVILLE — Wedding planners customarily don’t accompany track and field teams to the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
But maybe this one should as the Arkansas Razorbacks women’s team defends its national championship Thursday and Saturday at the NCAA Outdoor in Eugene, Ore.
Lexi Weeks and Tori Weeks, the sophomore All-American pole vaulting twin sisters from Cabot, each have summer wedding dates.
Tori, the 2-time NCAA Indoor All-American and 2017 SEC Indoor champion and 2017 SEC Outdoor runner-up, plans July 8 to marry Seth Hoggard of Cabot in Cabot.
Lexi, the 2016 NCAA and SEC Indoor and Outdoor champion, U.S. Olympian and 2017 SEC Outdoor champion, on Aug. 12 in Cabot plans to marry Derek Jacobus, a decathlete for Coach Chris Bucknam’s Razorbacks men and also competing in Eugene.
The nearly inseparable twins will serve as each other’s maid of honor.
“It’s awesome,” Lexi said. “We have done everything together since we have been born. It’s fun just to be sharing life’s moments together and just to get to do something as big as this together.”
Tori matched her sister awesome for awesome.
“It’s awesome,” Tori said. “We weren’t expecting to be planning two weddings at one time. I have been dating my fiancé for five years and she has been dating hers for maybe a year and a half. We weren’t expecting to be doing this in the same summer with all this track going on. It’s crazy. But it’s also really exciting.”
And on the back burner both assert with each among the favorites to win Thursday’s vault, and key, along with 2017 NCAA Indoor All-American teammate Desiree Freier, to scoring team points as Coach Lance Harter’s No. 2 defending champions enter underdogs to host Oregon.
“Right now the focus is track with the national meet coming up,” Tori said. “We are just trying to focus on track right now.”
Ditto for Lexi.
“I definitely have been doing wedding planning on the side,” Lexi said. “But I’m trying to put it as far to the side as I can to focus on my track right now.”
If either daydreams of wedding bells, their vault coach, Bryan Compton, surely will chime in to keep them on track.
Including Sandi Morris, the 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist and former Arkansas NCAA champion and 16-5 USA Outdoor record-holder and innumerable Arkansas champions before her, Compton produces quality vaulters like Henry Ford produced cars.
The Weeks sisters and Freier assembled a 1-2-3 SEC Outdoor pole vault in Columbia, S.C.
“Bryan is so calculating how everything is done,” Harter said. “He gets more consistency out of the vault by far than any of his peers that coach the event.”
Out of Tori Weeks, Compton coached one of the greatest seasons ever compiled by a freshman including then lifetime bests 14-2 1-4 and 14-5 1-4 indoors and outdoors.
It would be remembered as one of the best but for Lexi compiling perhaps THE best freshman year pole vaulting year in history winning both NCAA and SEC Outdoor titles and three times surpassing 15-0 including 15-5 to be the USA Championships bronze medalist and join Morris representing the U.S. at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
However for the 2017 indoor season, Lexi paid a price for her extended summer while Tori reaped rewards from extended rest.
“Lexi had a long, long year,” Harter said. “A lot of people talk about the post Olympics blahs.”
Especially a college freshman propelled from Cabot to Rio and back to Fayetteville.
“I got back from Rio the day before classes started last fall,” Lexi said. “So I had two weeks off training and then I got back to it.”
While Lexi by her 2016 standards struggled early indoors, Tori blossomed. Now even Lexi’s form regained outdoors, they compete other back and forth like Cabot days when each held national high school records.
“It’s kind of fun that she wins this meet, I win the next meet,” Lexi said. “We are just pushing each other every meet, every step of the way.”
Tori had a fresher start for her push.
“I was able to take about two months off after Outdoor Nationals last year and that’s made a difference,” Tori said. “I think I’ve gotten stronger this year and that’s helped a little bit and maybe I’m a little bit faster.”
Tori and Lexi both vaulted 15-0 at the SEC Indoor.
Most presumed them 1-2 for the NCAA Indoor.
However there are many great women collegiate vaulters out there and the greatest days aren’t guaranteed even to the greatest.
Alabama’s Lakan Taylor, Baylor’s Annie Rhodes, Kentucky’s Olivia Gruver and Akron’s placed first through fourth.
Tori and Freier, both 14-1, were fifth and sixth. Lexi, 13-7, tied for seventh.
Three pole vaulting All-Americans would be unprecedented for any other women’s program, but for the Weeks sisters it was a letdown.
“All three of us did place at nationals which I think any other team would have been excited about,” Tori said. “But I think we were expecting one-two or a higher placing.”
Before their wedding vows this summer, both vow NCAA improvement in the great outdoors.