FAYETTEVILLE — Weddings last summer changed their names to Lexi Jacobus and Tori Hoggard.
But March 10 at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in College Station, Texas hearkened back to Cabot High School days when twin sisters Lexi Weeks and Tori Weeks routinely placed first and second in a variety of events, especially the pole vault.
Tori set the national high school indoor record vaulting 14-4.
Lexi set the national outdoor high school record vaulting 14-7 1-2.
Now University of Arkansas juniors, they have been sensational for Coach Lance Harter’s Razorbacks women’s team while tutored by renowned women’s vault coach Bryan Compton.
Tori is a 5-time All-American, 5-times All-SEC and the 2017 SEC Indoor champion.
Lexi, a 2016 U.S. Olympian, is a 5-time All-American and 5-times All-SEC with three NCAA championships and three SEC championships.
They have spent their lives excelling together but reached new heights March 10 at College Station.
For with Lexi vaulting 15-3 1-2 and Tori a lifetime best 15-1 1-2, they surpassed Kentucky’s Olivia Gruver who had beaten them both to win both the 2017 NCAA Outdoor and 2018 SEC Indoor.
The Weeks sisters become Jacobus and Hoggard not only surpassed Gruver, they surpassed everyone else for a 1-2 finish now track team historic. With teammate Desiree Freier, 14-5 1-2, placing an All-American fifth, the team runner-up Razorbacks scored 22 of their 49 points in the vault augmented by the combined 20 points of pentathlete winner Taliyah Brooks, 60-meters hurdles winner Payton Chadwick, the former Payton Stumbaugh of Springdale Har-Ber, and six third-place points netted by Nikki Hiltz in the mile and an eight-place team point by freshman Janeek Brown in the 60-meter hurdles.
Arkansas’ 22 pole vault points mark the most ever scored by one team in the NCAA Women’s Indoor vault.
Though the nationally No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs, whose depth Arkansas surpassed convincingly to win the SEC Indoor, sports such a string of elite athletes that Georgia won the NCAA Indoor amassing 61 team points, national runner-up Arkansas’ 49 team points astounded Harter.
“We matched or exceeded everything we predicted,” Harter said. “I had us picked for 34 or 35 points and we would fight to get fourth.
Our vaulters just went crazy. They scored more points at the conference meet than the national meet. Bryan had told them all along: “‘The way we are coming back from little setbacks, don’t worry about the SEC. It will take care of itself. We are focused on the National meet.’ Sure enough whatever training program he designed, all three of them jumped a lifetime best. Their 22 points would have put them ninth in the meet by themselves!”
Obviously Harter and Compton had cause to predict much from the twins and 5-time All-American Freier, a fourth-year junior from Fort Worth, but 22 points and both twins surpassing Gruver …
“It was so awesome!” Tori said. “Last year we both knew we had the potential to be 1-2 at the Indoor meet. That didn’t happen and it didn’t happen Outdoor. So this year to do it at the National meet, words can’t describe it…. We were so excited. I knew I was going to have to have a PR (personal record) jump to beat Olivia Gruver because she’s jumping so well all season.”
Lexi vaulted splendidly her sophomore and early junior seasons yet short of her surreal 2016. As a freshman she won both NCAA and SEC Indoor and Outdoor meets then amazed at the Olympic Trials to join former Razorback Sandi Morris, the eventual 2016 Olympic silver medalist, on the U.S. Olympic team.
“Freshman year was just the perfect year,” Jacobus said. “But I wish that I knew my senior year would be the year I would do it. Because going back to my sophomore year, and not having the same success … I still had a SEC championship and finishing runner-up at Outdoors was awesome.. but having won both of them my freshman year was kind of a disappointment last year. So to reclaim the title was just awesome.”
To be 1-2 together, they are not just twins but best friends, is a high from which they haven’t descended.
“Tori and I have known we have it in us to do but finally for both of us to put it together at the same time at the right meet, the biggest meet of the indoor season,” Lexi said. “We are still so excited and kind of trying to relive the whole moment.”
For Compton this 2018 Indoor campaign must seem like coaching the collegiate national champion and Super Bowl champion in the same season.
Not only did Compton coach Arkansas’ incredible 22 points NCAA vault, but he still coaches Morris. Morris won the World Championships vault for the U.S. in Birmingham, England just weeks before the twins triumphed in College Station.
“You can’t do better than that,” Lexi said. “That says a whole lot about Coach Compton and his coaching abilities right there.”
What’s the secret to Compton’s success?
“I think Coach Compton just sees the vault differently than other coaches,” Tori said. “He has that vision to say, ‘This is what you look like and this is exactly what you need to do.’ He focuses on all the little aspects. He just knows how to coach the vault. He gets it.”