Men have always received top billing when it comes to sports, and that may be because men’s sports draw the most attendees and the most TV viewers. Over the past decade, however, more women’s sports have found their way to the spotlight. In Arkansas, the Razorback soccer, softball and gymnastics teams annually compete for SEC and national championships while drawing record crowds.
Arkansas Money & Politics wants to recognize female athletes in the state and important figures who are involved in promoting women’s sports. What follows is by no means a comprehensive list, but it represents 21 of the most prominent female athletes, coaches, sports journalists and advocates from Arkansas or with Arkansas ties.
Let us know who we missed, and we look forward to shining a spotlight on more of these elite athletes in the future.
Taliyah Brooks was the 2018 NCAA track pentathlon champion for Arkansas and a stalwart on a string of teams that cemented Arkansas as the top women’s track program in the country. Based in Fayetteville, she currently competes on the pro tour and participated in the world championships this past summer. Brooks also serves as a contributor to Hogs+ and helps emcee announcements and promotions on football game days inside Razorback Stadium.
A graduate of Greenbrier High and UCA, Kayle Browning is a world-class sport shooter. She won a silver medal for the U.S. in trap shooting at the 2020 Olympics and a gold medal in trap team at the 2019 World Championships after medaling the year before. She also has won gold medals at the Championships of the Americas and twice medaled at the Pan American Games. Browning currently holds a world record in mixed trap shooting.
Courtney Deifel is entering her ninth year as head softball coach at Arkansas. During her tenure, she has rebuilt the program into an SEC title contender. Under her guidance, the Razorbacks have won two SEC regular season championships, one SEC tourney title and have made the NCAA tournament for six consecutive seasons including three super regional appearances. A former collegiate (Cal) and pro player, Deifel was the head coach at Maryland before coming to Arkansas.
Arkansas Razorback Rosey Effiong ran the second leg of the mixed 4×400 meter relay for the United States at the World Athletics Championships in August, helping set a new world record of 3 minutes, 8.80 seconds. Earlier this year, the Dallas native was part of the Arkansas 4×400 meter relay squad that won the NCAA Indoor title with a time of 3:21.57, setting a new outdoor collegiate record. She finished third in the final of the 400 meters at the 2023 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Maria Fassi, a native of Pachuca, Mexico, is a member of the LPGA Tour. She played collegiately at Arkansas and was the 2019 NCAA individual golf champion. Also as a Razorback, she was named WGCA first-team All-American, SEC Golfer of the Year, was a two-time winner of the prestigious ANNIKA Award and received the Honda Sports Award. She had five amateur tournament wins before joining the tour in 2019. As a pro, Fassi won the 2020 Cooper Communities NWA Charity Classic.
Beebe’s Hannah Gammill is an all-star utility player for the Razorback softball team. An incoming senior, she was twice named All-American by Softball America. She has been named to the All-SEC team, the SEC all-defensive team and NFCA’s All-America first team. In her breakout season of 2022, during which she started all 59 games at third base, she hit .374, had a slugging percentage of .781 and an on-base percentage of .513. She compiled a .964 fielding percentage.
Jill Gillen, a 5-7 graduate-senior outside hitter for the Arkansas volleyball team, is one of the most decorated players in program history. She currently is leading the top 10 Hogs to one of their most successful seasons. An ambassador for the ONEArkansas NIL collective, Gillen holds the school record for kills and aces. Last season, her match-clinching kill against Utah State earned the program’s first NCAA tournament win in 17 years.
Carolina Gomez Alonso
Carolina Gomez Alonso is the top returning player on the Arkansas Razorback women’s tennis team. The sophomore, a native of Madrid was the ITA Central Region champion, made the round of 16 at the ITA Fall National Championships in 2022 and qualified for the NCAA Singles Championships. Named the 2023 SEC Freshman of the Year, to the SEC all-freshman team and to the All-SEC second team, Gomez Alonso aspires to become a pro after college.
Former Razorback golfing legend Stacy Lewis is a member of the LPGA Tour and has two major championships under her belt — the Kraft Nabisco Championship in 2011 and the Women’s British Open in 2013. Lewis also won the Women’s Western Amateur in 2006. She was ranked No. 1 in the world for four weeks in 2013 and for 21 weeks in 2014. Playing for Arkansas, she was the 2007 NCAA individual golf champion, a four-time All-American and a two-time winner of the SEC tournament.
Gaby López is another LPGA Tour member from Mexico (Mexico City) who was an All-American golfer for Arkansas. She was the 2005 NCAA individual runner-up. She won three events as a Razorback and has won three titles on the LPGA Tour (2018 Blue Bay, 2020 Diamond Resorts and 2022 Dana Open) and finished in the top 10 on two other occasions. She represented her home country in the 2016 and 2020 Olympic games.
Katie Lund is a former goalie for the Arkansas Razorbacks women’s soccer team who currently is an all-star player for Racing Louisville FC of the National Women’s Soccer League. Lund had a breakout season in 2022, setting the NWSL record for saves in a single season and being named to the NWSL Best XI for September/October. In her lone season at Arkansas in 2019, the TCU transfer secured 11 shutouts, which ranked ninth nationally, and allowed only 11 goals in 23 matches.
Kristi Mann is the Arkansas state chair for USA Wrestling, the only woman in the country to lead a state chapter for the organization. She has had the role for close to 20 years and is one of a handful of individuals responsible for the rise of club, high school and collegiate wrestling in the state. Mann herself was a decorated gymnast in high school before participating in cheerleading at the University of Arkansas. She also volunteers with the Little Rock Touchdown Club and Broyles Award.
Taylor McGregor, a graduate of the University of Arkansas, is a sideline reporter for college football and the XFL on ESPN. She is also a host for the Marquee Network in Chicago and the lead reporter on the network’s coverage of the Chicago Cubs. She previously interned for the SEC Network, RazorVision, MLB Network, Fox Sports Kansas City, ROOT Sports and KNWA. Before landing at ESPN and Marquee, McGregor’s stops included AT&T SportsNet in Denver and THV 11 in Little Rock.
Sandi Morris is a former All-American Razorback pole vaulter, an Olympic medalist and one of the world’s top professional track and field athletes. While at Arkansas, she won two SEC outdoor titles and one indoor title (setting an NCAA record). She was a silver medalist at the 2016 Olympics and competes on the pro circuit, where she has won two world indoor pro championships and eight USATF indoor titles. She holds the world record for women’s outdoor pole vault (16 feet, 5 inches).
Danyelle Sargent Musselman
As the wife of Eric Musselman, Danyelle Sargent Musselman serves as the First Lady of Arkansas Razorbacks basketball. Serving as an advocate and face of the program, she can be seen sitting behind the team bench at home games and in the stands for many away games. Musselman also is active with local charitable organizations. She is a former national broadcaster, sideline reporter and anchor for Fox Sports, ESPN and the NFL Network.
A 6-2 redshirt sophomore guard on the Razorback women’s basketball team, Saylor Poffenbarger is looking to improve on an SEC All-Freshman team season in which she averaged nine points, seven rebounds and two-and-a-half assists a game. The Maryland native, who signed originally with UConn out of high school, set single-season Arkansas program records in defensive rebounds (225), games played (37) and games started (37). She was named the SEC’s Freshman of the Week five times.
Houston native Tera Talmadge was introduced to Arkansas sports when she accepted a job as a sports reporter/anchor for KNWA and FOX 24 (the NBC and FOX affiliates) in northwest Arkansas. She was a member of the stations’ Pig Trail Nation team. Now, still based in northwest Arkansas, she is a popular college-football sideline reporter for ESPN and the SEC Network. She also serves as a contributor to the Hogs+ streaming service as a reporter, producer and podcaster.
Isabel Van Camp
Isabel Van Camp is an NCAA champion distance runner for the Razorback women’s track and cross-country programs. She has been named an All-American in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. She was a member of the collegiate-record 4×1500 meter relay team, a 2022 NCAA indoor champion in the distance medley relay and she also won bronze medals at the ’22 SEC outdoor 10,000-meter run, the ’22 SEC indoor 3,000 meters and the ’21 SEC indoor distance medley relay.
Arkansas gymnastics coach Jordyn Wieber was a member of the gold-medal winning U.S. women’s gymnastics team, dubbed the Fierce Five, at the 2012 Olympics. She also was a member of the gold-medal American team at the 2011 World Championships, where she won the individual all-around title and took home bronze on the balance beam. Since her arrival in 2019, the UA team has set program and attendance records and made the NCAA Regionals every year.
In her first season for the Arkansas women’s track team, sophomore Britton Wilson was a part of 10 school records including a collegiate record in the 4×400 indoor relays, was named SEC Outdoor Runner of the Year and was a relay gold medalist for the U.S. team at the World Championships. At this spring’s SEC outdoor meet, Wilson posted UA records in the 400-meter and 400-meter hurdles, events held just an hour apart, to become the first women to win both events in the history of the SEC.
Tara Davis Woodhall
World-renowned track-and-field athlete Tara Davis Woodhall trains in Fayetteville, where she lives with her husband, former Razorback track athlete and Paralympian Hunter Woodall. The two operate a YouTube channel together. As a freshman at Georgia, she set a world under-20 record in the 60-meter hurdles. After transferring to Texas, Woodall set a collegiate record in the long jump. She participated in the 2020 Olympics and is expected to make the 2024 U.S. team.
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