FAYETTEVILLE – The 12th-ranked University of Arkansas Lady Razorback cross country team has its hands full on Saturday afternoon as it is one of nearly 40 teams to compete at the 17th annual Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival at the Agri Park Cross Country Course at 10:30 a.m.
The Lady Razorbacks enter the competition as the highest ranked team in the field, but must contend with #14 Baylor and #16 Oklahoma State not to mention the largest field of athletes they have seen this season.
“The key for Saturday is to get out and set up early,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “With such a large field it is even more important to get to the front of the field. We have a young team so we need to make sure that we don’t get lost in the mass of bodies.”
Last season, the 21st-ranked Lady Razorbacks nearly upset #11 SMU for the team title, finishing second overall by nine points. Arkansas has not won a Chile Pepper competition since 2002 when Lilli Kleinmann and Tracy Robertson led the Lady Razorbacks to the team championship. Since the Chile Pepper’s collegiate women’s race began in 1992, Arkansas has taken the top spot 10 times and a Lady Razorback has won the individual title in five competitions.
Arkansas enters Saturday’s race after an off weekend, which should bode well for the Lady Razorbacks. In their last competition, the Lady Razorbacks finished fifth at the Notre Dame Invitational in what was the best field of top 25 talent that Arkansas saw in 2005.
Leading the way for the Lady Razorbacks at the Chile Pepper should be the senior trio of Jessie Gordon, Laura Jakosky and Penny Splichal. All three runners are veterans of the Chile Pepper and all of its celebration and should be key to keeping Arkansas’ young talent from getting too excited prior to race time. Freshman Christine Kalmer could also put together a tremendous race if she can duplicate her efforts from the Missouri Southern Dual meet. In that competition, Kalmer cruised past the field to run a 5,000-meter race in just 17:10 to take her first individual cross country title.
For more information about Lady Razorback cross country or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.