With racing season just around the corner, head coach Lance Harter and the 2010 Arkansas Razorback women’s cross country team are prepared for the fall season of competition. The squad welcomes back experienced team assets senior Miranda Walker, junior Jillian Rosen, junior Samantha Learch and junior Kristen Gillespie, as well as several incoming freshmen and redshirt freshmen.
"We are very excited about this group of distance runners," Harter said. "Everyone has another year of training under their belts and this group has some great chemistry. We have some excellent leadership from our upperclassmen but also a group of younger runners that are ready to get after it."
Walker, the lone senior on the team, had a performance at the 2009 SEC Championships that earned her the second All-SEC honor of her career. She went on to the NCAA South Central Region Championships earning her second all-region honor. Walker also competed at the 2009 NCAA Championships as an individual.
Rosen is back from redshirting the 2009 season. Physically fit and stronger than ever, Rosen adds an extra degree of power to Arkansas’ scoring five. She is a two-time all-region performer and the 2007 SEC Freshman of the Year. With All-SEC honors to her credit, Rosen has competed at the SEC, regional and NCAA Championships for the Razorbacks.
"We’ll be looking to Miranda Walker and Jillian Rosen to lead this team," Harter said. "They know the ropes of racing in the SEC and the NCAA and will be able to help mold and tutor our younger runners."
Learch was a member of the 2008 SEC All-Freshman Team and earned all-region honors in 2009. Gillespie earned all-region honors in 2009 and was Arkansas’ third runner at the SEC Championships with her 16th-place finish. Both consistently battle in Arkansas’ scoring five and have stepped up when the team needed them most.
Both Learch and Gillespie picked up valuable racing experience as part of the school-record setting and All-America status earning distance medley relay team during the 2010 indoor season.
Arkansas returns ten student-athletes from last year’s roster, including young but experienced junior Cali George and sophomores Keri Wood.
George is a two-year letterwinner and has competed for the Razorbacks at the SEC and NCAA Regional Championships. Wood competed as a true freshman in 2009 and improved greatly throughout the course of the season.
Stephanie Brown and Paige Johnston are Arkansas’ redshirted freshmen. They are all returning with a year of training under their belts. The knowledge and strength they gained over the last year will be contributing factors to the success of the team. On the track in 2010, Brown earned All-America honors indoors in the 800 meters. Outdoors, she competed at the NCAA and USA Junior Championships in the 800 meters. She also scored team points in the 800 meters at the SEC Indoor and Outdoor Championships.
The Razorbacks will add depth and ability to their roster with five outstanding freshmen joining the force. Grace Heymsfield is a native of Elkins, Ark., and attended Elkins High School. She won three-straight individual cross country state titles and was the 2009 Arkansas Class 3A State Champion at 1,600 meters. Heymsfield is the first Arkansas high schooler to ever dip below five minutes in the 1,600 meters with a state record of 4:59.51. At the Arkansas Meet of Champions, Heymsfield also picked up a title in the 1,600 meters with a time of 4:59.51, which shattered the previous Arkansas State and Meet of Champions record.
Ashley Isham is a native of Cedar Park, Texas, and attended Vista Ridge High School. She holds personal bests of 4:56.1 in the 1,600 meters, 4:53.08 in the mile and 10:37.17 in the 3,200 meters. She is a two-time district and regional champion in cross country, a two-time district and regional champion at 3,200 meters, a district and regional champion at 1,600 meters and the 2008 Texas 4A State Champion at 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Isham was also a finalist at the Nike Team Nationals and the Footlocker National meet.
Diane Robison is a native of St. Louis, Mo., and attended Parkway Central High School. She holds personal bests of 2:17 in the 800 meters, 4:56.34 in the 1,600 meters and 10:33.91 in the 3,200 meters. At the 2009 Missouri State Championships, she ran on the title-winning 4×800-meter relay, finished third in the 1,600 meters and finished second in the 3,200 meters. She was also a finalist at the Footlocker National meet.
"We have some great younger runners that we are excited to see hit the course for the first time," Harter said. "Stephanie Brown, an All-American on the track at 800 meters, and Paige Johnston have trained with us for a year so they know what it’s all about. Grace Heymsfield, Ashley Isham and Diane Robison are true cross country, distance runners. They immediately add a ton of depth. It may take time for them to adjust but we are really excited about what we will see out of them as the season progresses."
The Razorbacks will open the season with a home meet at Agri Park on Friday, Sept. 3. Saturday, Sept. 18 holds a meet at UC-Riverside and, on Friday, Oct. 1, a meet at Notre Dame. Arkansas will host its second home meet of the season with the Chile Pepper Festival on Saturday, Oct. 16.
The championships portion of the season will start Monday, Nov. 1 with the SEC Championships, in Columbia, S.C., on the campus of the University of South Carolina. The NCAA South Central Regional Championships will be held Saturday, Nov. 13, in Waco Texas, at Baylor University. The season will wrap with the NCAA Championships, Monday, Nov. 22, in Terre Haute, Ind., on the campus of Indiana State University.