Arkansas Captures Fifth at NCAA Championships
BY ANDRES FOCIL
WATERLOO, Iowa. – With a temperature of 21 degrees and blistering 15 mile per hour winds the seventh-ranked Razorback cross country team was able to put together a fifth-place showing at the 2003 NCAA Cross Country Championships. The Hogs tallied 215 points on the Irv Warren Memorial Golf Course.
Stanford dominated the 10K team race for the second year in a row when all five of its scoring runners finished in the top 12. Their performances gave them 24 points and the victory. Wisconsin turned in 174 points for second place, Northern Arizona came in third with 190 and Iona College was fourth (191). Stanford’s 150-point margin of victory wiped out Arkansas’ previous NCAA record of 127. UA’s record was registered in 1999 when the Hogs gained 58 points to defeat Wisconsin’s 185.
“I’m pleased with their performances and I’m happy with a top-five finish,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “They competed really well and we improved on our ranking. What Alistair did was unbelievable, to get eighth right after surgery in a very classy field. All in all I couldn’t ask for any more, because of the youth we had. They went after it and ran out hard.”
Senior All-American Alistair Cragg staged a courageous race after coming off hernia surgery two months ago. He stayed with the front pack and used the Cardinal runners to block the strong winds. With half of the race remaining he got tripped up and was forced to play a difficult game of catch up on the small hills. Cragg made several charges, but was unable to pull himself ahead again.
He finished in eighth and clocked a season-best time of 29:33. He was also the Southeastern Conference’s top finisher for the third-straight year. Cragg had aspirations of claiming the individual national title this year after earning runner-up honors last year and third place in 2001. His performance marked his 11th All-America honor as a Razorback.
“I’m upset,” Cragg said. “Everyone ran well, but I’m disappointed in myself. I felt the pace was easy. With one kilometer left I had the chance to pull ahead and I battled through the middle, but it just didn’t happen.”
Junior Jason Sandfort garnered his fifth All-America accolade with a 24th-place performance. The West Plains, Mo., native registered a time of 30:06. It was Sandfort’s best finish at the NCAA meet after coming in 31st last season and 32nd in 2001 as a freshman.
Senior Chris Mulvaney was Arkansas’ third man and also posted a career-best NCAA meet finish of 63rd, while posting a time of 30:33. In 2002 he was 143rd, while in 2001 he came in 157th.
Mike Poe was the squad’s top finishing freshman as he crossed the line in 80th with a time of 30:43.
Sophomore transfer Matt Gunn started the race out quickly and ended up running a time of 30:50 to come in 95th. Two Razorback freshmen rounded out UA’s squad. Josh Harper was 116th (31:00) and in his first 10K race Sam Vazquez was 167th (31:26).
The Fox Sports Network will broadcast the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Dec. 3 at 2 p.m.
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