NEW YORK – University of Arkansas freshman Denise Bargiachi earned an alternate position for Team USA at the 2006 IAAF World Junior Cross Country Championships on Saturday morning when she took ninth place at the USA Championships in Van Cortlandt Park in New York City.
Despite weather conditions that made the course nearly unbearable, Bargiachi completed the 6,000-meter course in 21:07, just missing the automatic qualifying six, but with her finish made herself an alternate for Team USA at the World junior Championships and a potential member of Team USA’s North America Central America Championships (NACAC) team.
“It was cold,” Arkansas head cross country coach Lance Harter said. “Wind chills were well below 20, but I’m proud of the way Denise and Kelly (Vrshek) ran. They dealt with the elements like everyone else and made the most of their opportunity. After the race, several of the USA Track people came up to me and asked where these two came from. They were very impressed.”
Arkansas’ tandem started the day with sun during their warm up which stayed with the runners for the opening portion of the race. By the 3,000-meter mark, the sky turned dark and a driving snow storm hampered the competitors, but fortunately for all involved the flurries didn’t last and the sun shined on the field following their competition.
Both Bargiachi and Vrshek started slow, perhaps from the shock of the weather, but as the race heated up so did Bargiachi and she went with the leaders. Saving her best for last, the Memphis, Tenn., native passed several over the final stretch of course and may have made the USA team if the course had been slightly longer.
Vrshek followed the same game plan as her Arkansas teammate but probably waited just a bit too long to make her move over the final two laps of the course and finished in 15th position overall with a time of 21:32. Vrshek’s finish makes her a potential alternate for the NACAC meet in Orlando, May 11.
Bargiachi and Vrshek join their Lady Razorback teammates for the Southeastern Conference Championships next weekend in Gainesville, Fla. For more information about Lady Razorback cross country or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.