FAYETTEVILLE – The No. 12 University of Arkansas women’s cross country team begins its championship season Oct. 26 with the running of the 2012 Southeastern Conference Championships in Nashville, Tenn. The women’s 6K race is set for a 10 a.m. (CT) start at Percy Warner Park. This year’s conference meet is hosted by Vanderbilt University.
"The championship season begins and we’re really excited about it," head coach Lance Harter said. "We have no regrets as far as what we’ve done in training or what we’ve done in racing. In hindsight, we’ve followed the season’s plan perfectly. It’s now a matter of going in to execute a specific race plan in Vanderbilt’s backyard."
Last season, the Razorbacks finished as the SEC runner-up for the second straight year. Since joining the league in 1991-92, Arkansas has won 13 conference cross country team titles (1991-95, 1998-2002, 2006-08) and 12 individual titles spread among nine runners, including last year’s champion Kristen Gillespie. The Razorbacks won the team title the last time the conference meet was held in Nashville (1999).
In the team’s last outing, the Razorbacks claimed the team title at the 24th Annual Chile Pepper Festival in Fayetteville. Arkansas’ top five all finished inside the top 20, led by a fifth-place overall finish by Semehar Tesfaye. The win was Arkansas’ first at the Chile Pepper event since the 2006 season. In addition to Tesfaye, the top-five scoring lineup included Andrina Schlaepfer, Grace Heymsfield, Paige Johnston and Jessica Kamilos, respectively.
Arkansas is the highest-ranked SEC team in the most recent release of the USTFCCCA national poll. The Razorbacks enter the conference meet as the No. 12 team in the country and will be joined in Friday’s race by No. 28 Vanderbilt and No. 30 Florida. Kentucky is also receiving votes in the national rankings.
Under the direction of Harter, the Razorbacks have won a conference-leading 13 SEC cross country titles. Overall, Arkansas has won 19 SEC team titles including 13 cross country (1991-95, 1998-2002, 2006-08), three indoor track and field (2000-01, 2003) and three outdoor track and field (2000-01, 2004) titles.
At last year’s conference meet, Arkansas placed its top-five scorers inside the top 17 and ran to a second-place finish at the 2011 SEC Championships. For their individual performances, Gillespie was named the SEC Runner of the Year while Kaitlin Flattmann earned SEC Freshman of the Year accolades.
For more information regarding Razorback cross country or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com. Fans can also keep up with Arkansas cross country and track and field with the team’s sport-specific RazorbackTF Facebook and Twitter pages.