A Return to the Course: The Lady Razorbacks return to the cross country course for the first time this year when they participate in the Fayetteville Invitational on Friday, Sept. 3 at the Agri Park Cross Country Course.
Last Year at the Fayetteville: A year ago, almost to the day, at the Fayetteville Invitational the Lady Razorbacks dominated the competition on way to a sweep of the top seven spots. Facing runners from Missouri Southern and Tulsa, the Lady Razorbacks were led by Alison Zeinner who won her first ever cross country competition as a collegiate in 17:36.49. Rounding out Arkansas’ top seven were Maureen Scott, Laura Jakosky, Penny Splichal, Kristina Smith, Shiloh Whiting and Jessie Gordon.
Repeat Champion: It may be hard for Alison Zeinner to repeat as the Fayetteville Invitational champion if what head coach Lance Harter says is true about his 2004 team. Zeinner was impressive at the 2003 Fayetteville Invite winning the competition in 17:36.49. Her time was 0.25 seconds ahead of teammate Maureen Scott for the competitions title.
Ready for the Season: Arkansas head coach Lance Harter can’t wait for the 2004 season to begin after watching his Lady Razorbacks tear up each of their training courses over the past couple weeks. Harter has been impressed with the time that his pupils have put in over the summer and feels that they are in prime condition as they enter the fall.
Stepping Stone: The Fayetteville Invitational may seem like a small meet when looking at the individuals and teams involved, but it’s a huge meet to the Lady Razorback cross country program. The meet allows the entire Lady Razorback squad to get a race under their belts before they hit some of the stiffest competition in the country.
Leading Returnee: She may not want to admit it, but junior Shiloh Whiting is Arkansas’ leading returnee this fall. The lone Lady Razorback to advance to the NCAA Championships last season, Whiting ended the 2004 season with the second highest winning percentage of any Lady Razorback and was at her best at the end crossing the finish line second and first for Arkansas at the SEC and NCAA South Central Region Championships.
Slow Start, Great Finish: While we could be talking about the way Shiloh Whiting approaches her races, this references the way she competed last season. Arkansas’ sixth runner at the Fayetteville Invitational in 2003, Whiting remained at the six position until she had a breakthrough at the SEC meet.
All-SEC and All-Region: Shiloh Whiting earned her second all conference honor last season when she finished 13th at the SEC Championships, then picked up an all-region honor with her fifth-place finish at the regional. The only other Lady’Back to pick up both honors in 2003 was Laura Jakosky.
The SEC Preseason Poll: The Lady Razorbacks were tabbed to finish second in the Southeastern Conference’s annual preseason coaches’ poll which was distributed on Monday, Aug. 30. The Lady’Backs earned three of the 10 first-place votes awarded and totaled 90 points. Tennessee led the way with five first-place votes and 94 points.
First Time Since: Arkansas’ second-place projection in the SEC Coaches’ Poll is the first time since 1997 in which they have not been pegged as the conference champion. In that season, Florida was the top pick by the coaches.
Returning from Injury: Junior Erica Sigmont struggled with injury during the 2003 cross country season and was only able to finish one race. She also ran at the Regional Championship but was unable to finish because of a hip injury. Sigmont is healthy again and is training very well so far.
Arkansas’ Fayetteville Invite Lineup: The Lady Razorbacks are running most and sitting some of their 2004 squad so that Lance Harter can get a feel for his team. Scheduled to compete this weekend are:
First Races: Of Arkansas’ seven runners at the Fayetteville Invite, two are making their Lady Razorback debuts after a redshirt season in 2003. Tiffany Redlarczyk and Laura Insell get to don the cardinal and white for the first time in their careers.
Shorter Course: The course for the Fayetteville Invitational is not going to be your typical NCAA Championships length course, but instead a slightly shorter 5,000-meter run rather than 6,000. Several years ago, the 5K matched the NCAA distance, but while the NCAA length changed, the Lady’Backs kept the Fayetteville shorter as a training exercise.
Veterans Abound: There is certainly one thing that you can say about the Lady Razorback cross country team, experience is plentiful. Of the 22 members of Arkansas’ squad, 10 have been significant contributors to the cross country team and two were a huge part of the track and field squad. Those 12 athletes comprise 54 percent of Arkansas’ total roster.
Adding Young Talent: With every good team there is a mixture of veteran leadership and youthful exuberance and the 2004 Lady Razorbacks have just that. With 12 runners that Arkansas head coach Lance Harter feels he can count on, there is no rush to fill in the gaps with his eight freshmen or redshirt freshmen, but he also has the luxury to do so if the need arises. Look for at least one or two new faces on the traveling roster, but probably not until later in the season.