A Solid Performance: The Lady Razorbacks are coming off a solid performance at the Notre Dame Invitational where they finished fifth out of 24 teams. Coming in as the third highest ranked team, the Notre Dame meet was full of upsets that have shaped the cross country polls top 25. Senior Jessie Gordon had the finest meet of her career when she ran 17:37 and finished 24th overall.
Still Amongst the Nations Best: Despite not finishing at their ranking at the Notre Dame Invitational, the Lady Razorbacks and the pollsters know what kind of competition the meet brought. As a result, the Lady Razorbacks only dropped two spots in the FinishLynx/NCAA Women’s Cross Country Poll and are ranked 12th in the nation.
The Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival: One of the finest cross country races in the country, the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival has a wonderful history that continues to this day. Originally designed to help local high school cross country programs, the series of races does indeed do that. The day has grown by leaps and bounds over the years and now includes a highly competitive collegiate division which teams from around the nation fight to be a part of.
The Competition: The 2005 Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival should be a great competition for all teams involved. As of now, there are more than 45 collegiate teams entered for Saturday’s race including #14 Baylor and #16 Oklahoma State on the women’s side. Other notable teams include Alabama, California, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Nebraska, Oral Roberts and Tulsa.
Last Season at the Chile Pepper: The 13th annual Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival was a tough meet for the 21st-ranked Lady Razorbacks as they battled #11 SMU in the team competition. Missing the upset by a mere nine points, the Lady Razorbacks were crushed by the loss, but understood what needed to be done. Senior Alison Rush led the way with a seventh-place finish, followed by Maureen Scott who crossed in 14th overall. There were 285 finishers on the day and Arkansas placed five in the top 26.
Arkansas’ Chile Pepper History: The Lady Razorbacks have always faired well at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival since its inception in 1992. Winning the competition 10 times, Arkansas has never finished worse than third (2003) and finished second twice (1996 and 2004). The last time the Lady Razorbacks won the Chile Pepper was in 2002.
Lady Razorbacks at the Chile Pepper: Any time you can finish in the top three of a competition for 13 consecutive years you must be doing something right. While Arkansas Lady Razorbacks don’t win the Chile Pepper individual race every year, they have won their fair share, five in fact with the last coming in 2000 when Lilli Kleinmann dominated the race. Amy Yoder Begley is the only Lady Razorback to win the race multiple times when she took titles is 1996, 1998 and 1999, then finished second in 1997 to Deena Drossin Kastor, the Olympic bronze medalist in the marathon in 2004.
Her Best Race: Senior Jessie Gordon has had some wonderful moments on the cross country course including a pair of South Central Region performances, but despite the honors, she still has never accomplished what she did at the Notre Dame Invitational. Finishing 24th overall, Gordon was Arkansas’ number one runner and ran a career best for 5,000 meters at 17:37.
First Time She’s First: Jessie Gordon’s first-place finish among the Lady Razorbacks is the first time she crossed the line as Arkansas’ top runner in her three-plus years on the squad. In fact, it is the first time she has ever finished higher than third among Lady Razorback runners.
16 Seconds: We mentioned that Jessie Gordon’s time at the Notre Dame Invitational was a career best for 5,000 meters, but we should note that it was a 16 second personal best for the Ardmore, Okla., native.
The Arkansas Lineup: The Lady Razorbacks are bringing 14 harriers to the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival. Included in the lineup are Denise Bargiachi, Dacia Barr, Lea Carruthers, Beth Fahey, Jessie Gordon, Jennifer Harper, Laura Jakosky, Christine Kalmer, Becky Kerr, Laura Kerr, Caroline Peyton, Tiffany Redlarczyk, Maureen Scott, Penny Splichal and Kelly Vrshek.
The National Poll: The FinishLynx/NCAA Women’s Cross Country Preseason Poll projected the Lady Razorbacks as the 17th best team in the nation. The ranking was just under Arkansas’ NCAA finish of a year ago (16th) and Arkansas head coach Lance Harter felt it was a fair ranking at the time. The release of the first poll moved Arkansas up one spot to 16 and after a pair of victories and a solid showing at Notre Dame; the Lady Razorbacks are now 12th in the third poll. Arkansas’ highest ranking of the season was 10th in the poll’s second week.