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.
|Arkansas in the Poll|
|Preseason||17th, 180 pts.|
|Week One||13th, 234 pts.|
|Week Two||10th, 257 pts.|
|Week Three||12th, 241 pts.|
Top 10: Arkansas’ 10th-place ranking in the second FinishLynx/NCAA Cross Country Poll is its first top 10 ranking since the final poll of the 2002 season. In that ranking, Arkansas was eighth on Nov. 18, 2002.
The Regional Poll: While many look at the national poll, the Women’s Intercollegiate Cross Country Coaches’ Association also distributes a regional poll and the Lady Razorbacks have been the South Central’s top team for three consecutive weeks. Followed by Baylor in the week two rankings, the Lady Razorbacks have been the region’s top team all season.
Running With the Pack: The Lady Razorbacks are interchangeable in 2005 meaning that it doesn’t matter who is the top runner and who is 10th, the results seem to be the same. This season, Arkansas’ top five runners have changed at every meet, but the result remains the same, 20-25 seconds between Arkansas’ top runners.
Sixth Straight Win: Arkansas’ win against Missouri Southern on Sept. 9 was its sixth straight home opening win dating back to the fall of 2000 when it began to host an early meet.
16th Straight: Arkansas now has a streak of 16 straight opening day wins in cross country. Prior to the six dual meet/Fayetteville Invitationals, the Lady’Backs took 10 consecutive team titles, mostly at the Univ. of Kansas. The last time a Lady Razorback team lost an opening day meet was Sept. 29, 1989 when it finished second in Little Rock.
Leading the charge: For two straight weeks freshman Christine Kalmer led the charge for the Lady Razorbacks. Running against some of her senior teammates for the first time at the Aztec Invite, Kalmer cruised to a fourth-place overall finish in 17:59 making it her second consecutive sub 18-minute run.
Three Straight Sub 18s: Freshman Christine Kalmer is the only Lady Razorback to post three times under 18 minutes this season. Kalmer has been Arkansas’ number one runner twice and the number three runner once. Despite the placings, she has posted times of 17:10, 17:59 and 17:47.
First Since: Christine Kalmer’s victory at the Missouri Southern Dual makes her the first Lady Razorback since 2001 to win an event in her first collegiate competition. The last Lady Razorback to accomplish the task was current senior Penny Splichal who won the Fayetteville Invitational.
The SEC Preseason Poll: The Lady Razorbacks were tabbed to finish second in the Southeastern Conference’s annual preseason coaches’ poll which was distributed last week. The Lady’Backs earned four of the 12 first-place votes awarded and totaled 113 points. Tennessee led the way with six first-place votes and 115 points.
Twice in Two Years: Arkansas’ second-place projection in the SEC Coaches’ Poll is the second time in two years in which they have not been pegged as the conference champion. Prior to last season it was 1997 when Florida was the top pick by the coaches.
21 Seconds: Usually, teams like to keep their top five runners less than a minute apart in cross country and the closer they are the better off the team is. Arkansas took that charge a step further as they spanned 21 seconds not just between the scoring five, but between its top eight runners at the Aztec.
Impressing the Coaches: Freshman Denise Bargiachi ran at the Missouri Southern Dual meet unattached as a training exercise, but her results made the Arkansas coaching staff rethink their decisions. Bargiachi finished third overall with a time of 17:35 and looked very strong doing it. Her impressive performance at home earned her a spot on the travel squad for the Aztec.
Fifth and Ninth: After earning a spot on Arkansas’ travel squad at the Missouri Southern Dual, Denise Bargiachi did not upset her coaches when she looked even better at the Aztec Invitational. Bargiachi finished fifth for the Lady Razorbacks and ninth overall in a strong field and ran 18:13 for the 5,000-meter course, just 14 seconds off Christine Kalmer’s leading time for a Lady’Back.
Seventh: Denise Bargiachi continues to run well for the Lady Razorbacks as she was Arkansas’ seventh runner at the Notre Dame Invitational. In two races wearing the cardinal and white, Bargiachi has finished as Arkansas’ fifth and seventh runner.
Academic all-American: It should be pointed out that senior Maureen Scott not only gets the job done on the cross country course but in the classroom as well. Following six semesters of perfect 4.0 grade point averages, Scott earned her second first-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America honor and has a chance to be the first three-time honoree in Lady Razorback history.