The SEC Championships: The Lady Razorbacks have been the toast of the SEC for years winning 10 conference titles over the past 13 years. Arkansas looks to extend its all-time lead over its opponents at the 2004 championships held in Fayetteville.
Hosting: For just the second time the University of Arkansas hosts the SEC Cross Country Championships. The last time that Arkansas hosted was 1994, the same year Arkansas hosted the NCAA meet. At the 1994 Championships, Arkansas won the team title at Prairie Grove Battlefield.
Arkansas’ Last Competition: The last time the Lady Razorbacks took the course was at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival in Fayetteville on Oct. 16. In that competition, Arkansas entered without its entire compliment of runners and finished second behind #11 SMU by a mere nine points. Unable to compete was junior Erica Sigmont and sophomore Kristina Smith failed to finish due to illness.
A Full Roster: Hopefully for the Lady Razorbacks, they will get to compete their entire team at the SEC Championships. Ranked 20th in the nation, Arkansas has done it without at least one, but mostly two and three key runners throughout the season. With a full compliment of athletes, who know what Arkansas is capable of?
The 2003 SEC Championships: Arkansas entered the 2003 SEC Championships hoping to extend its record five consecutive team championships when it traveled to Athens, Ga. What happened was that the Univ. of Tennessee and the host Georgia Bulldogs ran very well while Arkansas faltered to a third-place finish, its worst since joining the league.
|2003 Southeastern Conference ChampionshipsAthens, Ga. • Nov. 3, 2003|
|7.||Miss. St. (5-24-32-50-51)||162|
|10.||S. Carolina (7-49-65-66-67)||259|
Home Course Advantage: One of the significant advantages for the Lady Razorbacks this weekend is the fact that they are racing at home. Arkansas competed on the Agri Park Course just two weeks ago at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival and know what it takes to be successful on the course.
10 Not 8: A major change in the format of the 2004 SEC Championships is that each squad is allowed to compete with 10 runners and not eight as in years past. This change will allow the Lady Razorbacks to compete an even tougher squad while also giving some of the new faces a chance to run against stiff competition.
Arkansas’ Senior: A leader for the Lady Razorbacks both on and off the cross country course, Alison (Zeinner) Rush is the lone senior on the Lady Razorback roster. A product of the Arkansas system, Rush has improved steadily up the depth chart and now as a senior is the go to runner for the Lady Razorbacks.
Arkansas’ No. 1: The results don’t lie, Arkansas’ No. 1 runner this season has to be Alison Rush. She has competed in three competitions this fall and been Arkansas’ top runner in each race race including the Griak Invitational and Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival. At the Griak, Rush finished 18th overall to pace Arkansas to a fifth-place team finish. At the Chile Pepper she was the seventh overall finisher in Arkansas’ runner-up team finish.
No. 1 at Indiana State: We mentioned that Alison Rush was Arkansas’ No. 1 runner three times this season, so we should inform you that the other competition was the Indiana State Invite where she was fifth overall.
Best Ever Finish at Chile Pepper: Over the course of four years, Alison Rush has improved each year and the proof in that is where she finished at the Chile Pepper last weekend. Seventh overall, the finish was by far her best showing on Arkansas’ home course improving on 46th, 58th and 70th-place finishes in each of her three previous seasons.
The FinishLynx Poll: Ranked as high as 16th in the nation, the Lady Razorbacks have fallen to 20th in the latest FinishLynx/NCAA Women’s Cross Country Poll. Ranked 21st in week three, Arkansas fell in the rankings following its performance at the Roy Griak Invitational despite not running a full team and decimating the then eighth-ranked team in the land, Princeton. After staying steady at 21 through week four, the Lady’Backs improved to 20th in the last poll. The next poll comes out after the conference championship.
FinishLynx Cross Country Poll
|Poll #1||16th||194 pts.|
|Poll #2||19th||148 pts.|
|Poll #3||21st||134 pts.|
|Poll #4||21st||147 pts.|
|Poll #5||20th||145 pts.|
Returning all-SEC Performers: The Lady Razorbacks have several cross country all-SEC runners on the roster, but just two earned the honor last season. Juniors Shiloh Whiting and Laura Jakosky finished 12th and 13th, respectively at the 2003 SEC Championships to earn the honors. For Jakosky it was her first ever all-SEC honor while Whiting took her second. Other current Lady Razorbacks that have earned all-SEC during their careers, Alison Rush, Maureen Scott, Erica Sigmont and Penny Splichal.
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.
What Sophomore Slump: It may be a little early to declare, but sophomore Kristina Smith is looking as good as she was as a freshman. The Fayetteville meet saw her finish third overall and third on the Lady Razorback roster while Indiana State placed her 10th overall and once again third on Arkansas’ list of finishers. Smith moved up to second on Arkansas’ finishers list at the Southern Stampede at 13th overall in a very good time.
As Solid as they Come: When it comes to consistency on the cross country course, many find that it is hard, perhaps impossible to maintain considering the different courses and settings, but Kristina Smith has been able to give Arkansas all the consistency that it could want. A mainstay on Arkansas’ traveling roster as a freshman, Smith has been either second or third in each of Arkansas’ 2004 races.
Sick at Chile Pepper: Kristina Smith has been solid for the Lady Razorbacks throughout the season, but didn’t seem to be herself at the Chile Pepper. Turns out the sophomore was sick before the race, but gave it a shot anyway before pulling out of the competition with a little more than a mile to the finish. Healthy again, Smith should be a contributor at the SEC Championships for the Lady Razorbacks.
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.
Joining Arkansas: It took a while for junior Erica Sigmont to get healthy enough to run cross country after breaking her foot at the NCAA Regional Track Championships in 2004, but after spending time in a boot, she has made a full recovery. Scheduled to debut at the Chile Pepper a couple weeks ago, Arkansas’ coaches felt it was better to sit the Australian one more time and make sure she was healthy enough to compete not just during cross country, but during the indoor and outdoor track seasons.
A Shot in the Arm: Erica Sigmont’s inclusion to the SEC Championships roster is like a shot of adrenaline in the arm of the Lady Razorbacks. In her one performance at the SEC Championships, Sigmont finished 13th overall to earn all-SEC honors and help the Lady Razorbacks win the team title in 2002.
Pack Running Again: Without a true number one runner this season, the Lady Razorbacks returned to the pack running philosophy and the strategy worked to perfection at the Southern Stampede as Arkansas’ seven runners were all within one minute of each other and finished 10-13-16-19-21-22-30.
Teams to Watch: The teams that bring the most firepower to the 2004 SEC Championships are Tennessee and Georgia. Ranked 14th and 17th, respectively, the two squads finished ahead of the Lady Razorbacks at the 2003 meet and return most of their runners from that competition. Georgia’s advantage last season was that it was running at home. Tennessee just put together a good team and an even better race.
Individual Leader: The odds on favorite to take the 2004 individual title at the SEC Championships has to be Auburn senior Angela Homan. The 2003 champion, Homan returns to defend her title and attempt to lead the Tigers to an improved finish from a year ago.
Redlarczyk Takes the Lead: Redshirt freshman Tiffany Redlarczyk was Arkansas’ top finisher at the Southern Stampede marking the first time she has led a Lady Razorback contingent in her career. Sitting out the 2003 season because of a knee injury, Redlarczyk returned to Fayetteville in fantastic shape and has looked superb for Arkansas in every race she has competed in.
Second Fastest 5K: Tiffany Redlarczyk’s 17:44.85 at the Southern Stampede is the second fastest Lady Razorback cross country 5K this season and is just two seconds behind junior Penny Splichal’s performance at the Fayetteville Invitational to open the season.
Top Seven: Tiffany Redlarczyk has good races and bad races, but it seems that she somehow always places among Arkansas’ top five. One of two Lady Razorbacks to participate in all five Arkansas competitions this season, Redlarczyk has been Arkansas’ first across the line once, fifth twice, sixth once and seventh once.