Back to the Championships: After a one-year hiatus, the Arkansas Lady Razorback cross country team is making its way back to the NCAA Championships. While Arkansas was not completely unrepresented at the meet, the lack of a team did end a 14-year string of team scores at the national championships.
The 2003 NCAA Championships: Shiloh Whiting was Arkansas’ lone representative at the 2003 NCAA Championships after a fabulous regional meet in which she finished fifth overall and earned an at-large bid to the big dance. At the NCAA meet, Whiting finished 163rd overall but more important than her placing was the experience which she gained.
The 2004 NCAA Championships: Of the 31 teams selected for the 2004 NCAA Championships, 28 are ranked among the top 30 in the final NCAA/FinishLynx Women’s Cross Country Poll. Only the 28th and 30th-ranked teams in the poll will not be a part of the big dance. Arkansas enters the competition as the 19th-ranked team but could fare well if their pack style of running stays true to form.
Everyone Together: That seems to be the Lady Razorbacks philosophy when it comes to the cross country course in 2004. At the Southeastern Conference Championships, Arkansas put just 35 seconds between their first and fourth runners, but at the Regional Championships, Arkansas difference was even better. That same time frame, actually 34 seconds, separated Arkansas’ first and sixth-fastest finishers making them a force at the South Central and earning them a berth to the NCAA meet.
The South Central Regional: The Lady Razorbacks placed second at the 2004 NCAA South Central Regional held in Waco, Texas, on Nov. 13. After finishing third a year ago in what is possibly the closest competition at the meet ever, the Lady’Backs returned to finish 11 points behind the 12th-ranked Southern Methodist Mustangs for second place. Six Lady Razorbacks earned all-region honors as they all placed in the top 19, a feat not accomplished by any other school.
2004 NCAA South Central Regional ResultsCottonwood Creek Golf CourseWaco, Texas • Nov. 13, 2004
|7.||Stephen F. Austin||212|
Determined: The Lady Razorbacks were in search of a leader throughout the 2003 season and have gotten just that in 2004 with the emergence of senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush. The fifth-year student-athlete has already earned her bachelor’s degree and is pursuing her masters and that maturity outside the competition arena has made her a fabulous role model for the entire Arkansas squad.
Rush Continues to Lead: Senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush continues to lead the Lady Razorbacks this fall and looked as good as ever at the SEC Championships. Finishing third overall, her best finish in her four years, Rush was one of three Lady Razorbacks to earn all-SEC honors. Her top finish for the Lady Razorbacks is her fourth in four races this fall.
All-Region: Alison Rush earned her second all-region honor at the 2004 NCAA South Central Region Championships when she finished seventh overall in the field. Her first honor came during the 2003 season when she completed the same course 22nd overall and one full minute slower than her 2004 time of 20:54.
Leading Lady: Alison Rush asked Arkansas head coach Lance Harter what she needed to do to reach her full potential last spring and after a good meeting, she went out and exceeded his guidelines. The effort has paid off for Rush as she is now Arkansas top cross country runner and is poised to do something which she has not done in three years of competition, capture an all-America honor.
Against the Field: Arkansas has faced many of its 2004 NCAA Championships opponents prior to Monday’s competition, 11 in fact. Of those 11 squads, Arkansas has posted a 6-7 record against those teams and is currently ranked ahead of two of the contingents. In Arkansas’ favor is the fact that it has beaten 15th-ranked West Virginia twice this season, once at the Indiana State Invite, then again at the Roy Griak Invitational.
Another Number One: She isn’t flashy and doesn’t draw attention to herself, but junior Maureen Scott is quickly becoming Arkansas’ number one runner with an asterisk. The Lady Razorbacks’ second runner in four of five meets this season, Scott was right behind her senior teammate Alison Rush at the NCAA South Central Regional with an eighth-place finish. The effort throughout the 2004 season has led Arkansas head coach Lance Harter to say that Scott is his second number one runner.
Scott’s Career: As a freshman, Maureen Scott began hot and stayed that way throughout her first season winning two races as an individual, even earning SEC Athlete of the Week honors. That year she took all-region honors and backed it up as a sophomore with another all-region certificate, but her sophomore year was not nearly as awe-inspiring as her first. Now in her third season, Scott is looking more and more like she did as a freshman and even though she hasn’t won any individual races, she has taken all-conference and all-region honors.
Lady’Backs Second at Conference: The Lady Razorbacks finished second at the Southeastern Conference Championships on Oct. 30 in what was the closest competition in the 21-year history of the event. Arkansas scored 57 points, just behind Tennessee’s 55 and ahead of Georgia’s 63. Senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush was Arkansas’ top finisher at third overall.
Knocking off a Higher Opponent: Ranked 20th in the nation heading into the SEC Championships, the Lady Razorbacks knocked off 17th-ranked Georgia at the SEC meet, but finished just behind #14 Tennessee.
The FinishLynx Poll: Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what is going through the mind of any pollster, but one thing has remained constant for the Lady Razorbacks, they are destined to remain between 18 and 21 in the 2004 polls. Ranked as high as 16 in week two, the Lady’Backs have been between 18 and 21 for the rest of the season and finished the year 19th. Despite running a tremendous regional, the members of the FinishLynx/NCAA Women’s Cross Country Poll dropped Arkansas one spot from 18 to 19 even though they picked up a vote.
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.|
|Poll #6||18th||167 pts.|
|Poll #7||19th||168 pts.|
All-Americans: The Lady Razorbacks have had 21 individuals earn 27 NCAA Cross Country all-America honors over the past 25 years and in 2004 have several that have the potential to be next on the exclusive list. To be an all-American in cross country an athlete must finish among the top 25 individual finishers or be among the top 25 American finishers.
Gordon Filling a Vital Roll: Junior Jessie Gordon has filled a vital roll for the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks over the past two competitions and that has been shoring up the scoring five. Returning to the form that made her an all-region selection as a true freshman, Gordon has been Arkansas’ number five and number four runner at the SEC and NCAA Regional Championships that past two competitions and looks ready to improve her standing again at the NCAA Championships.
Gordon Steps Up: After a tremendous freshman season, Jessie Gordon was decent as a sophomore, but her performance at the 2004 SEC Championships could mark the return of the Ardmore, Okla., native. Gordon was Arkansas’ fifth finisher at 20th overall.
All-SEC: Along with Alison (Zeinner) Rush, the Lady Razorbacks’ Maureen Scott and Laura Jakosky were also named all-SEC performers thanks to their sixth and 11th-place finishes. For all three Arkansas runners, the honor was the second of their careers.
All-Region: Arkansas placed three runners in the elite all-SEC category at the conference championships, but stepped up the number to six for all-region status at the NCAA South Central Regional. Alison (Zeinner) Rush, Maureen Scott, Laura Jakosky, Jessie Gordon, Shiloh Whiting and Kristina Smith each took all-region certificates.
Leading Returnee: She may not want to admit it, but junior Shiloh Whiting entered the 2004 season as Arkansas’ leading returnee. The lone Lady Razorback to advance to the NCAA Championships last season, Whiting ended the 2003 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: Sophomore Kristina Smith is looking as good as she did 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.
Just Missed: Sophomore Kristina Smith barely missed all-SEC status at the SEC Championships when she finished 17th overall, three spots away from the conference team. Her placing kept the Lady Razorbacks close to the higher-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols.