The NCAA Championships: Ranked 19th in the nation entering the 2004 NCAA Cross Country Championships, the Lady Razorbacks succeeded in improving their national standing despite boggy conditions in Terre Haute, Ind., when they finished 16th overall. Led by Junior Maureen Scott who finished 84th overall, the Lady Razorbacks scored 400 points as a team.
Another Pack Effort: Throughout the 2004 season the Lady Razorbacks have relied on running as a pack to achieve their goals. That philosophy did not die at the NCAA meet as Arkansas’ tight-knit group finished a staggering 27 seconds apart between its first and fifth runners allowing it to shock several teams
A Semblance of Revenge: While Arkansas would have liked to win a national championship, it knew that it would have been a long shot, so defeating some the teams that had beaten Arkansas throughout the year would have been nice. Fortunately for the Lady Razorbacks, that is what happened when it defeated the 14th-ranked and Southeastern Conference Champion Tennessee Lady Vols and 12th-ranked and NCAA South Central Region and Chile Pepper XC Festival Champion Southern Methodist Mustangs who finished 21st and 22nd, respectively.
One of Eight: Despite its 16th-place finish, the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks did one thing that only seven other schools were able to accomplish at the NCAA Championships, place all five scorers among the top 100. The other schools to accomplish the feat, NCAA Champion Colorado, NCAA runner-up Duke, the nation’s No. one and No. 2 ranked teams Stanford and Providence, Notre Dame, Michigan and Missouri.
Back at the National Meet: After a one-year hiatus from the NCAA Championships, the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks returned in grand fashion by improving on its national ranking. Arkansas’ return to the national scene as a team was its 14th race at the NCAA meet in 15 years dating back to 1990.
Ending the Season Strong: The Lady Razorbacks came into the 2004 season with several questions and ended it on a high note. With second-place finishes at the SEC and NCAA South Central Regional, Arkansas was pleased with its team’s effort and then was impressed with the grit that the squad showed at the NCAA meet to finish 16th.
Leading the Way: While she was second to her senior teammate most of the season, junior Maureen Scott decided to take a step toward the big time when she was Arkansas’ top finisher at the NCAA Championships. Finishing 84th overall, Scott was out of the running for an all-American honor but showed the heart and determination that should carry over to a fabulous track season.
Second SEC Finisher: Maureen Scott’s impressive run at the NCAA Championships should also be noted for the fact that she was the second Southeastern Conference runner to cross the line at the national meet. Coming in just behind Tennessee’s Felicia Guliford, Scott was a mere second from being the top SEC runner at the meet.
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.
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.
What Sophomore Slump: Sophomore Kristina Smith looked as good if not better than she did as a freshman in 2004. 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.
Arkansas’ Number Two: After spending most of the season among Arkansas’ top five in cross country, sophomore Kristina Smith stepped up at the NCAA Championships when she was second to cross the line for Arkansas and 100th overall. In just her first NCAA Championship, Smith was able to step up to the challenge set before her.
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.
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-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.
Next: While most sports complete their season and have nine months to reflect on their performances, the Lady Razorback cross country team has just a few days to think about the 2004 cross country campaign before preparing for their next endeavor, the indoor track season. Arkansas’ cross country team now gets the holiday to rest and do “light” running before returning to campus for workouts at the Randal Tyson Indoor Track.
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.
At the NCAA Meet: Senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush may not have achieved her ultimate goal of becoming a cross country all-American at the 2004 NCAA Championships, but the fifth-year all-conference and all-region performer showed the grit and determination that has made her the Lady’Backs front runner most of the season when she battled from a less than spectacular start to pick up much needed points for the Lady Razorbacks.
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.
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.
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 filled a vital roll for the Arkansas Lady Razorbacks at the SEC and NCAA South Central Regional and that shored 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.