FAYETTEVILLE – Two home meets including the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival highlight the University of Arkansas’ 2006 cross country schedule which Lady Razorback head coach Lance Harter announced on Tuesday.
With a young but experienced cross country team, Harter and his staff chose to keep a schedule similar to their 2005 slate which led them to a 19th-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Beginning in early September, the schedule consists of eight meets and ends with the NCAA meet on Nov. 20.
“We felt that last year’s schedule was good for us,” Harter said. “We had a good mix of shorter courses early on and larger meets in the middle of the year which prepared us for the SEC and NCAA Championships. Last season we counted on four seniors to lead the way and filled the roster in with freshmen. Now we are dominated by sophomores and juniors, but each has participated in numerous events which should make us a formidable team in 2006.”
Arkansas’ schedule begins at home on Sept. 8 with the Fayetteville Invitational, a small meet where several nearby universities and colleges get their seasons started. Following the opener, the Lady Razorbacks hit the road for the Aztec Invitational in San Diego, Calif. Hosted in historic Balboa Park, Arkansas faced a strong field in the 2005 meet and came away with a surprising victory which moved them up in the top 25 poll.
Another West Coast trip ends the September schedule as the Lady’Backs head to Eugene, Ore., for the Oregon Invitational on Friday, Sept. 29. This fall marks the first time Arkansas has ever attended the Oregon Invite which should showcase some of the nation’s best cross country teams.
The Memphis Invitational is next on Arkansas’ schedule on Saturday, Oct. 7, and should be a good tune-up for the first of four major meets that end the season. The first is the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival on Oct. 14. The biggest cross country meet in this region of the country, the Chile Pepper brought more than 30 collegiate women’s teams to Fayetteville in 2005 and is regarded as one of the best meets in collegiate cross country.
Arkansas takes a week off before it travels to Baton Rouge, La., for the SEC Championships on Oct. 28. The Lady Razorbacks finished as the conference runner-up in 2005 and look to regain the conference title which has eluded them for the past three seasons.
Another week off from competition should have the Lady Razorbacks well rested for the NCAA South Central Regional in Waco, Texas, Nov. 11. Entering the meet with a bulls-eye on their backs thanks to their stunning regional championship last season, Arkansas has its hands full with nearly 20 teams from Louisiana and Texas in a fight for the title.
The NCAA cross country season ends on Monday, Nov. 20, in Terre Haute, Ind., at the NCAA Championships. The host of the NCAA meet for the past two seasons, Arkansas hopes to return to the Indiana State Cross Country Course and improve upon its 2005 performance.
For more information about Lady Razorback cross country or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to ladybacks.com.