FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas Lady Razorback cross country team faces its toughest task of the season to date when it travels to Eugene, Ore., to compete at the Bill Dellinger Invitational on Saturday morning at 9:15 a.m. at Springfield Country Club.
The Lady Razorbacks are the defending champion of the event which is in its second year, but Arkansas head coach Lance Harter realizes that in order to defend that title his team needs to be at their best.
“This weekend is a true test,” Harter said. “There are four major invitationals this weekend and each one has five or six teams ranked in the nation’s top 30. I think that we shocked some people last year when we won. That was a situation where we thought we needed to get as many wins as we could because of our young team. Our priorities have changed a little this season with an emphasis on the SEC, regional and NCAA Championships. That said, we’ll be a little more fatigued this weekend when we race, but it’s a long season and we still have eight weeks before the national championship.”
The Lady Razorbacks not only won in 2006, they dominated by scoring 25 points and placing five runners among the competition’s top 10 overall. Entering the competition ranked eighth, the Lady’Backs upset sixth-ranked BYU and fifth-ranked Duke on way to a 20-point victory.
This fall, Arkansas has the bulls eye square on its back as they enter the competition ranked fourth in the nation. The Lady Razorbacks are one of six teams ranked in the top 24 among the field of 15 which includes #15 Georgia, #17 Washington, #18 BYU, #21 Colorado St. and the host #24 Oregon.
Added to the drama of the excellent competition is the fact that the Bill Dellinger Invitational is Arkansas’ first race at 6,000 meters this fall. The Lady Razorbacks opened the season with a 4,000-meter race, and then moved to a 5K two weeks ago in San Diego. While Arkansas’ veteran runners should be able to adapt quickly to the longer, championship course, distance, some concern is placed on the Lady Razorback freshmen who are racing at the distance for the first time in their careers.
“This is going to be a learning experience for the freshmen,” Harter said. “Overall it is going to be very close and will be interesting to see what happens.”
For more information about Lady Razorback cross country or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.