SOUTH BEND, Ind. – In a competition full of upsets, the 10th-ranked University of Arkansas Lady Razorback cross country team finished fifth against a national level field at the Notre Dame Invitational on Friday evening as it matched strides with 12 of the nation’s top 30 teams in South Bend, Ind.
The University of Michigan, ranked fifth heading into the meet, won the race with 77 points followed closely by 20th-ranked Illinois with 82. The host and third-ranked Notre Dame finished third with 91 points followed by 12th-ranked Wake Forest with 151 points and then Arkansas with 205.
“The overall purpose of coming to a meet like this was to get the same experience that we will face at the NCAA Championships,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “This meet had a large field and everyone was fighting for position. I wanted to give our young team a chance to experience that and see what it is like to be overwhelmed by bodies and they handled it very well.”
Leading the way for the Lady Razorbacks was senior Jessie Gordon who finished 25th. Gordon, Arkansas’ sixth runner two weeks ago, had a fabulous summer of training that is beginning to pay dividends as she got off to a solid start on Friday and held her own against some of the nation’s best runners.
“Jessie fought really well and earned her finish,” Harter said. “She was our six runner last time and I think that this just shows that we have some interchangeable parts that can be in any position on any given day.”
Redshirt freshman Dacia Barr was Arkansas’ second runner to cross the line followed by freshman Christine Kalmer. Kalmer had been Arkansas’ front runner in its two previous competitions but felt the effects of the large field on Friday.
“I think that we made a mistake and let Christine get off to a start that was a bit too fast for her,” Harter said. “She certainly has the right instincts, but wasn’t quite ready for this level of competition. Dacia went with Christine and I think got a bit overextended.”
Rounding out the Lady Razorback top five included Laura Jakosky, Caroline Peyton. Freshmen Kelly Vrshek, Denise Bargiachi and Jennifer Harper along with sophomore Beth Fahey completed Arkansas’ nine-runner lineup.
While Arkansas was upset by the likes of Illinois and Wake Forest, it did keep 10 ranked teams behind it including #18 Butler, #24 Missouri, #28 Florida State, #29 Michigan State and Colorado State who was receiving votes.
“This result may drop us in the rankings, but overall it should be beneficial to us,” said Harter. “I think that this kind of race shows what we can expect at the end of the season and when we are running on all cylinders we can be much better than we were today.”
The Lady Razorbacks are back in action in two weeks when they participate in the annual Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival at Agri Park in Fayetteville. For more information about Lady Razorback cross country or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.