WACO, Texas – Senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush and the rest of the 18th-ranked University of Arkansas Lady Razorback cross country team look to move on to the NCAA Championships on Saturday morning when they take on a strong field at the NCAA South Central Regional Championships in Waco, Texas.
For Arkansas, Rush has been the driving force behind a good season that saw the Lady’Backs take second at the Southeastern Conference Championships, but the senior wants more and was disappointed by Arkansas’ placing at the 2003 meet.
The Lady Razorbacks enter Saturday’s race as one of two favorites to claim the coveted two-team automatic bid to the NCAA meet. While Arkansas only needs to finish among the top two, it also knows that standing ahead of it in the polls is 12th-ranked Southern Methodist who barely edged Arkansas at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival.
“I think that this race will come down to the four and five runners,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “If we can outperform SMU in those places then I think that we have a chance to beat them. SMU has a very good team and it will take everything we have to challenge them for the regional title.”
Arkansas last won a regional championship during the 2002 season when it decimated the field by 45 points, but the stark reality of the Lady’Backs third-place finish in 2003 still stands as a reminder of what can happen when the whole team fails to perform.
Scheduled to toe the line for the Lady Razorbacks are Rush, juniors Jessie Gordon, Laura Jakosky, Maureen Scott and Shiloh Whiting, sophomore Kristina Smith and redshirt freshman Tiffany Redlarczyk. Of the crew only Redlarczyk has failed to see NCAA regional action giving Arkansas a decided advantage over many of the teams competing on Saturday.
“This is a veteran team that knows what it must do to qualify for nationals,” Harter said. “I have confidence that they will be ready to perform when the gun sounds tomorrow.”
A top two placing by the Lady Razorbacks would qualify them for the NCAA Championships to be held in Terre Haute, Ind., on Monday, Nov. 22. For more information about Lady Razorback cross country or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.