FAYETTEVILLE – Senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush finished seventh overall to lead the 21st-ranked University of Arkansas Lady Razorback cross country team to a second-place finish at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival on Saturday morning at the Agri Park Cross Country Course in Fayetteville.
The Lady’Backs placed three runners in the top 20, but came up just nine points shy of knocking off the 11th-ranked team, SMU (67). Arkansas was a solid second with 76 points followed by Wyoming (158), Oklahoma (193) and UAB (214).
“I thought overall we ran very well,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “Alison Rush did a great job for us up front and Maureen Scott’s performance was very positive. We had to pull two of our top runners both before and during the race and we don’t have the type of team where we can do that. For us, this competition was a dress rehearsal for the Southeastern Conference Championships that we host in two weeks.”
Rush’s seventh-place finish yielded five points to the Arkansas cause as she crossed the line in 21:00.7, crushing her season best for the distance by 43 seconds. She was followed by juniors Maureen Scott, Shiloh Whiting, Penny Splichal and Laura Jakosky who took 12, 14, 21 and 23 points respectively for the Lady Razorbacks. Redshirt freshman Tiffany Redlarczyk and junior Jessie Gordon completed Arkansas’ top seven with 31 and 35 displacement points. Other Lady Razorbacks in the competition included redshirt freshman Sarah Saffa, sophomore Laura Kerr, junior Lea Carruthers, freshman Beth Fahey and redshirt freshman Becky Kerr.
For the Lady Razorbacks, Rush was not the only Arkansas runner to improve on Saturday morning. Each of Arkansas’ 12 competitors ran season best times for 6,000 meters at the Chile Pepper proving that the Lady’Backs are ready for their championships season which begins on Oct. 30 at the SEC Championships. The Lady Razorback times were also on average 20 seconds faster that Arkansas’ finishing times from the 2003 Chile Pepper.
Arkansas’ result was a tremendous improvement from its third-place finish from a year ago where it was upset by a pair of teams who were unranked at the time. The time spent on the Agri Park course also gives Arkansas the advantage at the SEC Championships which it hosts at the end of the month.
“This race gave the team a chance to see what a huge field is like,” Harter said. “Now they’ve seen it and can prepare for the SEC meet, but our main concern right now is getting healthy so that we can have everyone available for the SEC Championships.”
Arkansas’ next race is the SEC Championships to be held at Agri Park on Saturday, Oct. 30. The women’s championship is scheduled to begin at 9:00 a.m.