Hogs Capture 28th Consecutive League Cross Cou
BY ANDRES FOCIL
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Arkansas captured six of the top 11 individual places, including three of the top four spots, on the way to its 28th consecutive league cross country team crown at the 2001 Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships in Auburn, Ala.
The Razorbacks scored 24 points and easily outdistanced second-place Alabama (85) on the 8,000-meter course at the Indian Pines Golf Course on the campus of Auburn University. Tennessee (92), Florida (97) and Kentucky (125) rounded out the top five. “Our goal was to put ourselves in position to win a national title and that is what we did,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “We were running against some of the best teams in the nation and we knew the competition would be tough. To have five runners in the top eight and six in the top 11 in a conference that has some good individuals is an accomplishment.”
The Hogs have won every conference cross country race contested since 1974. Arkansas won 17 in the Southwest Conference before joining the SEC in 1991. With Monday’s victory, Arkansas has posted 11 consecutive SEC cross country titles.
“Our conference cross country streak is probably one of our greatest achievements, if not the greatest we have accomplished,” McDonnell said. “Every year, when you take into consideration that something could happen or something could go wrong, it makes it even more special. We didn’t talk about it much before the race, but I know they were thinking about it. In my mind, the 28 consecutive conference crowns sit up there or exceed anything we’ve done in this program.”
Defending NCAA champion David Kimani of Alabama won the individual crown, although, not without a serious challenge from Razorback sophomore Alistair Cragg. Kimani ran a meet-best 23:46.93 to earn a slim two second victory over Cragg (23:48.83). Arkansas junior Daniel Lincoln stayed with lead pack for a good portion of the race and finished third with a time of 24:07.61.
“Alistair ran a great race and stayed right with the NCAA champion,” McDonnell said. “He was awfully close to him and wasn’t intimidated at all. I’m proud of the way he ran. Daniel gave us another quality outing and a top three finish as well.”
Cragg and Lincoln set a brisk early pace taking the first mile in a split of 4:22. The duo led the pack until Kimani took over the lead at the three and half mile mark. Lincoln faltered a bit on a hilly portion of the course, but Cragg stayed right with Kimani until the end. The Crimson Tide’s top runner staved off a late rally by Cragg with a kick of his own.
“I thought I might have a shot at (David) Kimani in the last 800 meters, but he broke away from me. He is a great runner and we knew that he would probably be the favorite to win. Overall our team had great success. We had a lot of runners in the top ten so we reached our team goal.”
Razorback sophomore Silverus Kimeli turned in his best outing of the season and finished in 24:18.08. Kimeli topped LSU standout Kikhaya Dayile and Tennessee top man Ryan Demers among others on his way to a fourth place finish.
“Silverus ran a smart race,” McDonnell said. “I think he could have run faster, but he stayed right there with the guy from Tennessee and LSU and let them set the pace. He stayed in the pack and didn’t make a move until there were 600 meters to go.”
Freshman Jason Sandfort continued his outstanding inaugural collegiate campaign with a seventh place showing. Sandfort clocked in at 24:37.33 in becoming the first UA true freshman since Niall Bruton to gain a top 10 finish at a conference meet. Bruton finished third at the 1990 Southwest Conference Championships.
Junior Dirk Heinze crossed the line behind Sandfort to earn an eighth place finish. A converted half-miler, Heinze turned in his best effort of the season after struggling to find his groove earlier this season.
“Jason ran a good smart race like he always does,” McDonnell said. “He has been really solid for us, especially as a true freshman. Dirk is finally running like I though he could run. He can perform as well as anyone on a given day.”
Sophomore Fernando Cabada just missed denting top 10 individual distinction with an 11th place finish. Despite not scoring for the Razorbacks in the team competition, Cabada still earned All-SEC honors by virtue of a top 15 individual finish at the conference meet. Arkansas boasted six All-SEC performers with Cragg, Lincoln, Kimeli, Sandfort and Heinze joining Cabada in the conference honor.
Sophomores Westley Alkin and Chris Mulvaney finished in 20th and 38th place respectively.
Arkansas will now turn its focus towards a run at a fourth consecutive national championship. McDonnell has guided the Razorback program to 11 national cross country titles and the UA head coach says this year’s squad could make a run at another crown.
“We are on the right track,” McDonnell said. “We have a way to go still, but we are definitely a contender. If we keep on track and keep doing what we are doing we will have as good a shot as anybody.”
The Hogs will travel to the District VI qualifying meet in College Station, Texas, on Nov. 10 before competing in the NCAA Championships on No. 19 in Furman, S.C.
1. Arkansas 24
2. Alabama 85
3. Tennessee 92
4. Florida 97
5. Kentucky 125
6. Georgia 165
7. LSU 166
8. Auburn 182
9. Ole Miss 285
10. Vanderbilt 300
Individual Results (Top 15)
1. David Kimani, Alabama 23:46.93
2. Alistair Cragg, Arkansas 23:48.83
3. Daniel Lincoln, Arkansas 24:07.61
4. Silverus Kimeli, Arkansas 24:18.08
5. Likhaya Dayile, LSU 24:22.27
6. Ryan Demers, Tennessee 24:25.13
7. Jason Sandfort, Arkansas 24:37.33
8. Dirk Heinze, Arkansas 24:41.81
9. Thomas Morgan, Kentucky 24:42.88
10. Mike Swope, Georgia 24:46.75
11. Fernando Cabada, Arkansas 24:47.66
12. Japheth Koech, Alabama 24:50.00
13. Rolando Ortiz, Florida 24:54.54
14. Hunter Spencer, Kentucky 24:59.36
15. Chris Duncan, Florida 25:00.15
Other UA Finishers:
20. Westley Alkin, Arkansas 25:19.80
38. Chris Mulvaney, Arkansas 25:53.77
Sports Category :