FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas Lady Razorback cross country team was picked to repeat as the Southeastern Conference Champions by the league coaches in their annual preseason poll released on Monday by the conference office in Birmingham, Ala.
Arkansas’ pick at the top of the poll is the second time in as many years that it goes into the season as the top seed in the preseason ranking. The 2006 poll gave Arkansas a slim three-point lead over Tennessee, but in 2007, the Lady’Backs grabbed 11 of the 12 first-place votes and holds a 16-point margin over the same Lady Vols.
“As a team we made huge strides in 2006 and I am sure that is what the coaches are looking at this fall,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “We return just about everyone from last year’s roster that placed eight runners among the top 14 at the conference meet and that experience will be key to our success this year. It is always an honor to be picked number one by the league coaches, but that also puts a huge target on our backs. Now we have to deliver.”
The Lady Razorbacks were the unanimous selection among the SEC coaches to win the conference title grabbing 11 first-place votes and tallying 121 points, the maximum awarded. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams and points were awarded from 11 to 1 based on the submitted ballot. Tennessee picked up the only other first-place vote in the poll, but at 105 points, were a distant second to Arkansas. Florida was the only other team to grab 100 or more points with its 102.
Arkansas grabbed its league leading 11th Southeastern Conference title in 2006 to break a string of three consecutive championships by Tennessee. The Lady Razorbacks’ point total from last year’s meet (17) is the second lowest in conference history behind Arkansas’ perfect 15-point effort in 1999. Six Lady Razorbacks who earned all-SEC honors in 2006 return to the course this fall led by the junior trio of Christine Kalmer, Dacia Barr and Denise Bargiachi. Also returning to the course is 2006 SEC Freshman of the Year Dani Parry giving the Lady’Backs a solid core group of runners to build on.
This fall, Arkansas still maintains its youth with a team of sophomores and juniors, but add loads of experience after a fifth-place NCAA finish, an SEC title and a regional championship last fall. Three freshmen join the party for the Lady Razorbacks, but it will take more than just a great resume to crack into Arkansas’ top seven. Along with Arkansas’ four front runners, the Lady’Backs also have all-SEC performers Miranda Walker and Jennifer Harper ready to race as well as Erin Gray, Megan Jackson, Caroline Peyton and Tiffany Redlarczyk who could all be front runners on many of the league’s teams.
For more information about Lady Razorback cross country or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.
SEC Preseason Coaches Poll