FAYETTEVILLE – After a second-place ranking by the Southeastern Conference women’s cross country coaches, the University of Arkansas Lady Razorbacks were picked as the top team in the NCAA’s South Central Region Wednesday afternoon.
The third-place finisher at the regional championship in 2003, the Lady Razorbacks return all seven runners from that squad that missed an automatic berth to the NCAA meet by a mere two points. The Baylor Bears rank second after edging out the Lady Razorbacks in the regional meet a year ago while TCU and SMU tie for third.
“After the year that we had last year, I wasn’t sure where we would be on the regional list,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “If you look at the SEC preseason poll they placed us second based on our performance from a year ago. I am really looking forward to seeing what our young ladies can do this weekend at the Fayetteville Invite. We have several new faces competing and if our workouts are any indication of what is to come, this could be a fun year.”
The regional ranking prognosticators cited Arkansas’ talented and deep corp. of runners as the reason behind their top billing. Six of Arkansas’ competitors have participated in at least one NCAA Championship with junior Erica Sigmont leading the way with several appointments and four all-America honors. Others that have seen collegiate competition at the highest levels include senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush and juniors Penny Splichal, Maureen Scott, Laura Jakosky and Shiloh Whiting. The poll also points to newcomers like Sarah Saffa and Tiffany Redlarczyk as potential contributors on the stacked Lady Razorback squad. Saffa made a name for herself throughout the indoor and outdoor track seasons last year and was the USATF Junior runner-up at 5,000 meters.
The Lady Razorbacks begin their 2004 cross country journey on Friday, Sept. 3, when they participate in the Fayetteville Invitational at the Agri Park Cross Country Course. Arkansas’ women are scheduled to compete at 6:00 p.m.