TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Undefeated but hardly overlooked, the second-ranked University of Arkansas Lady Razorback cross country team prepares for a potentially historic day on Monday afternoon when it takes on the nation’s best at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., at noon at the LaVern Gibson Sports Complex.
The Lady Razorbacks opened the 2006 season ranked eighth in the nation but have steadily moved up despite a team of freshmen and sophomores to second in the nation and trail only the defending NCAA Champion Stanford in the pre-race poll. Stanford returns each of its seven runners from its title run of a year ago and have dominated the polls all season until Arkansas took away one of its first-place votes in the last rankings.
“In order for us to be successful, we’ll need to establish ourselves early,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “This is the same location of the NCAA Championships from the past couple of seasons, but they’ve adjusted the course to make it more fan friendly and that included adding several turns. The changes in the course are going to make it difficult for people to pass so setting up early on will be key. Our team has a tendency to feed off each other so if they can get out and find one another we could have a great day.”
The Lady Razorbacks are seeking their first NCAA trophy of any kind since the 1999 season when they finished second in the nation. That race was held in Bloomington, Ind., and Arkansas went into that competition loaded with senior leadership and upperclassmen. The NCAA awards trophies to the top four schools at the race.
While Stanford enters the race as the favorite, Arkansas feels that it will be a fight to even earn a trophy as many of the top schools are capable of having big days. The Lady Razorbacks are trailed by the likes of North Carolina State who had a huge day at the pre-national meet in October and are familiar with the course as well as Michigan State, Illinois, Colorado and Wisconsin.
No matter what happens on Monday afternoon, Arkansas’ coaching staff can look back upon the 2006 season with pride as the Lady Razorbacks have exceeded all expectations. Losing four seniors from last year’s NCAA squad, Arkansas reloaded with a trio of freshmen and currently own a 90-0-0 team record, won its 11th Southeastern Conference title and 14th South Central Regional crown. Freshman Brooke Upshaw was the SEC’s individual champion while sophomore Christine Kalmer and freshman Dani Parry each earned SEC Athlete of the Week honors. In fact, the Lady Razorbacks are the only school in the nation that go into the NCAA Championships with an undefeated record and are the only school to have all seven of its runners placed on an all-district team.
For more information about Lady Razorback cross country or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to LADYBACKS.COM.