FAYETTEVILLE – After a short lay off, the 21st-ranked University of Arkansas Lady Razorback cross country team is set to return to the course as they participate in the annual Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival at the Agri Park Cross Country Course in Fayetteville at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16.
In light of recent events, the Lady’Backs are excited about the competition for many reasons, one of which is that it showcases their talents at home for the first time since early September. What also has Arkansas eagerly anticipating the meet is the level of competition that the Lady’Backs are to face as well as the fact that Arkansas gets to compete almost its entire team for just the second time this season.
“As a team, we are deeply saddened about the events that occurred here during setup,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “Our condolences go to the families that are involved. One of the things that I’ve heard is that they want the event to go on and what better way to honor their wishes than to go out and win the race.”
The Lady Razorbacks are ready for the Chile Pepper as they bring all but one of their top runners to the competition. Led by senior Alison (Zeinner) Rush, Arkansas hopes to return to the crest of the Chile Pepper Mountain after a disappointing third-place finish a year ago. Arkansas’ veteran roster remembers the defeat well and knows that it has its hands full with the 11th-ranked SMU Mustangs making their way to Fayetteville.
“This is going to be a tough race,” Harter said. “We have the advantage in that this is our home course, but there are many talented teams coming to compete so if we don’t hit on all cylinders a team could sneak up on us like last year. If training is any indicator of how we will compete on Saturday, then I believe that we are ready.”
Arkansas’ workout regimen has been tremendous over the past several weeks as the Lady’Backs took some time away from competition. Arkansas’ last meet came on Sept. 25 at the Roy Griak Invitational where it finished fifth out of 29 teams and defeated several ranked opponents including Princeton who was eighth in the country. The race was also the first time that Arkansas had run 6,000 meters this season, a distance which they are more familiar with now than they were two weeks ago.
Over the years, the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival has been very good to the Lady Razorbacks as they own 10 team and four individual titles from the competition. The last team championship came during the 2002 season when the then 11th-ranked Lady Razorbacks walked away with a near 50-point victory. Arkansas last individual title was earned by former Lady’Back Lilli Kleinmann back in the fall of 2000.
For more information about Lady Razorback cross country or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.