WACO, Texas – It didn’t take a superlative individual effort or a race at the finish for the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback cross country team to win its sixth consecutive team title at the NCAA South Central Regional Championships on Saturday afternoon, but it did take a solid team effort which is exactly what it got with a 53-point victory.
The Lady Razorbacks scored 30 points as a team, finishing 4-5-6-7-8 to take their second consecutive and 14th overall regional title, but more important than the victory or the still unblemished team record is the fact that the finish guarantees Arkansas a spot at the 2006 NCAA Championships on Nov. 20, in Terre Haute, Ind.
“The girls went out and executed the race plan perfectly,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “They established themselves at the front and did what they came to do. Now we have to get ready for the NCAA Championships. The weather was a bit cooler than what we are used to, but its good preparation for what we will see in Terre Haute on Nov. 20.”
With race time temperatures in the upper 40s, the Lady Razorbacks made sure that they were properly prepared with extra stretching and warm-up prior to the start of the competition. Starting in box seven, the Lady Razorbacks took the race out with the gun and as they ran down the long gradual slope of the first mile, it was immediately apparent that each of the 20 teams in the field was going to key off Arkansas.
At the one mile mark, it looked like a wave of Arkansas singlets leading the way with five of the front seven runners wearing the cardinal and white. With a pre-race plan of racing at the front and letting individuals go, none of the 108 runners would pass the Lady Razorbacks through the opening 2,000 meters of competition. At the 3K mark, SMU’s Rachel Forish began to separate herself from the pack, but Arkansas kept their race plan in tact with all seven runners in among the top 10.
The field began to thin at the 4,000-meter mark, but Arkansas stayed at the front with four runners among the top seven and each of their competitors in the opening third. With the outcome of the race well in hand, the Lady’Backs maintained position for the team victory and even saw the likes of freshman Miranda Walker passing a runner just before the finish to cap off the victory.
Christine Kalmer was Arkansas’ top finisher with a time of 20:44.7 followed by Dacia Barr (20:45.1), Brooke Upshaw (20:45.8), Denise Bargiachi (20:46.2), and Walker (20:54.0). Freshman Dani Parry (21:00.8) and sophomore Jennifer Harper (21:00.8) wrapped up the Lady Razorback scoring seven with 11th and 12th-place finishes.
The Lady Razorback victory keeps its undefeated season going with a 97-0-0 record and makes it one of just a few teams in the country to enter the NCAA meet without a loss. The last time that a Lady Razorback team went into the NCAA meet perfect was 1993, a year that Arkansas finished as the national runner-up. That squad boasted the likes of Olympic bronze medalist Deena Drossin, 10-time all-American Megan Flowers, three-time all-American Shelley Taylor and NCAA Champions Sarah Schwald and Trine Pilskog.
Arkansas wraps up its season at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 20, at the LaVern Gibson Sports Complex in Terre Haute, Ind. For more information about Lady Razorback cross country or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to LADYBACKS.COM.