TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Freshman Brooke Upshaw led the way for the University of Arkansas Lady Razorback cross country team by taking all-America honors and pacing the Lady’Backs to a fifth-place team finish at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., on Monday afternoon.
The Lady Razorbacks placed four runners among the top 88 and a fifth at 117 to earn a final score of 286 points, less than 100 behind NCAA Champion Stanford (195) and just 53 behind second-place Colorado (223). Stanford’s total is the largest team score to win a NCAA title ever. Michigan (233) and Wisconsin (262) rounded out the top five.
“I am very proud of this team,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “We came into this season with the goal of trying to win the SEC and NCAA Regional titles and doing well at the national championship. We accomplished all of those goals. This is a young team that returns next year a little older and a little wiser and to finish fifth in these conditions is a testament to this team.”
Arkansas started in the middle of the 31-team field and got off to a solid start, but by the 1,000-meter mark Stanford strength began to show. The defending national champion placed four runners in the lead pack with the Lady Razorbacks sitting just behind looking to strike. At the same mark, Arkansas ran into trouble as sophomore Christine Kalmer was spiked from behind ripping her shoe halfway off her foot forcing her to stop to remove the footwear before continuing the rest of the 6,000-meter race without her racing spike.
The tight NCAA championships course did not allow for much passing by anyone as runners ran four and five abreast for most of the winding race. With the leaders gone, Upshaw did a fantastic job of staying with the lead pack and picking off competitors on the long uphill climb to the finish. She would finish 37th overall and become just the third Lady Razorback freshman to earn all-America honor behind Deena Drossin (1992) and Amy Yoder Begley (1996).
As the field began to spread, it became apparent that Arkansas was not going to have its usual less than 20-second spread between its top runners. The muddy course that was ankle deep in spots kept many of the faster runners from charging forward while benefiting those that were stronger. The unsteady footings also played havoc around the turns and on the slopping terrain as several competitors were unable to keep their feet below them and went sprawling to the ground.
Rounding out the Lady Razorback scoring five were sophomore Dacia Barr, freshman Dani Parry, sophomore Denise Bargiachi and Kalmer. Barr’s 58th-place finish just missed out on all-America honors while Parry crossed the finish in 64th and Bargiachi 86th. Upshaw’s time of 21:30 was 47 seconds ahead of the Kalmer’s, Arkansas’ largest spread of the season.
The Lady Razorback’s team total of 286 is its lowest since 2002 when it tallied 251 points to finish seventh on the same Indiana State course. The last time an Arkansas team finished better than fifth was 1999 when the Lady’Backs earned their last NCAA cross country trophy, a second-place award. It is also the 10th time in Arkansas history that it has finished among the top 10 and the sixth time among the nation’s top five.
The NCAA Championship race concludes Arkansas’ cross country season. For more information about Lady Razorback cross country or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to LADYBACKS.COM.