LEXINGTON, Ky. – With junior Christine Kalmer leading the way, the University of Arkansas women’s cross country team ran away with its 12th Southeastern Conference title at the 26th annual SEC women’s cross country championship.
The 6,000-meter Kentucky Horse Park course provided a daunting challenge to all 12 teams, but Arkansas used a powerful team surge in the final 2,000 meters to break a close race into a runaway.
The Lady Razorbacks were heavily favored to win, and the reputation as the top distance program in the SEC added extra pressure to the race.
“It’s always nice to win, but it is especially nice when you have a target on your back,” UA head coach Lance Harter said. “Everyone was gunning for Arkansas today, and we managed that pressure.”
Arkansas scored 39 points, with all five scorers earning all-SEC honors. Tennessee was a distant second with 84 points, followed by Georgia with 85 points and Florida in fifth with 96.
Kalmer finished as the SEC runner-up in 20:53.02, and with another hundred meters may have run down the eventual champion Sarah Madebach of Georgia. Madebach held a mere four second margin in the chute for the individual title.
“Christine ran her best race of the year by far,” Harter said.
The Lady’Backs had three first-team all-SEC finishers led by Kalmer in second. Freshman Jillian Rosen was fifth, and with her 21:01.76 solidified herself for the league’s freshman of the year honor later this fall. Rosen was the top rookie finisher by six places. Denise Bargiachi was Arkansas’ third runner in sixth with 21:05.20.
“Jillian was the best of the young runners today, and Denise is just consistently strong once again,” Harter said.
The Lady’Backs’ scoring five were rounded out by a pair of second team all-SEC performances. Dani Parry was 10th in 21:17.49 with junior Dacia Barr finishing 15th in 21:26.47. For Barr, it was the first race of the season after undergoing preseason knee surgery.
“That was a great finish for her debut, and it shows her ability and talent to be in our scorers today,” Harter said of Barr. “She will be a different person in three weeks.”
The teams came through the first kilometer packed, but the event quickly became a dual meet between Arkansas and Georgia near the 3,000 marker.
“We came out with a lot of respect for the course and started off cautious,” Harter said. “We underlined the caution through the first three kilometers.”
Kalmer and the Lady’Backs laid back on the pace until the race turned through a long downhill stretch to the 4K marker. The junior opened her stride and broke ahead of Tennessee’s Sarah Bowman and Georgia’s Natalie Pincchetti in pursuit of the race leader, Sarah Madebach.
Arkansas gained control of the race as the squad used the slight pull following the downhill stretch to break open the meet in the final kilometer.
“We were probably behind through two-K,” Harter said. “We regained our momentum at mid-race and opened up.”
The victory was the second straight for Arkansas and the 12th in the 16 years for the Lady’Backs in the SEC. It is a repeat for the Lady’Backs from the last time the league came to Lexington as Arkansas significantly lowered its score from the 1992 event. Arkansas had 52 points that day in 1992.
It also turned Arkansas from its last event, a mild upset at its own home event to Texas Tech.
“This is our first six-K of the year, and it proves we learned from our Chile Pepper race,” Harter said. “We reversed the race strategy today where we went out to the front that day and today be battled back.”
Arkansas’ sixth and seventh runners finished in the top 25 with Miranda Walker 22nd at 21:35.93 and Catherine White at 23rd in 21:37.99. Megan Jackson went 21:55.94 in 33rd and Megan Jackson in 34th at 21:55.94. Jennifer Harper was 43rd in 22:14.82 to round out the starting 11 for the Lady’Backs.
“Overall, it was a great effort by the entire team,” Harter said. “We proved we have the power up front and the depth throughout the line-up.”
The host Kentucky Wildcats were fifth with 104 points, followed by Auburn with 170 and Miss Sate in 207. Vanderbilt was eighth with 217 and LSU scored 259 for ninth. Alabama (285), South Carolina (288) and Ole Miss (349) rounded out the scoring.
The Lady’Backs return to Fayetteville to prepare for the NCAA South Central Regional hosted by Arkansas at Agri-Park Cross Country Course on Saturday, Nov. 10.
Southeastern Conference Championship
Saturday, Oct. 27, 2007
Lexington, Ky.; Kentucky Horse Park
6,000 meters. Overcast, light wind, firm course, 55 degrees
1. ARKANSAS (2-5-6-10-16) 39
2. Tennessee (4-7-9-28-36) 84
3. Georgia (1-3-15-32-34) 85
4. Florida (8-12-20-27-29) 96
5. Kentucky (14-18-21-25-26) 104
6. Auburn (11-17-33-41-68) 170
7. Miss State (19-24-43-60-61) 207
8. Vanderbilt (31-40-45-49-52) 217
9. LSU (44-51-53-55-56) 259
10. Alabama (13-63-67-69-73) 285
11. South Carolina (47-48-58-65-70) 288
12. Mississippi (54-62-76-77-80) 349
1. Sarah Madebach, Georgia 20:49.11
2. Christine Kalmer, ARKANSAS 20:53.02
3. Natalie Picchetti, Georgia 20:55.93
4. Sarah Bowman, Tennessee 20:58.13
5. Jillian Rosen, ARKANSAS 21:01.76
6. Denise Bargiachi, ARKANSAS 21:05.20
7. Katie Van Horn, Tennessee 21:09.20
8. Jacy Kruzel, Florida 21:12.49
9. Heidi Magill-Dahl, Tennessee 21:16.45
10. Dani Parry, ARKANSAS 21:17.49
11. Hollie Knight, Auburn 21:18.75
12. Rebecca Lowe, Florida 21:21.08
13. Haley Moody, Alabama 21:22.09
14. Andrea Halasek, Kentucky 21:25.68
15. Kiah Vernon, Georgia21:26.43
16. Dacia Barr, ARKANSAS 21:26.47
OTHER ARKANSAS FINISHERS
22. Miranda Waker, 21:35.93
23. Catherine White 21:37.99
33. Tiffany Redlarczyk 21:55.04
34. Megan Jackson 21:55.94
43. Jennifer Harper 22:14.82