FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Top-ranked Arkansas will have an opportunity to showcase its quality depth and talent in front of a hometown crowd this weekend when the Hogs compete at the 17th annual Chile Pepper Invitational. For the first time this season UA will run its full team and has 14 Razorbacks entered in the 10K race at 9:30 a.m.
“I believe this is the deepest team we’ve had in a long time,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “In the past people knew who the top seven would be, but the eighth, ninth, and tenth guys haven’t thrown in the towel. We get to take 10 athletes to the SEC Championships, so this will help determine who will go.”
A total of 33 teams are making the trip to Fayetteville, including No. 6 Arizona, No. 11 Texas-El Paso and No. 31 Alabama. Arizona is led by Robert Cheseret, the 2005 NCAA 10,000-meter champion, while UTEP has Mircea Bogdan, the winner of the 2005 NCAA 3,000-meter steeplechase, on their squad.
“This will be a great competition for us,” McDonnell said. “I guarantee the guys who finish in the top 30 on Saturday will be in the top 50 at the national championships. That’s how good these runners are.”
Junior four-time All-American Peter Kosgei will make his cross country debut as a Razorback on Saturday morning. He was an outstanding trails runner at Harding University and is eager to display his skills on the Razorback Cross Country Course at Agri Park.
Sophomore Shawn Forrest has been UA’s top finisher at two meets, while senior All-American Josphat Boit is coming off a victory at the OSU Cowboy Jamboree. At last year’s Invitational Boit claimed top honors with a time of 29:22.
A pair of freshmen, Chris Barnicle and Kenny Cormier, have proved they belong in the top seven with their solid performances this year. Barnicle, a native of Newton, Mass., has been UA’s third man in two contests and Cormier, the Foot Locker Champion, was the third scorer at the Cowboy Jamboree.
Senior All-American Marc Rodrigues has finished in the top five each time he competes, as have improved juniors Adam Perkins and Seth Summerside. A group of experienced seniors, including Said Ahmed, Luis Bordes, Jose Campos and Josh Robles will look to better their times in preparation for postseason meets. Sophomores Tyler Hill, Jonathan Norris and Brian Roe continue to get better every time they compete and aim to keep their momentum going against a loaded field of athletes.
After the Chile Pepper Invitational the Razorbacks will take a week off as they prepare for the SEC Cross Country Championships. The league meet will be held in Columbia, S.C. on Oct. 29.
Arkansas will be looking to extend one of the longest tenured championship streaks in collegiate athletics as the Hogs go for their 32nd-straight conference cross country title, including its 15th-consecutive since entering the SEC in 1991. UA won 17-straight Southwest Conference cross country crowns from 1974-90.