FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – When the top-ranked Razorbacks travel to Columbia, S.C., for the Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships on Oct. 29, they will be going for their 32nd-consecutive conference cross country title and their 15th-straight in the SEC. Arkansas has not lost a league meet since 1973 and with a deep and talented team the Hogs feel confident about their chances of bringing home another trophy. Overall, UA has won 76 conference championships in cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field since McDonnell arrived in Fayetteville.
“We’ve done a lot of other things that have been pretty good, but to do 31 in a row in anything is pretty good,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “We’ve had some near misses, but keeping people healthy and having them on that given day for 31 years in a row I feel is probably one of my best achievements.”
The 8K race, held at Hilton Field at Ft. Jackson military base, may be one of the toughest in recent years with other league programs ranked nationally. Florida is ranked eighth and Alabama is at No. 20. Tennessee is also receiving votes and would be ranked No. 31.
“Florida has a pretty good team and they are ranked No. 8 in the country,” McDonnell said. “I’m a little more scared of Alabama, because they’re ranked 20th and they have four very good runners. The rankings don’t tell everything and I think Alabama will be right up there with Florida.”
Ten Razorbacks are entered in the meet, including a trio that was a part of the scoring five in 2004. Senior Josphat Boit is the defending champion and is aiming to become only the third UA athlete to win two-straight SEC titles. Sophomore Shawn Forrest was last year’s runner-up and senior Marc Rodrigues earned fourth place in 2004.
For the rest of the Hogs this year’s contest will be their first SEC Cross Country Championship to compete in. Senior Josh Robles, juniors Peter Kosgei, Adam Perkins and Seth Summerside, sophomore Tyler Hill and true freshmen Chris Barnicle and Kenny Cormier will all be making the trip.
“We have a pretty good lineup and so far we’re healthy,” McDonnell said. “We have a couple guys with aches and pains, but nothing major. We’re going into this meet in pretty good physical condition and the great thing is we can take 10 guys to the meet. Five count so it gives a good opportunity for someone to step up if someone else has a bad race.”
The 2005 SEC Cross Country Championships will start at 8:30 a.m. CT. After the Razorbacks return from South Carolina they will have one week off before competing for an automatic berth to nationals at the NCAA South Central Regional Championships in Waco, Texas on Nov. 12.