FAYETTEVILLE – After a weekend away from competition, the No. 15 University of Arkansas men’s cross country team returns to action Monday for the 2011 Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championship in Maryville, Tenn. The men’s 8K race is scheduled for a 9 a.m. (CT) start at the Lambert Acres Golf Course. The Razorbacks are the defending SEC champions after their victory at the conference meet last season in Columbia, S.C.
"We’re looking forward to getting our guys back on the course," head coach Chris Bucknam said. "This is always a fun time of year for us and I’m looking forward to seeing how we stack up against the rest of the SEC. We take all of our meets seriously and this one is certainly circled. I think we’ve done a good job of preparing ourselves and now it’s a matter of getting all 10 of our guys lined up and executing together."
Last year’s SEC title was the 18th in program history and Arkansas’ first conference title under Bucknam. The Razorbacks return four of their top seven from last year’s championship team. In addition to 18 SEC team titles (1991-2007, 2010), Arkansas has 10 individual conference titles spread among seven runners.
As the 15th-ranked team in the nation, the Razorbacks are the top-ranked SEC team heading into Monday’s race. In the most recent release of the USTFCCCA national poll, Georgia is receiving votes. Alabama and Florida, not ranked in the Oct. 19 poll, have also received votes and been positioned inside the top 30 earlier in the season.
In its last outing, Arkansas ran to a second-place finish at the 23rd Annual Chile Pepper Festival, held Oct. 15 at Agri Park in Fayetteville. For the third time in as many races in 2011, junior Eric Fernandez was the team’s top finisher. He crossed in sixth place overall with a 10,000-meter time of 29:29.6. The Razorbacks’ top five at Chile Pepper included Fernandez, Rick Elliott, Layne Nixon, Patrick Rono and Chuol Dey.
For his efforts, Rono was selected as the SEC Freshman of the Week by the conference office. It marked his second consecutive honor after previously being recognized following the Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Okla.
The 2011 SEC Cross Country Championship is being hosted by the University of Tennessee. For more information regarding Razorback cross country or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.