TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – With one of its deepest and talented teams in recent years the Arkansas cross country team is heading to Terre Haute, Ind., for the NCAA Championships on Nov. 21, with a national title on its mind. If the Hogs are successful it would give UA its first NCAA cross country crown since 2000 and its 12th national cross country title.
Entering the meet the Razorbacks are ranked second in the nation, but have been listed as high as No. 1 during a one-month period. Last year’s runner-up Wisconsin now holds the No. 1 spot, but the Hogs are ready for the challenge and hoping for an upset.
“We’re healthy and that’s the most important thing,” Arkansas head coach John McDonnell said. “We couldn’t be in any better shape. We have no injuries and now it’s a matter of getting the job done. It will be tough. Wisconsin is absolutely the No. 1 team on paper. It will be a dog fight near the front.”
Nine Razorbacks made the trip, but only seven are allowed to compete in the 10K race at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course. A decision will be made closer to race day on which seven will go to the start line.
McDonnell’s top five include senior All-Americans Josphat Boit and Marc Rodrigues, junior Peter Kosgei, sophomore Shawn Forrest and freshman Kenny Cormier. Senior Josh Robles, juniors Adam Perkins and Seth Summerside and freshman Chris Barnicle will be fighting for the final two spots during workouts.
“I think it’s going to take five people running in the top 30 to win it,” McDonnell said. “That’s pretty good, but I think we have five people that can do that, but they have to do it. Anything can happen and there’s a lot of pressure.”
Arkansas is led by Boit, who has won four meets this season, including the Southeastern Conference Championship. The Eldoret, Kenya native came in third place at the 2004 national meet, but he is aiming for the top prize this time around.
“I think Josphat (Boit) is definitely a contender for the title,” McDonnell said. “He should be up there and he’s running better than he did last year when he was third. Peter is coming around in good time and Shawn Forrest looks awfully good. I hope all three of them are up there somewhere battling in the top 10.”
After a knee injury delayed Kosgei’s season he has come on strongly as of late and earned runner-up honors at the regional meet last weekend. He has experience running at a national cross country competition when he finished fourth on the Division II level for Harding University in 2004.
In 2004 Rodrigues gained All-American status with his 25th-place showing and will be counted on again to contribute to a strong team performance. The Johannesburg, South Africa native has been dependable this year as he has finished in the scoring five at three contests.
Forrest is also carrying valuable experience. Last year as a freshman he was UA’s fourth man at nationals, coming in 92nd place. This year he has stepped up and has been the team’s first and second finisher in every meet he has competed in.
Cormier is one of Arkansas’ standout freshmen and as a prep athlete he was the Foot Locker National Champion. A model of consistency, the Douglas, Ariz., native has been the team’s third scorer three times.
Perkins ran at last year’s NCAA Championships and was UA’s sixth man in 187th, while this year’s meet would be Summerside’s first national cross country championship. Summerside and Perkins’ best 10K times of 29:33 and 30:06, respectively, are both from the Chile Pepper Invitational.
Barnicle and Robles both had their best showings of the season at the NCAA South Central Regionals on Nov. 12. They have also been members of the scoring five on two different occasions.
The NCAA Cross Country Championships are scheduled to start at 11 a.m. CT. Information and final results will be available on http://www.indstate.edu/athletics/cross/championship/2004ncaa.html.