FAYETTEVILLE – The Arkansas women’s cross country team was unable to hold off a late race charge by the Oklahoma State Cowgirls as the Lady Razorbacks finished second at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival held at Agri Park Cross Country Course.
OSU scored 64 points to take the women’s collegiate division, followed by Arkansas with 71. Baylor was third at 82 points as Wichita State (178) and Nebraska (220) rounded out the top five.
The 12th-ranked Lady’Backs used a youth movement led by South African freshman Christine Kalmer and redshirt freshman Dacia Barr to set the tone of the race early, but the first-time experience of a huge field hurt Arkansas’ ability to hang on to the lead.
“It was a little tiring out there today,” Kalmer said. “We got out front quickly, so it wasn’t very bumpy with the crowd.”
Arkansas had four freshman and one senior in its scoring five, one of the youngest teams head coach Lance Harter has ever brought to the Chile Pepper meet.
A record 38 full teams and almost 300 runners crowded the Agri Park course, but the race quickly became a three-way battle at the front among Oklahoma State, Arkansas and Baylor.
“I felt like I didn’t close as well as I could,” Kalmer said. “I’m usually stronger in the final 1,000 meters.”
Senior team captain Laura Jakosky was pleased with the young team’s effort.
“The strategy was to run as a team, and we did that,” Jakosky said. “Our freshmen were really nervous with this being the first big race, but I was really proud of the way they came on today.”
While Arkansas’ scoring would indicate a wider spread, the team was only 24 seconds from the front to five.
“We’ve been working hard to run as a team, and we did a good job of that today,’ Jakosky said.
The Lady’Backs packed in six runners ahead of Baylor’s pack by midrace, a position the Bears would address in the final 1,000 meters.
Kalmer, Barr and Jessie Gordon pulled out front for Arkansas by the mile marker, splitting the space between OSU’s Mary Davies and Valentina Medina.
Freshman Denise Bargiachi, senior Laura Jakosky and freshman Kelly Vrshek formed the second group about 30 seconds off the lead Lady’Backs.
As the teams turned up the hill from the starting meadow, OSU broke its third and fourth runners ahead of Arkansas’ back pack.
Kalmer finished 10th in 20:56 to score nine with Barr virtually on her hip at 20:57 in 12th overall to score 11.
Gordon was next at 15th overall and a score of 14 for a time of 21:04. Bargiachi was the fourth runner for Arkansas with a score of 18 in 19th overall in a time of 21:20 followed by Jakosky in the fifth spot at 19 points and 21:20.
Unattached runner Miriam Kaumba was the overall winner in 19:36.5 with Wichita State’s Desiraye Osburn the first collegiate finisher in second overall at 20:17.9