Olympic Sports Notebook: Cross Country
Cross Country Hogs Remain Unproven
After a month-long break from meets, the No. 15 Arkansas men’s cross country team will finally get back to the course this weekend at the Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Okla.
The team has just one meet under its belt, the Razorback Invitational, after the Missouri Southern Stampede in Jopin, Mo., was cancelled due to rain.
“We’re excited to get back on the course and race again,” coach Chris Bucknam said. “I don’t think [the break] is going to be too much of a detriment for us.”
The Hogs travel this weekend to Stillwater to face top-ranked Oklahoma State, No. 7 Indiana and No. 11 Northern Arizona. The team chose to participate in the meet to face great competition as well as to run on a challenging course.
“We’ve got a lot of enemies to battle,” Bucknam said, listing their time away from racing and the toughness of the course as mental enemies to beat, along with competing against ranked teams.
“[Oklahoma State, Indiana and Northern Arizona] are perennial teams that are look to be loaded. We have a test on our hands, to see what will happen this weekend,” Bucknam said. “I’m curious and excited at the same time to get back on the course and see how good this team is going to be.”
Arkansas will compete without junior All SEC performer Solomon Haile, along with three of the top five runners from last year.
“We feel like we can test our kids in the workout. We’ve got a great group of athletes across the board. I think we’re an athletic team, but we just haven’t been tested yet,” Bucknam said. “I’m waiting for this group to step up and get after it, and I want to see what we’re made of. We’re definitely going to find out.”
Placing behind Oklahoma State and Indiana in the Chile Pepper Festival last year provides a little extra motivation for the team to perform well.
“We’re a forward-looking group and I’m a forward-looking coach. And I do know Indiana beat us by a point,” Bucknam said. “But it’s a whole new year.”
Women’s Cross Country Takes First At Toledo
The Arkansas women’s cross country team took first at the 2011 Toledo Inter-Regional Bubble Buster last weekend in Toledo, Ohio.
Arkansas finished with four runners in the top 10 to place ahead of No. 19 West Virginia and No. 29 Toledo.
“They did a great job,” coach Lance Harter said. “I really thought they’d be a little bit timid, a little bit apprehensive about laying it on the line because of the novelty of collegiate competition. But these guys ran like veterans.”
Like the men’s team, the women were also scheduled to compete in the Missouri Southern Stampede, which was cancelled due to rain. The Toledo meet showed the coach what the team was capable of, including three freshmen who stood out against the competition.
“We ran very, very well across the board. We have three freshmen that followed Stephanie Brown and Kristen Gillespie’s leadership,” Harter said.
The three freshmen, Jessica Jackson, Kaitlin Flattmann and Dominique Scott finished seventh, 12th and 14th respectively out of the 93 total participants.
“That gives us really good depth, and we’re really, really excited about the long term future,” Harter said.
“We’re in a position now where we’re better than I thought we were, and the reason being is that the three freshmen are so competitive,” Harter said. “I think our kids really believe in what we’re doing, and that’s going to be a snowball that can work very much to our advantage.”
Next week the team is attending the Notre Dame Invitational where Arkansas will take on 27 other teams in contrast to the seven in Toledo.
“It’s an entirely different type of race,” Harter said. “An excellent possibility they won’t get to see each other very much because of the dilution of all the other athletes, so they’re going to have to learn to run independently.”
Despite having to compete against seven ranked teams, Harter is confident that his No. 18 ranked Razorback team will perform well at Notre Dame.
“We feel real, real positive and now it’s a matter of keeping everybody healthy, keeping their perspective and walking into even better competition,” Harter said.