Men’s, Women’s CC Place Second at Chile Pepper
Fernandez Leads Men’s CC, Team Needs Consistency
The No. 15 Arkansas men’s cross country team finished second at the Chile Pepper Festival behind defending champion and top-ranked Oklahoma State.
Coach Chris Bucknam was pleased with his team’s effort but wants improvement for the Southeastern Conference Championship.
“I think if I wanted to grade our team, I’d overall give us a B,” Bucknam said. “We had some guys that had some outstanding performances. I thought our guys competed well; we just need to compete better.”
“They’re the gold standard right now, and they showed their athleticism,” Bucknam said of Oklahoma State’s No. 1 finish. “With about two miles to go, they made a move and pulled away. They’re good; they’re the defending champs and I was hoping to be a little closer to them. I didn’t think we could knock them off, but overall I thought we did pretty good.”
Despite the second-place finish, Bucknam wants more consistency from the team’s top five.
“We’re moving around a little bit too much and we need to solidify that top five,” Bucknam said. “We need a little more consistency with some of our kids. We do that, and I think we’ve got a shot.”
Junior Eric Fernandez led Arkansas and placed sixth overall. Fernandez has finished first for Arkansas in each meet this season.
“He’s on a heavy volume of training and he’s running really good,” Bucknam said.
Senior captain Duncan Phillips dropped out of the race due to side cramps, Bucknam said. Senior Chuol Dey finished fifth for the team.
“A pretty good effort overall from some of our guys. I think we just need a little consistency with Dey and Duncan. They’ve got to pull it together, and I think they can,” Bucknam said.
The team will compete again in two weeks to defend their title at the SEC Championships.
“We have some work. It was a B, but we need an A if we’re going to win the SEC. I thought we ran a solid performance,” Bucknam said.
Women’s CC Places Second at Chile Pepper, Looks Ahead to Regionals
Arkansas women’s cross country finished second this weekend at the 23rd Annual Chile Pepper Festival. The No. 11 ranked Razorbacks fell behind Chile Pepper newcomer in No. 17 Texas by 4 points.
“We had them on the ropes. We were actually pretty even all the way through, and then it came down to our fourth runner and fifth runner,” coach Lance Harter said.
The outcome of the event was indicative of the regional competition, which Harter believes will come down to Arkansas and Texas.
“It was a great race; we’re pleased with what we did,” Bucknam said. “We knew Texas was very, very formidable. They smashed everybody last year in the region, had everybody back. And now, it’s a situation where we’re kind of up-and-comers with this young group. We’d like to see some of our freshmen to continue to pull through.”
Senior Kristen Gillespie’s team-best performance was huge Harter said. Gillespie finished the race sixth overall.
“She truly has the ability to be an All-American in cross country, and I think it’s going to pay huge dividends when it comes to track, which is obviously her forte,” Harter said.
The rest of the team finished the way Harter expected, except for freshman Kaitlin Flattmann, who was dehydrated.
“That was a big difference-maker for us. Usually she runs top 3, top 4. She did finish, but she was pretty out of it.”
The second-place performance was bittersweet for Harter, who said that Arkansas had not won the event in a while.
“Obviously, you always want to do well in front of your home crowd. And this is the first time Texas has ever been here, so obviously they had a purpose for coming here, and I think a lot of it was centered on us. They got us this time, so we have to give it a good run when we see them in a couple of weeks,” Harter said.
“As far as today, it’s a great performance all the way across the board,” Harter said. “We had 7 to 8 deep and that was a real positive. And I think that gives us an added weapon when we get to the championship.”