The No.1-ranked Arkansas women’s cross country team controlled the field in regional action on Friday with Razorbacks finishing in first, second, third, fourth and fifth place. It captured a South Central Regional title Friday to advance to the NCAA Championships this week in Terre Haute, Indiana
Twenty-two women’s cross country teams competed in the South Central Regional at Agri Park in Fayetteville, including two SEC foes: LSU and Texas A&M. The title was the Razorbacks’ ninth-straight regional title and their fourth title won at Agri Park.
Arkansas recorded the first perfect score and 23rd regional title in program history by having five seniors finish in order (1,2,3,4,5). Senior Taylor Werner was the sixth-straight Razorback to place first in the regional, and just the eleventh in program history. Finishing with the same time as Werner (20:30.30), but placing second, was Razorback senior Katie Izzo.
Three other senior Razorbacks, Carina Viljoen, Devin Clark and Maddy Reed, rounded out the top five. Freshman Quinn Owen came in 13th place and freshman Adoette Vaughan placed 25th for the Hogs. All seven Arkansas runners earned all-region honors.
Arkansas head coach Lance Harter told Arkansas Athletics he thinks the team is prepared for the NCAA Championships.
“Our top-four have been running like that pretty much all season, but Maddy Reed had a breakthrough performance,” Harter said. “I think that gives us a reconfirmation that we’re on schedule and we’re ready to go, if we stay healthy, a week from now.”
The top-four finishers all crossed the line within half a second of each other, but Reed battled four other runners in the last leg of the race to secure fifth place and a perfect score for the Hogs. Werner told Smith that seeing Reed getting fifth place was a dream come true for the group of seniors.
The Razorback women’s cross country team has been to the NCAA National Championship race 31 times in program history, but it has finished in the top 5 only seven times. The Hogs placed 14th last season. Arkansas has not finished in the top two since 1999.
With a strong corp of experienced senior runners, this Arkansas team looks poised to capture their first National Championship in team history. As the highest-ranked team in the nation, the Hogs have a 13-point edge over the second-ranked team, Stanford.
Harter told Smith he thinks the team is in a good position for the National Championship after the South Central Regional title.
“Obviously the NCAA meet is what we’ve been training for all season long,” Harter said. “To be able to get a perfect score is another reconfirmation to the coaching staff that physically and mentally we are in great position to get ready for the national meet.”
Arkansas will travel to the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Indiana, for the NCAA Championships on Saturday, Nov. 23. This will be the 13th time since 2002 that the National Championship has been at this course.