The 2019 National Champion Razorback Women’s cross country team will not be able to defend their title this season due to COVID-19 restrictions. The Arkansas women will only compete in three regular season races and then the Southeastern Conference Championships on October 30.
“Now that we’ve been granted an opportunity to prepare for a SEC Championship, we want to make sure that the girls have an opportunity to get into that competitive groove again,” said Lance Harter, the Arkansas women’s cross country head coach, to Razorback Athletics on Sept. 4.
The Hogs will kick off their season at Louisiana State University on Sept. 19 for the SEC Preview meet. The team lost six seniors from last year's team, four of which placed in the top 30 at the NCAA Championships. Though they lost most of their core, the Razorbacks have brought in an impressive class of freshmen and transfers and return talented young runners from last year.
“With so many new faces joining us we have some people where the cross country season is more secondary to their yearly plan,” Harter said. “We would like them to have a good, positive experience. So, having four races for the season, which is the max we are allowed, gives us options for everybody.”
Of the 21 female runners, nine are of freshman or sophomore standing and five are transfers. It is definitely a new roster for the reigning SEC and National Champions, but Harter is excited to get going.
“We really haven’t got serious with workouts yet, which will come soon. Everybody is really excited, and the chemistry so far has been phenomenal,” Harter said.
Of the returning Razorbacks, redshirt sophomore Quinn Owen placed the highest (13th) in the NCAA South Central Regional on Nov. 15, 2019. Sophomore Adoette Vaughan placed 12 spots behind Owen at 25. Junior transfer from Central Arkansas, Gracie Hyde, was the 2019 Southland Conference Runner of the Year.
For the men’s side, there will only be three races: the SEC Preview on Sept. 19, the Arturo Barrios Invitational in College Station, Texas, on Oct. 17 and the SEC Championships on Oct. 30.
“We are thrilled as a program to have a season this fall, and we have a chance to compete,” Chris Bucknam, the Arkansas men’s cross country head coach, said to Razorback Athletics. “It starts to bring our program back to normal again. It’s not quite 100%, without the NCAA Championships, but it’s real close. Certainly, we can work with this regular season schedule and compete for a SEC Championship.”
The men placed third in the SEC Championships and 30th in the NCAA Championships last season. Compared to past teams, 2019 was a down year for the men’s cross country team, but Bucknam is ready for the challenge of this season.
“It’s great having the team back on campus,” stated Bucknam. “I’m glad we are able to get together, start to run together again and be a team. That’s the thing we missed most, the daily interaction with the athletes and the athlete to athlete interactions, working towards a common goal of winning championships.”
The top returning runner for Arkansas is senior Matt Young, who placed third overall in the South Central Regional on Nov. 15, 2019. Along with Young comes sophomore Ryan Murphy (13th overall), redshirt junior Jayce Turner (14th overall) and sophomore Myles Richter (15th overall). Richter was the top Razorback runner in the 2019 NCAA Championships, placing 132nd.
Both teams have been actively practicing since returning to campus this fall. It is notable that there will be no NCAA meets this season, so the Hogs will try to capitalize on the few meets they are allowed to compete in.