FAYETTEVILLE – Competing in the 34th annual Chile Pepper Festival, No. 16 Arkansas races on its home course at Agri Park on Friday afternoon at 5 p.m.
Admission is free with collegiate races occurring on Friday while high school, junior high and open races are held on Saturday. Information on parking for each day is available here: https://www.chilepepperfestival.org.
A free live stream of all races will be made available by Hoka via RunnerSpace at the following link: chilepepperfestival.runnerspace.com.
Chile Pepper Festival – Schedule – Friday, Sept. 30, 2022
|3:15 p.m.||Women’s Collegiate Prairie Fire Pepper 5k|
|3:45 p.m.||Men’s Collegiate Prairie Fire Pepper 8k|
|4:30 p.m.||College Women’s 5k|
|5:00 p.m.||McDonnell Memorial College Men’s 8k|
“We’re going to run our full team this weekend and we’ll really open up to see where we’re at this week,” stated Arkansas men’s head coach Chris Bucknam. “The course is in great shape and it’s going to be fast.
“That’s one of the advantages of this meet at this time of the year. It’s a challenge, not so much a hill challenge as it is a speed challenge. Both of those things are difficult to deal with. I think we’ll have some really fast times this weekend.”
Tulsa, ranked No. 5 in nation after placing fifth in the Oklahoma State Jamboree this past weekend, headlines a field of 35 teams competing in the 5 p.m. race with the Razorbacks.
Division I schools competing include Abilene Christian, Arkansas State, Central Arkansas, Houston, Kansas State, Little Rock, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Sam Houston State, SFA, UL Monroe, and UT Arlington.
Nationally ranked Division II schools in the field include No. 6 Missouri Southern, No. 19 Mississippi College, and No. 21 Nebraska-Kearney.
“We’re coming off two consecutive years where we finished on the podium at the national championships,” noted Bucknam of the Razorbacks pair of fourth place finishes at the NCAA Cross Country Championships. “A lot of those kids on those two teams have graduated. Now we have some new people in the mix.
“So, it’s going to be a challenge for us. We won the last couple of SEC championships and have been on the NCAA podium the last two years. But I’m just as excited coaching this team as I was last year or the year before. Because I love to see improvement and see kids get better.”
Myles Richter was the top Razorback finisher in the 2021 Chile Pepper Festival race, placing second while covering the 8,000m course in 23:33.5, as Arkansas finished fourth in team scoring with 192 points.
Jacob McLeod, who has competed in two NCAA championship meets as a Razorback, will contest his first Chile Pepper race. A crew of Arkansas freshmen who competed unattached in last year’s race includes Elias Schreml (15th 24:22.7), Ben Shearer (23rd 24:35.2), and Jack Williams (70th 25:25.5).
“We’ve got some young kids competing this week and they’re going to have to step up and fill a big void,” said Bucknam. “I’m really excited about watching this team compete and seeing if we can get to a point where we can challenge for a SEC championship.”
In addition to testing the young Razorback squad on its familiar home Agri Park course, this meet enables Arkansas to observe talented runners from the high school and junior college levels.
“This meet is a big recruiting opportunity on all levels now with the transfer portal,” stated Bucknam. “We’ve gotten some junior college athletes out of this race, such as Frankline Tonui and Stanley Kebenei, where we get a chance to see them run. We get a great benchmark since we know the course and know how fast it is and it doesn’t change from year to year, so we can compare times a little bit.
“So, it’s very helpful for the high schools and junior colleges, for sure, being able to see the talent this meet attracts. It’s a great opportunity.”
Nationally ranked schools among junior colleges racing in the Chile Pepper Festival include Iowa Central, Hutchinson, Garden City, and Ranger. Arkansas alum Josphat Boit is the head coach at a new junior college program at Northwest Arkansas, who will compete in the 3:15 p.m. women’s race and 3:45 p.m. men’s race.