Top ranked Arkansas extended its unbeaten streak to nine consecutive meets, which dates back to a perfect 2019 season, with a team victory at the Blazer Classic hosted by UAB on Friday morning at Veterans Park.
The Razorbacks scored 42 points to top the 10-team field by a wide margin. Georgia Tech finished second with 104 points and were followed by Florida State (115), Mississippi (118) and Tennessee (121) among the top five.
The rest of the field included Kentucky (126), Middle Tennessee State (126), Vanderbilt (221), Florida (224) and Mississippi State (235).
“With 42 points and second place in the 100s, the domination was a positive for us,” stated Arkansas women’s head coach Lance Harter. “This performance is a reinforcement that our team is so close and that we have some interchangeable positions.
“We’re in a situation where our depth has rung through again. It’s a situation where we had an opportunity to run against some fellow SEC teams that we haven’t seen thus far as well as some ACC teams. It was exciting to have those interactions where we don’t just dominate from the front from the get go, there are people to share the responsibility of the race. I think the results were very positive for us.”
Lauren Gregory led the Razorbacks for the second consecutive meet, posting a time of 20:22.5 over the 6,000m course, to place fourth in a field of 111 runners. Tennessee’s Katie Thronson won the race in 20:13.2 over Kentucky’s Jenna Gearing (20:16.5) with Sydney Seymour of Tennessee (20:17.6) third.
“Coach said to try some fun stuff today and be courageous,” said Gregory, who led the field in the latter stages of the race. “This was an opportunity to have fun and try some new stuff. It’s always nice to have that pack in the front.
“I’m glad I went to the lead, to try it out. It was worth a shot. It was good and gives me something to re-evaluate for SECs. Here, though, it was no pressure and all fun. It was a chance to catch some runners in the lead pack off guard and see what they can do. I’ll run a little smarter next time. We’re not even geared up yet, so it will be fun to see what we can do after all of our training comes into play.”
Logan Morris finished seventh in 20:25.1 as the next Razorback to cross the line while Abby Gray (20:30.5) and Taylor Ewert (20:31.5) placed ninth and 10th. Krissy Gear (20:34.0) wrapped up the final team scoring spot in 12th place as Arkansas produced a spread of just 11.5 seconds from its first five runners.
Corie Smith led the next wave of Arkansas runners, finishing 17th in 20:41.5, while Meghan Underwood followed in 18th with a career best of 20:49.7 to give the Razorbacks a spread of 27.2 seconds among its top seven finishers.
“We’re having a theme this whole season where we are able to keep a lot of people real close together,” noted Harter. “That’s the secret in cross country, especially when you have a front runner like Lauren Gregory.
“We’re also having some people who are really starting to make some upgrades in their racing style. Logan Morris had a great race today, Meghan Underwood as well. So, I think we’re making headway with some people who are getting into good shape and will be ready to go. They are handling any challenges we throw at them.”
Quinn Owen (20:58.3) finished 22nd with Isabel Van Camp (21:15.6) in 34th place. Gracie Hyde (22:03.9) and Alex Ritchey (22:04.2) crossed the finish line in 66th and 67th place. Josie Carson (22:09.6) finished 74th, Lainey Quandt (22:51.1) placed 96th, while Kennedy Thomson did not finish.
In the women’s open race, Tori Willis placed 13th in 22:21.9 while McKenzie Wilks clocked 22:55.0 to finish 16th among a field of 81.