No. 7 Razorbacks ready to battle at NCAA Championships

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The No. 7 Razorbacks make a return visit Florida State’s Apalachee Regional Park for Saturday’s NCAA Championship race, which will air live on ESPNU starting at 9 a.m. (CT). The women’s 6,000m event will start at 9:20 a.m. (CT).

This marks the 34th time for an Arkansas team to compete in the NCAA Cross Country Championships, and 11th consecutive year. Finishing 10th last March was the 15th time the Razorbacks achieved a top 10 finish. Arkansas claimed a national championship in 2019 and has produced six top four finishes.

“Our kids are super excited, they’re fit and healthy,” said Razorback women’s head coach Lance Harter. “Let the gun go off and we’ll fight for positions.

“There are a lot of teams on both sides where they feel they can be among the top 10, and if you are among the top 10, then there’s a chance you could be in the top four and on the podium.”

The recent national polls following the region meets held this past weekend have North Carolina State favored and receiving six first-place votes. They are followed by New Mexico (4), Colorado (1), and defending national champion BYU.

Other squads ranked in the top 10 include Minnesota, Oklahoma State, Arkansas, North Carolina, Ole Miss, Iowa State, and Notre Dame.

“It’s become a specialist event, you don’t see schools here who focus on the sprints,” said Harter. “Out of the 31 teams in this field on the women’s side there are around six that have balanced programs in regards to how they resource and staff. The rest have become specialist. You’re truly starting to see those who are going after the trophies and podium, they have committed a lot of resources to that area.”

Three different Razorbacks have led the team in the past three races. During the Pre-National meet held on the same NCAA course, Lauren Gregory led Arkansas with a runner-up finish. Krissy Gear paced the squad in the SEC Championships with a bronze medal performance. At the South Central Region meet, it was Isabel Van Camp placing second and Gregory third as they shared the same time.

After placing sixth in team scoring at the Pre-National meet, the Razorbacks captured its ninth consecutive SEC title, 22nd overall, and then claimed a 10th consecutive South Central Region title, its 25th overall.

“We have some proven front runners, and hopefully everyone has a great race on Saturday,” noted Harter. “If they do, we will be in the conversation.

“Logan Jolly is coming on like gangbusters, and Gracie Hyde is kind of an unknown. Isabel Van Camp has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, across the board. She’s always been stereotyped as an 800m runner, but she has really evolved in the program.” 

The 2019 NCAA Champions in cross country, the Razorbacks placed 10th this past March when the 2020 version of the meet was moved from its traditional November date due to covid. Gear led the squad on the Oklahoma State course with an All-America performance in placing 21st.

Other Razorbacks returning from the March meet include Logan Jolly (64th), Gracie Hyde (104th), and Meghan Underwood (187th). Julia Paternain previously race in the 2018 (125th) and 2019 (151st) NCAA races while with Penn State.

Gregory did not race in the March national meet. Her previous NCAA experience in cross country was being the fifth runner on the 2019 national championship team, placing 72nd overall and 52nd in team scoring.

This season Jolly, Hyde, Paternain and Underwood have intermixed in the fourth and fifth positions for the Razorbacks. In the Pre-National meet, Paternain and Hyde were 4-5, while at the SEC meet it was Underwood and Jolly in those positions. During the South Central meet, Hyde and Underwood were 4-5, while Jolly finished third and Paternain sixth.

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