Bargiachi Vrshek take on the nation

NEW YORK – Just two weeks after making their first trips to New York City, University of Arkansas freshmen cross country runners Denise Bargiachi and Kelly Vrshek return to the Big Apple, this time to tackle frigid temperatures, snow and a top notch field at the USA Cross Country Championships at Van Cortlandt Park.

The duo were key components to Arkansas’ NCAA South Central Regional title and 19th-place finish at the NCAA Championships. Bargiachi took second-team all-Southeastern Conference honors in October while Vrshek was named all-South Central Region two weeks later making their careers near parallels.

“This is a great opportunity for Denise and Kelly,” Arkansas head cross country coach Lance Harter said. “Both have worked extremely hard since they came to Arkansas and this is a reward for that hard work. I really believe that they have an opportunity to make the World Cross Country team and travel to Japan in April. Currently we are preparing for the SEC Indoor Championships and are training to be prepared for that meet, but this race couldn’t come at a better time.”

While both Arkansas freshmen prepare for the SEC Indoor Track Championships next weekend, they are equally as committed to qualify for April’s IAAF World Cross Country Championships to be held in Fukuoka, Japan. Bargiachi and Vrshek are competing in the junior division of the race which starts at 10 a.m. If either can finish among the top six in their race, they are guaranteed a spot on the United States roster. A seventh or eighth-place finish makes Arkansas’ runners alternates on the squad and would require one of the top six runners to drop out before they could compete.

During the 2005 cross country campaign, Vrshek edged Bargiachi by mere percentage points when it came to winning percentage as both were well over 70%. Bargiachi finished among Arkansas’ top seven runners in every race she competed in and was as high as fourth at both the SEC and Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival. Vrshek was regularly Arkansas’ fifth or sixth runner and posted more individual wins than all but three Lady’Back harriers.

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