No. 9 Arkansas Primed for Top-10 Showdown, Chile Pepper

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The Arkansas women’s cross country team is set to compete in two races this weekend as it heads to South Bend, Indiana for the Joe Piane Invitational and hosts the 29th annual Chile Pepper Festival at Agri Park in Fayetteville.

The Razorbacks come in at No. 9 in this week’s USTFCCCA coaches poll following two first place finishes at the Riverside Invitational Sept. 16.

Joe Piane Invitational – Friday Sept. 29

Arkansas will have some of its top runners in South Bend to face a loaded field at the Joe Piane Invitational. The Razorbacks top six finishers from the Riverside Invitational will face six top-30 teams on Friday, led by 2016 South Central Region Champion Devin Clark and All-American Taylor Werner. Clark and Werner will be joined by All-region performer Carina Viljoen, All-SEC seniors Nikki Hiltz and Therese Haiss, as well as freshmen Lauren Gregory.

Gregory shined in her Razorback debut at the Riverside Invitational, earning SEC Freshman Runner of the Week after finishing ninth with a time of 20:17.20 while being the top freshman in a field of 122 Division I runners.

Notable Participants (USTFCCCA Coaches Poll)
No. 1 Colorado
No. 3 New Mexico
No. 7 North Carolina State
No. 9 Arkansas
No. 12 Notre Dame
No. 26 Ohio State
No. 27 Utah

“We’ll get a better understanding of where we stand nationally,” head coach Lance Harter said. “Our kids are excited, but we don’t have much depth up there. All six of them are ready to carry the banner and fight the good fight.”

It will also be the second time this season that Arkansas will face Southeastern Conference competition, as Alabama and South Carolina will join the Razorbacks at the race. Arkansas faced Alabama in the Riverside Invitational Sept. 16, with all seven Razorbacks finishing ahead of the fastest Crimson Tide runner in the 6k.

Chile Pepper Festival – Saturday Sept. 30 

Head coach Lance Harter will have a young group compete at the Chile Pepper Festival led by Maddy Reed, Sydney Brown and Ashton Endsley. Reed finished third in her season debut at the Riverside Invitational 5k, while Brown has finished third at both the Cowboy Preview and at Riverside. Endsley finished 13th at the Riverside 6k as the second overall freshman behind Gregory.

The Razorbacks will face around 50 teams at this year’s event including Boston College, Texas Tech, Creighton and Missouri State.

This will be Arkansas’ first and only race at Agri Park this season after competing on its home course three times during the 2016 campaign. The Razorbacks finished first at the Chile Pepper Festival, the SEC Championship and the NCAA South Central Regional in Fayetteville last season.

“You have 51 teams lined up at the Chile Pepper,” Harter said. “It’s going to be a huge field and we’ve got young people the opportunity to race at the front and hopefully take care of the challenge at hand.”

2017 Cross Country Schedule
Fri, Sept. 1 – Cowboy Duals (Stillwater, Okla.) 2nd of 4
Sat, Sept. 16 – Riverside Invitational (Riverside, Calif.) 1st of 29
Sat, Sept. 16 – Southern Stampede (Joplin, Mo.) 5th of 32
Fri, Sept. 29 – Joe Piane/Notre Dame Invitational (South Bend, Ind.)
Sat, Sept. 30 – Chile Pepper Festival (Agri Park)

Sat, Oct. 14 – Pre-Nationals (Louisville, Ky.)
Fri, Oct. 27 – SEC Championship (Athens, Ga.)
Fri, Nov. 10 – NCAA South Central Regional (College Station, Texas)
Sat, Nov. 18 – NCAA Championship (Louisville, Ky.)

For more information on Arkansas track and field including in-meet updates, follow @RazorbackTF on Twitter.