Splichal leads Lady'Back to 19th at NCAA meet

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Senior Penny Splichal concluded her University of Arkansas Lady Razorback career on Monday afternoon by leading the Lady Razorbacks to a 19th-place finish at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.

“I think that we got cautious today,” Arkansas head coach Lance Harter said. “We needed some more senior leadership instead of letting our freshman think for themselves. If everything had gone right, we could have been a top 15 team, but it didn’t and we were still only 40 points away from there.”

Arkansas scored 444 points for its 19th-place finish which placed it ahead of Southeastern Conference rivals Tennessee, 28th, and Georgia, 31st. The finish is quite impressive considering that three freshman were a part of Arkansas’ scoring five giving Arkansas a bright spot for the future.

Entering the meet ranked 16th, Arkansas got off to a fair start against the national field. Approaching the mile marker, senior Laura Jakosky led the Arkansas contingent followed closely by Splichal and Christine Kalmer. Just moments later at the 2,000-meter marker, Splichal had taken the lead for the Lady’Backs with Jakosky and Kalmer running side-by-side. The freshman tandem of Dacia Barr and Denise Bargiachi were also shoulder-to-shoulder in fourth and fifth for the Lady Razorbacks.

Midway through the second of two loops at the LaVern Gibson Championship course, Splichal stood in 95th position. Kalmer Barr and Bargiachi each moved up for Arkansas with fellow frosh Kelly Vrshek taking the five slot.

Coming up the final hill, a long grueling upslope that led to the finish shoot, the Lady Razorbacks continued to battle for position, passing several runners along the way to secure their final team spot. Splichal would finish the race in 89th place overall with a time of 21:02.5. Kalmer was Arkansas’ second finisher at 102nd (21:11.3), followed by Jakosky (128, 21:20.2), Barr (134, 21:23.6) and Vrshek (140, 21:27.4). Denise Bargiachi finished 126th (21:45) and Jessie Gordon rounded out the Arkansas runners finishing 213th (23:40).

“I thought that Kelly (Vrshek) ran great,” Harter said. “Penny (Splichal) ran another solid race to end her career, but in order for us to compete with the best teams we needed our seniors to really take command. Next year we get even younger with our team, but I like the way that our youth has competed and fell good about next fall.”

The Lady Razorbacks conclude their cross country season, but now get ready for indoor track which begins in early January. For more information about Lady Razorback cross country or about Arkansas women’s athletics, please go to www.ladybacks.com.