Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy.
No. 1 Razorbacks win Nuttycombe against loaded field
Arkansas' Taylor Werner comes in to the finish line Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, to win the collegiate women's race during the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival at Agri Park in Fayetteville.
Arkansas’ first race as a No. 1-ranked team Friday was against the best field it will see before the NCAA cross country meet next month.
The Razorbacks looked the part of No. 1.
Arkansas seniors Taylor Werner, Katie Izzo, Devin Clark and Carina Viljoen finished third, fifth, seventh and ninth, respectively, and the Razorbacks won the 6,000-meter Nuttycombe Invitational in Madison, Wisc. Arkansas finished with 62 points, well ahead of second-place Stanford with 98.
North Carolina State was third with 203 points.
No. 4 Stanford and No. 9 North Carolina State were among 10 teams ranked in the top 15 nationally that participated in the race. Other top 10 national teams in the race included Utah, New Mexico and Michigan State.
“I’m absolutely elated,” Arkansas coach Lance Harter said. “The whole reason we came here in the first place is that Nuttycombe is an invite only. What we need is to be immersed in that level of competition.”
Harter said Werner and Izzo raced with the front of the pack from the opening gun. At 2,000 meters Clark and Viljoen caught up.
“Our front four fought all the way through it,” Harter said. “Considering that Carina lost her shoe at 3K, thank God she’s from South Africa and they train barefoot all the time because she didn’t miss a beat. She just did a great job.”
Werner’s time 19:52.2 was almost 13 seconds behind Wisconsin’s Alicia Monson, who won the race for the second consecutive year. Izzo finished in 19:59.4, Clark in 20:05.8 and Viljoen in 20:09.8. Harter said Clark ran the best race of her cross country career.
Arkansas junior Lauren Gregory was 38th in 20:37.5.
“Before the race we had a conversation,” Harter said, “and I said, ‘Ladies, you need to bask in the idea that you’re No. 1 in the nation...because you earned it. Now don’t surrender it to anybody unless they’re willing to have a great fight to take it away from you.’
“They were all in agreement that they were not going to let (the ranking) go easily.”
Arkansas is scheduled to race again Nov. 1 at the SEC cross country meet in Lexington, Ky. The Razorbacks have won six consecutive SEC races.
“We have a lot of positive momentum,” Harter said. “I would venture to say our ranking is not going to change. We’ll probably be able to hold that all the way up to the national meet.”
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