Editor's note: For the next month, The Wood Report will be counting down projected team finishes in this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, IN.
Head Coach: Lance Harter (24th Season)
2012 National Finish- 18th
Key Returners from 2012
- Grace Heymsfield (Jr., 9:12 Open 3k, 16:15 5k, 9:57 3k Steeple)
- Andrina Schlapfer (So.,10th SEC XC '12, 98th NCAA XC '12)
- Paige Johnston (Jr., 4:25 1500m)
- Keri Wood (Sr., 4:18 1500m, 4:43 Mile)
- Jessica Kamilos (Jr., 16:28 5k, 10:10 3k Steeple)
- Diane Robison (Jr., 9:19 Open 3k, 15:59 5k, 34:30 10k)
- Shannon Klenke (Jr., 16:15 5k, 10:10 3k Steeple)
- Kaitlin Flattmann (Jr., 16:23 5k, 34:56 10k)
- Stephanie Brown (Sr., 4:14 1500m, 16:24 5k)
- Sandie Raines (Fr., 4:52 1600m, 10:13 3200m, 32nd NXN '12, 11th FL Finals '12)
- Regan Ward (Fr., 4:54 1600m, 10:38 3200m)
After a good, but somewhat disappointing end to the cross country season in 2012, the Razorbacks are back, and deeper than ever and scarier than ever. Lance Harter has (there have been many deep teams previewed so far, but none like this) quite possibly the deepest team in the country (obviously more will be highlighted later on and could rival this). There are eleven different girls on this team that could be on any team in the NCAAs top five. With this kind of depth, Arkansas is ready to improve upon their NCAAs finish of 2012.
Grace Heymsfield is the no. 1 returner on this team who was very close to being All-American in 2012. Heymsfield is coming off of the best track season of her career where she finished her season 7th in the country at the 3k Steeple. She is a well-rounded athlete that will be a nice front-runner for the Hogs.
The only real consistent runner (in terms of placement on the team) in 2012 was Heymsfield. The rest of the season saw nine or so girls interchangeably within their top seven and running at different spots in their pack.
Diane Robison had moment of greatness in 2012 when she finished 10th at the Regional and 11th at SECs. She struggled at the NCAA meet and she will be looking for redemption in 2013. Her track PRs for 5k and 10k are the best on the team, and if anyone is going to be challenging Heymsfield for the no. 1 spot, Robison is.
Finishing right ahead of Robison at SECs in 2012 in 10th place was then-freshman Andrina Schlapfer. A 98th place finish at NCAAs put her as the no. 2 runner on the team and will be battling Robison and Heymsfield up-front throughout the season. Without having had a track season, Schlapfer should be coming into camp and the season fit and with a solid base beneath her.
Paige Johnston, Jessica Kamilos, Shannon Klenke, Keri Wood and Kaitlinn Flattmann are all quality runners, with good if not great track PRs, that like was mentioned above, would be in the top five on the majority of teams in the NCAA. These athletes will be spending their entire season solidifying their spot in their top seven as this team is so deep that there is a legitimate chance that someone else could take their place at any race at any time.
In all truthfulness, Harter would be better off redshirting a few of these girls to keep them around a little longer because of how deep this team is.
The wildcard on this Razorback team is middle-distance star Stephanie Brown. A sixth place finish at NCAA Outdoors in the 1500m will have her amped for her final xc season of her career. Being a mid-distance runner sometimes lends to a lack of faith in their cross country abilities, but if Brown can overcome that, she is another capable and very quality athlete that could be a force up front. Her fiery competitiveness and speed are top-notch and if she can find a way to go from 1.5k to 6k (definitely doable) she will provide one more high-quality scorer for the Hogs.
If what has been mentioned was not enough to convince how good this team is, their recruiting class will do the job. Sandie Raines was one of the nation's premier cross country runners in 2012 with high finishes at both high school championship races, NXN and FL Finals. Her 10:13 3200m PR is outstanding and she is someone that should be taken seriously as a possible scorer for Arkansas.
This #16 ranking could be way off. We're talking Arkansas is so deep and so talented that them not being in the top-10 could be a joke by the end of the Wisconsin Invitational if they run like they are capable of there. Coach Harter has been around a long time, but you can bet he's rarely had a team returning with this kind of depth of quality athletes. Razorback fans should be extremely excited for this upcoming season because these Hogs are for real and ready to improve upon their NCAA finish of 2012.