FAYETTEVILLE – The University of Arkansas will host their first cross-country team meeting in two years when the Chile Pepper Racing Festival returns this weekend.
Last year’s Chili Pepper was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 33rd Chili Pepper kicks off today with four varsity races on Arkansas’ Agri Park course, followed by open races and in high school on Saturday.
Arkansas hosts a meeting for the first time since Nov. 15, 2019, when the AU women won the NCAA South Central Regional Title and the men finished second with both teams advancing to the national championships.
The No. 10-ranked Razorbacks’ women’s team will compete in a 5,000-meter race at 5:00 p.m. and the No. 8-ranked AU men will compete in an 8,000-meter race at 5:30 p.m.
Spectators are allowed for collegiate races, but not for Saturday races.
“It’s nice to be able to compete on our home course for sure,” said Arkansas men’s coach Chris Bucknam. “I love Chili Pepper. I love the vibe and the atmosphere.
“Our route is quick and it’s easy on the legs.”
There are over 70 teams entered for both men’s and women’s races, and there will be four in total, with the Razorbacks competing in the fastest competition.
“The whole tactical plan was to make sure we were challenged,” said Arkansas women’s coach Lance Harter. “Hopefully that will come to pass, when some of our development runners see what this level of competition is like, then some of our lead runners get a chance to be up front and dictate some tactics.”
The AU men and women will both rule out several of their top runners who competed last week when the men won a 20-team competition in Boston and the women finished third in a 17-team competition. in Eugene, Oregon.
Female participants from Arkansas today include Krissy Gear, Logan Morris, Gracie Hyde, Julia Paternain and Carmie Prinsloo.
Runners for men from Arkansas include Luke George, Myles Richter, Tommy Romanow, Josh Shearer and Jayce Turner. Competing alone – which means they’re still eligible for the Red Shirt – are freshmen Sam Hall, Reuben Reina, Elias Schreml, Ben Shearer and Jack Williams.
Runners are not allowed to compete alone in outdoor competitions.
“It’s a meeting where we can direct the freshmen to see where they’re at and see if they can make an impact in our top seven,” Bucknam said. “If I feel like it, we’ll take the red shirt off them.”
The top competition among the visiting teams in the women’s race today will be the 14th Oklahoma State and Division II ranked teams, including the 2nd Colorado School of Mines and the 4th Augustana (SD). Iowa Western, the No.2 collegiate team, is also on the field.
The visiting teams for men include No. 12 Tulsa, and Colorado School of Mining Division II No. 1 and No. 4 Augustana.
Bucknam said he likes the variety of divisions that will be competing.
“That’s what makes this meeting special,” Bucknam said. “You have great Division II teams and great junior college teams.”
Harter said the large field for each race will simulate the start of the national championships.
“We’re going to have a mass of bodies on the front line,” Harter said. “Are they all going to be there 400, 800 or 1000 meters away? Probably not. But I hope our people will be there.”
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In one look
Chili Pepper Festival
At the UA Agri Park course, Fayetteville
COLLEGE RACES TODAY
Grassland Fire Pepper for Women 5,000
Men’s Prairie Fire Pepper 8000
8,000 men McDonnell Memorial