By Steve Holt, Sports Writer
For the second time in three weekends, the men’s cross country team will have a shot at upsetting the Arkansas Razorbacks at the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday.
One factor that may serve as an obstacle to a Razorback upset is the race distance, the race will be the first 10,000-meter distance the team has seen this season.
“It’s our first 10K of the year, so really I’m going into it with not real high expectations,” said head cross country coach Derek Hood. “The training’s gone great, but it’s our first 10K, so I’m real curious to see how we handle the last two miles of the race.”
In addition to top-ranked Division I powerhouse Arkansas, 34 other teams will participate in the cross country festival, including: Alabama, Arizona, Baylor, California, Georgia Tech, Houston, LSU, Nebraska, Texas El-Paso, Texas Tech, Tulsa and Wyoming.
Leading the Wildcat charge will again be sophomore Nicodemus Naimadu, who has run in the No. 1 position all season.
After placing fifth on a muddy course at the Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree on Oct. 1, Naimadu could use more favorable conditions to contend for the individual title in Fayetteville.
In the team race, ACU could suffer from the minor injuries of seniors Martin O’Kello and Lucky Hadebe. O’Kello had his wisdom teeth pulled since the Cowboy Jamboree, and Hadebe has been suffering from minor back pain.
Hood said he’s anxious to see how his team responds to the heavy competition.
“This will give us a little preview of what we can handle when the South Central Regional rolls around,” Hood said.
Hood will take a complete women’s team to Fayetteville as well, and said the women “keep getting better and better.”
“I feel like they are just now starting to get into race shape,” Hood said.
He said he thinks the six-kilometer course could play into the hands of the Wildcat women, who will need to have breakthrough races from their No. 4 and 5 runners.
“The longer the course, the better,” Hood said. “Abbie [Waters] is very consistent and can maintain her pace very well. Mollye [Stanford] is the same way.”
The men’s collegiate race (10K) will begin at 9:30 a.m., followed by the women’s collegiate race (6K) at 10:30 a.m. Next weekend the Wildcats will travel to Weatherford, Okla., for the Lone Star Conference Championships, a meet both teams won in 2004.