Razorbacks run away with it
Arkansas won the meet in dominating fashion by placing six runners in the top 10 and totaling a mere 24 points, compared to 2nd place Florida with 69 and 3rd place Ole Miss with 116. The Razorbacks have great talent up-front with freshman Katrina Robinson leading the way, and their depth appears to be just as strong. Arkansas’ seventh runner finished 16th overall, ahead of Florida’s fourth and ahead of every other team’s second. Granted, the SEC is not a particularly strong conference, but few teams have shown this level of domination at any meet this season.
Keep in mind that two weeks ago at Pre-Nationals, Arkansas had four women in the top 10 with their fifth coming in 25th overall. At that meet, they finished 20 points ahead of a runner-up Oregon team that just took down TSR#1 Colorado in dominating fashion at PAC 12's.
What a difference a year makes...
At SEC's last fall, Jessica Pascoe finished 74th. Yesterday, she was the first women across the line. The Florida junior has lead the Gators into the national rankings by winning three of four meets and finishing runner-up in the other. At SEC's she ran near the front for the first 4k before taking the lead for good at 5k. She finished five seconds ahead of runner-up, coming in at 19:55 for a new 6k PR.
Pascoe’s victory is particularly intriguing as she took down a handful of women from Arkansas who look poised to be All-Americans this fall. Coming into this fall, there were no indicators to guess Pascoe would be this good. Her highest South region finish came in 2016 as a freshman when she was 32nd overall. She ran modest PR's of 16:57 (5k) and 36:01 (10K) during the track season, but did not even qualify for the regional meet. This season, she’s won two smaller Florida meets before really coming onto the scene with a runner-up finish to Sinclaire Johnson of Oklahoma State at the Arturo Barrios Invite.
While Pascoe doesn’t boast a stellar resume, she’s now had incredible performances in consecutive meets and should be in the All-American conversation leading into November.
The Gators gain momentum
Putting Florida into our Top 25 rankings last week seemed like a bold move at the time as they had only faced real competition once, beating Oklahoma State at the Arturo Barrios Invitational. The last time the Gators had made NCAA's was 2010 when the team had the talents of Olympian Genevieve LaCaze and Team USA member Cory McGee. In head coach Chris Solinsky’s second year, Florida seems ready to return to the national meet.
The Gators spent much of the season competing at small meets in Florida before traveling to Texas two weeks ago for the Arturo Barrios Invitational. That race saw them win in dominating fashion over Oklahoma State, bringing into question just how good Florida was. Given it was their first true test, it was risky to peg them as a national qualifier. Now, with an impressive performance at SECs, the Gators appear to be the top team going into the South regional.
The South region gets even more interesting
Florida is the definite favorite after their two impressive performances at Arturo Barrios and SEC's. Behind them, it’s anyone’s best guess. Neither Ole Miss or Georgia performed well, finishing 3rd and 4th, but both well behind Florida. Over in the ACC, Florida State finished 4th and Georgia Tech was back in 7th. The second auto-qualifier is wide open for any of the four teams with Florida State looking to be the potential favorites.
Ole Miss started the season strong by winning at Beantown, but has since underwhelmed, finishing 12th at Pre-Nationals and 3rd yesterday. The Rebels lack a presence up-front with their top runner finishing behind Florida’s #3. Similarly, Georgia came into the season with high hopes, but without Samantha Drop they look to be a middle-of-the-pack team. They have returning All-American Jessica Drop leading the way, but fall off sharply after her. With their fourth and fifth runners back in the 40's at SEC's, the Bulldogs NCAA hopes appear to be gone this fall.
Arkansas look like they have potentially four to five All-Americans this fall. Between Robinson, Gregory, Werner, and Viljoen, the Razorbacks should have a strong presence at the front for NCAA's.
Even with a loss, Katrina Robinson is still one of the favorites to win the NCAA title. It’s hard to imagine she tapered much for SEC's and I imagine she’ll be leading the charge at the South regional in two weeks.