FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Behind a top-10 individual effort by junior Eric Fernandez, No. 15 Arkansas finished in second place on Saturday at the 23rd annual Chile Pepper Festival at Agri Park. Fernandez finished in sixth place overall as the Razorbacks posted a team score of 78 points. Top-ranked and defending national champion Oklahoma State took first place at the event.
“We were running together for the first mile then we spread out,” Arkansas head coach Chris Bucknam said. “I think the 10K distance really skewed the way they were looking at things. All in all, I think we did pretty well. Oklahoma State did a great job and proved why they’re the No. 1 team in the country.”
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For the third time in as many races this season, Fernandez was Arkansas’ top finisher. He crossed the finish line with a time of 29:29. With his time Saturday, he took more than 30 seconds off his previous best at the 10K distance. Rick Elliott also clocked a personal-best time of 30:07 good for a 13th-place overall finish for the Razorbacks. His previous career best was run at last season’s Chile Pepper.
Arkansas’ third finisher was Layne Nixon who was making his Chile Pepper debut. Nixon finished 20th overall in a time of 30:17. Patrick Rono occupied the next spot with a 21st-place showing in a time of 30:19. The Razorbacks’ top-five lineup was closed out by Chuol Dey. He crossed in a time of 30:21 good for a 26th-place finish.
Cameron Efurd was Arkansas’ sixth runner. He finished in 37th place with a time of 30:40. He was followed by Tom Cattin-Masson who clocked in at 30:55 and finished 48th overall. The Razorbacks’ next runner was Aaron Hamilton. He turned in a time of 31:24 and an overall finish of 74th place. The Razorbacks’ remaining runner was Omar Abdi (31:32) who checked in at 81st place.
“I thought we made a step forward today,” Bucknam said. “We have to get our heads right but I think they are ready to make a run for the SEC championship. We proved that we belong. We raced well with the No. 1 team in the country and they showed their athleticism in the last couple miles. They separated from our guys but we’re making progress. I’m looking forward to the SEC.”