Razorbacks Cross Country Team Opens Season

FAYETTEVILLE -- Arkansas coach John McDonnell is as excited as he can be about a season-opening dual meet against Missouri Southern this evening at the Razorback Agri-Park Course.

McDonnell is looking forward to tonight's four-mile race beginning at 6 p.m. to get a look at several runners who redshirted last year or transferred in over the summer.

The Razorbacks will send senior Eric Gross, junior Luis Bordes, junior transfer Jose Campos, sophomore Adam Perkins and redshirt freshmen Chase and Travis Feltner, Tyler Hill and Jonathan Norris to the line tonight.

"It's not a real big meet, but it will give us an idea of some of those guys we redshirted last year and see what kind of advancement they've made," McDonnell said. "I'm very anxious to see what they can do."

The group boasts some impressive prep credentials with several state cross country titles to their credit.

Chase Feltner won two Arkansas state titles for Russellville as did Gross while at Mountain Home before going to UA-Little Rock and transferring to Arkansas last year.

Chase's twin brother Travis was all-state twice in cross country, Hill was a three-time state champion in Louisiana, Norris was a member of the top-ranked team in Texas for The Woodlands and Perkins won two Missouri state titles.

Campos won a junior college national title for Paradise Valley (Ariz.) in the steeplechase.

Hill, Norris and the Feltners redshirted last year while Bordes and Gross battled nagging injuries.

Bordes was an All-Southeastern Conference performer in 2002 and helped Arkansas clinch its 30th straight conference cross country title with his 15th place finish in Gainesville, Fla.

Arkansas finished fifth at the 2003 NCAA Championships and have lost 2004 Olympian Alistair Cragg and Chris Mulvaney to graduation and Josh Harper and Sam Vazquez to academics.

Harper and Vazquez were freshmen last year and Vazquez had an outstanding track season earning All-American honors indoors and qualifying for the 1,500 outdoors.

Harper will be back for the spring semester, but Vazquez is back home in Florida attending junior college and may never return to Arkansas.

That leaves senior Jason Sandfort (a personal best 24th at the 2003 NCAA meet), Mike Poe (79th) and Matt Gunn (94th) back from McDonnell's 2003 postseason roster, making this meet more than just a formality required by the NCAA.

Not competing tonight will be highly regarded transfers Josephat Boit and Marc Rodrigues from Cowley College and Cloud City, respectively.

Boit ran a 13:17.12 over 5,000 meters as a 17-year-old (just behind Cragg's school record 13:16.98) and Rodrigues was fourth last year at the Chile Pepper ahead of every Razorback entered.

"They're just super guys," McDonnell said. "They're kind of quiet. They're not hot dogs, they're not trying to show how good they are."

Once McDonnell has Boit and Rodrigues in a race, he likes his team's chances.

"I really feel good about it," he said. "You feel you lost a lot of guys with Alistair and Mulvaney. It's great chemistry on this team. Guys like Boit, Marc Rodrigues, Sandfort, Said Ahmed. Those kind of guys like Gunn, they are just great team men.

"It will be exciting."

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