The women, however, didn't have such an easy day at their South Central Regional.
Outside of a third-place finish from Denise Bargiachi, the Lady'Backs struggled to fend off a desperate Baylor team to finish with a second-place 70 to receive the other automatic bid into the NCAA Championships.
Rice won the South Central Regional with a team score of 54. Despite getting finishers in second and seventh place, Baylor just missed out on the automatic berth with a team score of 75.
The Lady'Backs were in jeopardy of not finishing in the top two when Baylor's pack of final three scorers were ahead of Arkansas' final two scorers at the end of the first lap. But Jillian Rosen improved her position all the way to the finish line with a few late passes, including one right in front of the line, and Dacia Barr and Catherine White managed to pass Baylor's final scorer to secure second place.
"With 1,000 meters to go, I said we needed to make a move or we're not going," Arkansas coach Lance Harter said. "Both Jillian and Dacia have great closing speed, and they can nail a few people near the end. Today, that was our saving grace."
Bargiachi ran strongly the entire race. She and Christine Kalmer decided to leave the struggling pack to try to take on the front runners after the first lap, Bargiachi said.
"My legs felt good and I saw Christine going out, so I decided it would be good to keep up with her," Bargiachi said. "I was hoping the second pack would stay together."
But Kalmer panicked after seeing how far ahead the leader, SMU's Silje Fjortoft, was and fell to eighth place on the final lap, Harter said.
Rice's top finisher, Allison Pye, placed just sixth, but the Owls' final scorer was in 16th place for the comfortable victory.
In the men's race, Arkansas dominated the team aspect from start to finish. The Razorbacks let a few runners break up the pack near the end, but the pack of five scorers ran in the top 15 for the entire race and finished with a team score of 37.
"We were happy with how the race turned out," Arkansas coach John McDonnell said. "We were hoping to run the race without exerting all our energy. We needed to save a little bit for nine days from now."
And all five scorers finished before second-place Texas' third finisher. Texas finished with a score of 52.
Matt Munoz finished in fifth to lead all Arkansas finishers. It was Munoz's first top finish as a Razorback.
"The coaches said be calm, cool and collected and feed off each other, and just run with some good Arkansas pride," Munoz said. "And that's what we did."
The NCAA National Championships are Nov. 19. The race is set to take place in Terre Haute, Ind., with Indiana State as the host.
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