By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
Preview | Championship Page
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Lance Harter is in his 23rd year as the head coach of the Arkansas women’s cross country and track and field programs, and he leads his No. 12 Razorbacks into Friday’s Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships looking for their first team title at that event since 2008.
Harter sat down with the SEC Digital Network on Wednesday to discuss his 2012 team and his thoughts on the upcoming league championships.
SEC Digital Network: What are your overall thoughts on your team heading into the SEC Cross Country Championships?
Lance Harter: “I think as far as the coaching aspect, I have no regrets or second thoughts about the training part of preparation for the SEC meet, which is what we call the beginning of the championship season. I think we’ve progressed remarkably well according to the plan we designed at the beginning of the season; the athletes and I kind of collaborate on that. Everybody feels really good about what we’ve done and where we’re headed.”
SEC Digital Network: You’ve had different athletes who have stepped up for your team in each meet this season. How does that speak to the balance that you have on your team this year?
Lance Harter: “It’s kind of a unique team in the respect that only one of our top five and only two of our top seven are from last year’s team. Semehar [Tesfaye] is a transfer in from Iowa State and is in grad school and Andrina [Schlaepfer] is a freshman. Grace [Heymsfield] had to have surgery last year and I redshirted her. It’s just been one thing or another. We redshirted Stephanie Brown and Dominique Scott and it’s kind of a whole new team. The depth that we’ve been able to have this year has been a very pleasant surprise for us. That’s what has made us more competitive than I think a lot of people thought we would be.”
SEC Digital Network: This will be the first-ever SEC cross country championship that features 14 women’s teams. How do you think the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M will change the dynamic of this meet?
Lance Harter: “The SEC is kind of a unique animal in the respect that you can basically throw out previous results and previous rankings because, so often, we have had individuals that have just competed above and beyond what anybody forecasted or expected. When you add two new quality programs to the fold, they also have individuals that are going to upset the apple cart as far as the predictions. It just makes it that much more competitive and winning the SEC title is never going to be an easy task.”
SEC Digital Network: Your team won the team title at the Chile Pepper Festival a few weeks ago, marking your team’s first victory at that event since 2006. What did you learn about your team from that meet?
Lance Harter: “I think that was kind of a real confidence booster to this group that they could run decisively well at Chile Pepper. And it was our first exposure to the 6K distance this season. We were able to keep that margin of our one through five runners relatively close, and I think that is a lot of positive momentum to convince our kids that we are on the right track and doing the right things.”
SEC Digital Network: Semehar Tesfaye is a transfer to your team from Iowa State – what has she brought to your squad this season?
Lance Harter: “She has been No. 1 in all three of our competitions. She came to us with excellent credentials and she is obviously very experienced and very talented. You always worry about the dynamic of a newcomer with what they could add to the program or even possibly take away from the program. She has been a very welcome addition and very charismatic to everyone. I think she has given a lot of confidence to the rest of the crew.”
SEC Digital Network: You had a lot of freshmen on last year’s team that played important roles; what has their development been like with a year of collegiate competition under their belts?
Lance Harter: “I think that Kaitlin [Flattmann] and Jessica [Jackson] Kamillos, those two were basically integral parts of the team last year and they weren’t allowed a freshman experience because they had to step right in and be a part of the top five consistently. This year, both of them have been able to kind of delay their progression and I think the best part of their seasons is yet to come.”