By Denise Spann - MileSplit Correspondent
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Even though we're weeks away from National Signing Day on November 13, athletes across the country are verbally committing to their future homes and on Thursday a big name came off the board.
Beavercreek (OH) High School senior Taylor Ewert officially committed to the University of Arkansas. Opening up her cross country season in mid-September with an effort of 17:17.20, last year's Gatorade Player of the Year for Ohio and the two-time cross country national top five finisher sits at No.10 on the MileSplit 2020 Recruiting Rankings.
And she ran some of the nation's best times across all distance disciplines this past year. During the indoor season she ran top-10 marks in the 1600m (US No. 3), 3,000m (US No. 8), 3,200m (US No. 8) and two-mile (US No. 6). To finish her outdoor season, Ewert won the 2,000m steeplechase at New Balance Nationals Outdoor in 6:33.61 for a US No. 1 and ran a new personal best in the mile (4:48.01).
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Pairing her running resume with her Olympic Trials qualifying time in the 20K race walk (1:38.55) and numerous American Junior race walk records indoor and outdoor, Ewert could have punched her ticket to anywhere in the NCAA.
So, how well will Ewert fit into the reigning indoor and outdoor national championship women's program?
Winning over 30 conference titles, 20 regional titles and four national championships, the Razorbacks have established their footprint within the SEC and nationally under the leadership of head coach Lance Harter.
The program has had a heavy focus on distance success, but more recently the surrounding event disciplines have played an equally important role in their overall conference and national success. The biggest example of this was their narrow victory over USC for the 2019 NCAA Outdoor National Championships.
But the women of Arkansas have gotten off to a stellar start in cross country, too, and the Razorbacks remain a threat to take a rare three-peat over three straight seasons. Ewert seems prime to fit right into the program based on her resume.
After a dominant showing at the John McNicholas Invite, the Razorbacks rose to No. 2 on the USTFCCCA National Rankings behind consecutive No. 1 Colorado.
From her recent opening alone and her consistency in the 17-minute range in the 5K, Ewert could've contested for the fifth scoring spot for the Razorbacks, even with the climb up to 6K.
Winning the past four SEC and South-Central Regional titles, the Razorbacks are looking to establish themselves as a potential NCAA Championship contender. They've rounded out the top 15 and top 20 over the past couple years at the NCAA Cross Country Championship. Ewert's arrival next fall, at the very least, will help replace the loss of redshirt senior Taylor Werner, who remains Arkansas' top scorer in 2019.
What will be interesting to watch is how Ewert and the rest of the Arkansas' eventual Class of 2020 fill the shoes of the parting seniors. Thirteen seniors, four of which are a part of this nationally ranked line-up, possibly won't be on the hill when Ewert makes her Razorback debut.
Ewert has a wide event range, and with the right training there are opportunities for success almost everywhere. Based off of her PRs, the senior would have placed seventh in the mile (4:51.97) and eighth in 3,000m (9:40.90) at the SEC Indoor Championships. In the NCAA, the Ohio distance runner would be ranked second in the 3,000m and fourth in mile amongst freshmen.
Outdoors, with the graduation of American Junior steeplechase record holder Devin Clark, Ewert has an opportunity to lead the Razorbacks in the event.
Overall, Ewert's impact at the conference level within both programs as a freshman seems inevitable.
With Arkansas' distance reputation, competitive conference and athlete progression, the question isn't if she'll contribute to an NCAA title, but when?
If the Razorbacks continue to have all the moving pieces to a successful program, Ewert's talents will be called upon. On paper, Ewert and Arkansas are a match-made-in-heaven.