Bulldog Cross Country Cranks Up At Home
Brandon Lord won the 2012 Georgia Cross Country Invitational and will be aiming to repeat on Saturday.

Brandon Lord won the 2012 Georgia Cross Country Invitational and will be aiming to repeat on Saturday.
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Aug 30, 2013

ATHENS, Ga. --- Twelve hours before the Bulldogs kick off at Clemson on Saturday night, Georgia’s cross country teams open their season with their only home meet of the year during the Georgia Cross Country Invitational in Bishop.

The men start their 8000-meter (8k) course that winds around the UGA Equestrian Complex at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning.  The women will then run a 5000-meter (5k) course at 8:45.  Georgia Tech, Mercer and Emmanuel College are expected to race versus the Bulldogs in their season opener.

Following the collegiate races, the high school varsity boys 5000 will be at 9:15, the varsity girls 5000 will be at 9:45, the junior varsity boys 5000 is scheduled for 10:15 and the junior varsity girls 5000 will be at 10:45.

Additional meet details can be found at: http://gado.gs/1yr .

“This is always a great start to our season,” said Bulldog distance coach Patrick Cunniff.  “We have the opportunity to avoid travel and have the performances we need to see where the team is.  Since most of the team gets the chance to run at this one, this meet also gives everyone a chance to perform and possibly travel later in the year.”

Three regular season meet weekends will remain after the Georgia Cross Country Invitational before the Southeastern Conference Championships arrive on Nov. 1.  Cunniff is curious to see what kind of shape his teams are in as their 2013 campaign begins.

“We get to see who is fit, who has been putting in the miles during the offseason,” Cunniff said.  “Our goal for Saturday will be to finish strong.  After a conservative pace to start, I am hoping our women finish their last mile strong and our men finish their last two miles strong.  I hope we see a lot of red and black together at the end. 

“We have three seniors for the men who are returners from last year’s team that qualified for NCAAs and about that many for the women, along with Carly Hamilton.  We should see them all near the front of the pack.”

The Bulldogs swept the 2012 meet in nearly perfect fashion.  In fact, the UGA men scored a perfect mark of 15 after having the first through fifth-place finishers.  Last year’s individual winner, senior Brandon Lord (26:16.49), along senior Luke Baker (3rd – 26:29.88) and senior Charlie Sparks (5th – 26:37.50), are all returning for Georgia.

Georgia has welcomed five new members to the men’s team in 2013.

On the women’s half, the Lady Bulldogs scored 20 points to win convincingly.  Georgia went 1-2-3-5-9 in 2012 and both senior Stella Christoforou (3rd – 17:18.68) and senior Nicole DiMercurio (5th – 17:29.13) are back on this year’s roster.  Also of note, Hamilton, who led Georgia in its final six races in 2012, and senior Brett McDaniel, who scored in those final six competitions, did not run for the Bulldogs at last year’s home meet.

Fifteen additional runners were added to the Lady Bulldog roster between the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

Five of the seven Lady Bulldog competitors from the 2012 NCAA Championships return in 2013 with four of seven returning for the Georgia men.  Cunniff, who joined UGA’s staff in August 2012 after running for the Bulldogs in 1988-91, returns to the cross country trails after having additional success on the track this past spring. 

Cunniff saw Hamilton win the SEC 1500 title outdoors and earn First Team All-American honors indoors in the mile.  He also guided Leslie Boozer in the steeplechase, Megan Malasarte in the 800 and his distance medley relay team to Second Team All-American honors in 2013.

The 2012 cross country season saw both Bulldog teams advance to the NCAA Championships, a feat Georgia had only accomplished one time before (2004) in program history.  The UGA men took 19th at nationals, wrapping up the season with their top finish in school history, while the Lady Bulldogs were 30th.  Last year marked the first time since 2007 that the Georgia women competed at NCAAs.

Georgia’s 2013 campaign has regular season highlights of a trip to Minnesota for the Roy Griak Invitational and to Wisconsin for the Wisconsin adidas Invitational.  Both of these destinations are considered annual premier regular season showdowns for the nation’s talent. 

The Bulldog cross country teams will battle at SECs in Gainesville, Fla., on Nov. 1.  The Bulldog men will be working to improve on their second-place showing last season.  

Georgia then has the NCAA South Regionals in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on November 15, a meet where UGA went second (men) and third (women) in 2012.  As usual, the Bulldogs will aim to conclude their season at the NCAA Championships on November 23 as the meet returns to Terre Haute, Ind.

All-Region/SEC Returning: Hamilton, Lord, Baker and Sparks were all All-Region performers last season after finishing in the top 25 and are returning this year.  Lord was also a Second Team All-SEC selection while Sid Vaughn and Steven Spevacek were on the All-SEC Freshmen team and are returning.  In addition, Hamilton earned a spot on the All-SEC First Team.

Full results and a recap from the Georgia Cross Country Invitational will be found at georgiadogs.com.

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