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Day In The Life: Cross Country
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University of Georgia graduate Patrick Cunniff joined the Bulldog staff in August 2012. The 1991 Bulldog graduate is guiding UGA's distance program, coaching the cross country teams in the fall and directing Georgia's runners from 800 meters to 10000 meters during the indoor and outdoor seasons.
During his three years back in Athens, Cunniff coached the men’s cross country team to the 2013 NCAA South Regional championship, marking only the second time in program history that UGA has finished first, and led the men’s cross team to the highest finish in program history at both NCAA Championships (19th in 2012) and SEC Championships (second in 2012).
The women also qualified for Nationals in 2012 for the first time in four years. On the track, his student-athletes have set school records 12 times, qualified 20 individuals to the NCAA East Prelims, won two SEC individual titles and earned 11 All-American certificates.
The Bulldog men’s distance runners tallied 22 of Georgia’s 71.50 points at the 2015 SEC Outdoor Championships, with defending 10,000 champion Brandon Lord taking the track in the 5000 rather than his preferred race. Counting Lord, the Georgia men qualified six for the NCAA Prelims, including a trio in the 800.
On the women’s side, Bret McDaniel trimmed 21 seconds off her personal record in the steeplechase in 2015 to set a school record of 10:01.58. This was McDaniel’s final collegiate meet as she finished just one spot from advancing to the NCAA Championships.
As his teams have done since his arrival, the Bulldog distance corps was outstanding in the classroom in 2015. Both cross teams earned U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) All-Academic Teams (women – 3.33 GPA, men – 3.11) and five Georgia runners earned 2015 USTFCCCA Academic Individual awards on the track while Brandon Lord was a Capital One Academic All-America First Team member after garnering Third Team honors the year before.
Distance runners Kisean Smith and Marrion Kalafut were also named to the 2015 SEC Community Service Team for their work away from the track.
Lord also had success on the track in 2015. He shattered the indoor 3000 record (7:56.50) and the indoor 5000 mark (13:43.92), shot to No. 2 on the outdoor 10,000 list with a 29:09.46, was a scorer at both SEC Championships and advanced to the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships in his final year.
In addition, Lord worked with three teammates to clock UGA’s third-best distance medley relay time in history (9:48.48) to score at SECs. Another Bulldog quartet also took over the No. 4 spot in Georgia’s record books in the distance medley during the 2015 indoor campaign.
Through the 2015 indoor and outdoor seasons, the Bulldog distance runners added 23 new times to the school all-time top-10 lists.
In 2013, Cunniff was named the USTFCCCA South Region Men's Coach of the Year as the Georgia men made their school record third consecutive trip to the NCAA Cross Country Championships. The Bulldogs assured their spot in Terre Haute, Ind., by winning their first NCAA South Regional championship since 2003 with a one-point victory over the Florida Gators.
Cunniff wasted little time making his presence known across the SEC and then the nation during the 2012 cross country season. The Bulldog men matched their best finish in history at the SEC Championships (second). Then, the squad automatically qualified for its second consecutive invite to the NCAA Championships thanks to a runner-up finish at the NCAA South Regionals. Georgia wrapped up its season by taking 19th at Nationals, marking the best finish in school history.
The Lady Bulldogs surged to their first trip to the NCAA meet since 2007 during Cunniff's first year at the helm in 2012. The Georgia women answered the challenge at the South Regionals with a third-place finish, the team's best showing in five years, to grab an at-large bid to Nationals. This marked the first time that both the Georgia men and women had advanced to the NCAA Championships during the same season since 2004 and only the second time in history.
Cunniff concluded his first four cross seasons with 16 All-Region performers, including a school record eight in 2012, to go along with eight runners on one of the All-SEC squads. Luke Baker wrapped up his conference career in 2013 with a fourth-place finish.
The 2014 track season for the Bulldog distance corps saw another series of impressive performances. In addition to Lord locking down the SEC 10,000 crown, Cunniff had middle distance runners score at both the NCAA indoor and outdoor meets where Georgia returned to Athens with a trio of top-10 team finishes. Carly Hamilton earned her second straight First Team All-America certificate by taking fifth in the mile indoors. Outdoors, Megan Malasarte closed out her career by surging for a fourth-place finish in the 800 meters to make her a two-time First Team All-American in the event.
In his first track season with the Bulldogs, Cunniff led Hamilton to the 2013 SEC outdoor crown in the 1500 and a First Team All-America certificate in the mile following her fourth-place finish. The Bulldog men and women completed their 2013 track seasons with a combined three NCAA top-20 team finishes for the first time since 2005.
During Cunniff’s three seasons with the Bulldog track team, his runners established 56 improvements to Georgia's all-time top-10 lists in the various distance events, including an astounding 10 school records.
Georgia’s immense success in the classroom has also coincided with Cunniff’s return to Athens. The Bulldog men were named the USTFCCCA National Scholar Team of the Year for the 2014 outdoor season thanks in large part to the contributions from Cunniff’s distance crew. Lord complemented his SEC title with the SEC Scholar Athlete Award for outdoor track and Academic All-America Third Team honors while both cross country teams garnered 2014 All-Academic Team honors. Additionally, Baker and Megan Malasarte were named to the 2014 SEC Community Service Teams.
A native of North Kingstown, R.I., Cunniff came to UGA after serving five years as Long Beach State's cross country and assistant track coach from 2007-12. His distance runners highlighted Cunniff's final season with the 49ers by winning a conference individual championship in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. Each one of these titles came with a school record performance at the respective conference meets.
In addition to helping lead Long Beach to 2008 and 2011 Big West Conference men's outdoor team championships, Cunniff put together an impressive resume with the 49ers. He watched his distance runners set school records 25 times, coached seven student-athletes to the NCAA Preliminary Round and led five to qualify for the NCAA Regionals. In the classroom, his runners earned CoSIDA All-Academic Team honors from 2007-11.
Cunniff guided Matt Maldonado to an Olympic Trials "A" Standard time of 3:37.68 in the 1500 meters and 3:59.08 in the mile to qualify for NCAA indoors, which marked the first sub-4:00 mile in school history. Maldonado went on to advance to the semifinals of the Trials. Another individual, Kip Kangogo, recorded two wins and a runner-up finish at the Canadian Nationals after being instructed by Cunniff.
Cunniff also was responsible for administrative duties including all aspects of team travel for the 49ers. He also started the Pyramid 5k and assisted in numerous fundraising and community outreach events for Long Beach.
Getting his collegiate coaching start in the state of Texas, Cunniff spend two years coaching at Texas Christian University (2004-06). Similar to his years at Long Beach, his resume was quickly filled with numerous accolades. Cunniff coached seven NCAA Division I Championship qualifiers (three cross country, one indoor track, three outdoor track), guided his team members to 12 individual conference championships and coached student-athletes who set school records four times.
Cunniff directed the Horned Frogs to a runner-up finish at the 2004 Conference USA Championships and a fourth-place finish at the NCAA South Central Regional, highlighted by having the individual champion on the women's side. He also assisted in coaching Jackson Langat to the 2006 NCAA indoor 800 crown. His cross country teams maintained a GPA over 3.0 during his tenure in Fort Worth.
His first coaching stop came at the University of Texas as a volunteer assistant. During his time in Austin, Cunniff worked to help the Longhorns win the 2003 and 2004 Big XII Outdoor Championships as well as the 2003 South Central Regionals in cross country. Also in 2003, the Texas track team registered a second-place finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
On the Texas distance side, Cunniff, who has a USATF Level I Certification, coached Brian Rue to a personal-best 1:47.21 in the 800 and qualification to the 2004 Olympic Trials. His cross country team also maintained a GPA over 3.0.
Transferring to Georgia from UNC-Charlotte, Cunniff competed for the Bulldogs from the 1988 cross country season to the 1991 track and field season. He became a regular contributor for Georgia's cross country team and made his way into the school's all-time top-10 list in the 10,000. Cunniff graduated in June 1991 with a Bachelor's degree in Political Science.
Cunniff and his wife, Katie, have a daughter named Casidy who was born in June 2011.
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