Oct. 19, 2013
MADISON, Wis. --- Senior Luke Baker posted one of the top performances of his career to lead Georgia's cross country teams at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational in Madison, Wis., on Saturday afternoon.
Baker, a native of McDonough, Ga., finished 25th overall to lead the Bulldogs to a 24th-place team finish (546) at the Thomas Zimmer Cross Country Course with temperatures in the mid 40s. Unranked Georgia topped three teams ranked in the top 25 and only seven points separated the Bulldogs and the next three teams ahead of them.
The Georgia women completed the meet in 32nd place after scoring 842 points.
Northern Arizona (121) claimed the victory on the men's side while Arizona (117) captured the women's win.
The meet featured a total of 73 teams and 863 entries. On the men's side, there were 20 teams ranked in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) top-30 poll, including nine in the top 15. Seventeen ranked women's teams competed, including seven of the top 10.
"It was a rough day overall for us and hopefully we can figure out some things to work on after this meet," said Bulldog distance coach Patrick Cunniff. "We now have to enter the postseason with a true sense of urgency.
"The men were very close to having a strong performance. We just need everyone to show up and be strong on the same day. For the women, Carly (Hamilton) not finishing the race got the whole team out of sync. Nicole (DiMercurio) and Bret (McDaniel) both had finishes that show they are moving in the right direction. We need both teams to refocus in the postseason and I believe improvement is coming."
Baker trimmed nearly 50 spots off his 2012 finish after he took 74th last year. Baker completed the 8k course in 23:48. Behind Baker was senior Brandon Lord. Lord crossed the line in 24:15 for 83rd place after taking 111th last year.
A third senior, Charlie Sparks, was the next Bulldog to finish. Sparks finished 116th after registering a time of 24:26. This was more than a 100-spot improvement for Sparks.
"Baker and Sparks probably had the best meets of their career and I am really happy about their development," Cunniff said. "The way Luke ran today, I think he showed he is a serious contender to be an All-American at the end of the season."
Senior Nicole DiMercurio was the top finisher for the Lady Bulldogs in the 6k race after finishing 116th (21:13). Similar to Sparks, this also improved DiMercurio's 2012 finish by more than 100 spots.
Next for the Lady Bulldogs was junior Bret McDaniel. McDaniel finished 40 places behind DiMercurio and take 156th after recording a time of 21:31. Junior Erika Ramsey was the next finisher after taking 191st (21:46).
Junior Carly Hamilton, who had led the Lady Bulldogs in eight straight meets that she had run in, dropped out of the race early and details of why were not available.
Nine Georgia runners also competed at the Berry Invitational in Mt. Berry, Ga., on Saturday and the Lady Bulldogs (34) cruised to a victory over Georgia Tech (51).
Junior Sarah Perry returned from an injury to collect her first collegiate cross country victory on the 6k course. Perry finished in 22:28.19, which was four seconds faster than second-place finisher and Lady Bulldog freshman Jenn Cora (22:32.04).
Senior Shelby Robison was the third Georgia woman to score after taking ninth. Robison's time of 23:06.78 gave the Lady Bulldogs a trio of finishers in the top 10 in a field of 178 individuals.
The UGA women's final two scorers finished back-to-back in 12th and 13th place. Junior Anna Bowles (23:23.13) and junior Marrion Kalafut (23:34.08) helped the Georgia women clinch the team victory at the meet.
On the men's side, freshman Brad Hort finished fourth overall and was the second collegiate finisher with an 8k time of 25:42.19. Junior Michael Giuliano was 10th after speeding across the finish line in 26:04.48.
Georgia returns to action at the SEC Championship in Gainesville, Fla., on Nov. 1.
Full results and a recap from both meets will be located at georgiadogs.com.