Oct. 31, 2011
MARYVILLE, Tenn. --- The Georgia men finished third with a pair of top-10 individual finishes to highlight the Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships in Maryville, Tenn., on Monday morning.
The Bulldogs scored 68 points and were edged by Florida (66) as Arkansas (33) won their 19th conference crown over the past 21 years.
The Georgia women, who were picked to take fourth in the preseason coaches poll, pulled out a fourth-place finish after scoring 124 points thanks in part to senior Kristie Krueger's sixth-place finish. Vanderbilt (30) won the team competition while Arkansas (61) and Florida (62) finished in a tight battle for second and third place.
This marked the best-combined finish for Georgia since 2006. The Lady Bulldogs were runner-ups that year with the Bulldog men taking fifth.
Individually, senior Matt Cleaver sped to an eighth-place finish (24:30.82) in the 8k race at the Lambert Acres Golf Course and sophomore Brandon Lord managed a 10th-place finish (24:33.46). Both Cleaver and Lord were named to the All-SEC Second Team while Brendan Hoban earned All-SEC Freshman honors after taking 41st (25:37.20).
Cleaver's individual finish is the best for a Bulldog since Ian Burrell finished fifth as a junior at the 2005 SEC Championships. In 2010, Lord earned All-SEC Freshman honors after taking 38th overall to score for Georgia.
This marks the best finish at an SEC cross country meet for the Bulldogs since taking third in 2004 with 81 points. Georgia's 68 points is the best showing the team has had since scoring 58 for runner-up honors in 2003 at the league meet in Athens.
"I think the key thing for the men is to look where they finished last year, which was sixth," said Bulldog distance coach Jeff Pigg, whose men's team returns nine of 10 runners from the meet for 2012. "We wanted to be even further up this year, but I'm proud of our guys, especially the fact that we had seven in the top 26. If you look at the history of this program, this has to be one of the best finishes ever as far as where all of the guys finished.
"It's been a journey and I think we are getting to where we need to be. We're in the top three and no one felt like they had a great day. They feel OK, but not great. We can see where we want to end up, just not there yet. Now we are looking forward to racing a tough team again in two weeks after they beat us today."
Junior Brett Richardson was the Bulldogs' third scorer after finishing in a career-best 15th place with a time of 24:49.31. Sophomore Luke Baker, competing at his first conference meet, was fourth across the finish line for Georgia with a 17th-place finish (24:51.98). One spot behind Baker was junior Brian Detweiler (18th - 24:52.86), who was 41st at both of his first two SEC Championships.
While junior Nick Long was 24th to be the sixth finisher, All-SEC Freshman Team member Hoban was seventh for the Bulldogs in 41st.
2010 SEC champion Kristie Krueger led the Georgia women with a sixth-place finish after crossing the 6k finish line in 20:40.45. Krueger earned her third straight All-SEC First Team honor while Anna Bowles (27th - 21:35.65) returned to Athens as a member of the All-SEC Freshman Team.
As Pigg explained, Krueger's performance came after she was forced to sit out a week of training last week following an injury.
"Kristie lost some rhythm not practicing last week after she stepped on an acorn while warming down barefooted on the turf fields two weeks ago," said Pigg, adding that a bruise formed that has remained painful for his 2010 All-American. "Given the scenario that she could have just easily not run at this meet, I think she's a trooper for gutting it out. Another All-SEC honor for her is quite an accomplishment."
Junior Ashley Shiver continued her progress at SEC meets by being the No. 2 Lady Bulldog with a 22nd-place finish (21:26.41). Shiver was 27th last year and 49th in 2009. Bowles opened her conference career by taking 27th and added her first postseason accolade.
A pair of upperclassmen rounded out the Georgia scorers. Junior Leslie Boozer made a two-spot improvement from last year after taking 34th (21:49.22) and senior Abbie Robinson, who was traveling to her first league competition, scored with a 38th-place mark (21:54.46).
The Lady Bulldogs have finished fourth for four consecutive seasons now. Krueger's sixth-place finish gives her three top-10 performances in her career at the SEC meet after also taking fourth as a sophomore in 2009.
"Overall, our women always want to compete for a win, but given the tools we had this year I think taking fourth is pretty much getting the job done," Pigg explained. "It was a solid day almost across the board. Shiver did a good job and keeps raising her level of performance. I thought this was a nice conference opener for Bowles and that Boozer has been solid all year long and it continued today. Maybe the person who felt best about her race was Abbie Robinson since she was running at her first SEC meet and managed to score by finishing in the top 30."
Georgia will now prepare for the NCAA South Regional Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Nov. 12.
Women's First-Team All-SEC
Kristie Krueger, Georgia - 6th (20:20.45)
Women's All-SEC Freshman Team
Anna Bowles, Georgia - 27th (21:35.65)
Men's Second-Team All-SEC
Matt Cleaver, Georgia - 8th (24:30.82)
Brandon Lord, Georgia - 10th (24:33.46)
Men's All-SEC Freshman Team
Brendan Hoban, Georgia - 41st (25:37.20)