Baker Leads Georgia Cross Country To Third-Place Finish
Nov. 1, 2013
GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- Behind a career-best performance by senior Luke Baker, the Georgia men surged into third place at the Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships in Gainesville, Fla., on Friday morning.
The Georgia men finished third with 101 points under partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the low 70s at the Mark Bostick Golf Course. This finish gives the Bulldogs a third-place finish or better at the last three SEC meets.
Baker, a native of McDonough, Ga., shot across the 8k finish line in 23:56.13 for his first All-SEC First Team honors. This improves on his 17th and 19th-place finishes from the 2011 and 2012 SEC meets, respectively. Baker has now led Georgia three times in his career, including during the Bulldogs’ last action at the Wisconsin Invitational on October 19 when he was 25th.
While Matt Cleaver claimed a fifth-place finish during his senior year in 2012, Baker’s finish is the best for the Georgia men since Simon Ngata finished third at the 2004 SEC meet.
Arkansas (31) won its fourth consecutive meet and its 21st over the last 23 years as Razorback second-year runner Kemoy Campbell won individual honors. Campbell’s time of 22:58.73 is a new SEC Championships record.
“I am extremely proud of the way the men ran,” said Bulldog distance coach Patrick Cunniff. “They laid everything on the line. Luke Baker ran a spectacular race and his development since the day he stepped on campus is a testament to what kind of kid he is and the direction this program is moving in. Across the board, I thought we had some outstanding efforts.”
The Lady Bulldogs finished up 11th (224) as Arkansas (32) had the individual champion in sophomore Dominique Scott (20:02.81) and won its first team title since 2008.
Junior Bret McDaniel led the charge for Georgia with an 18th-place finish (21:06.69). This was a 21-spot improvement for McDaniel who was 39th at her first SEC Championships last year.
“The performance and placing for the women is not what we were aiming for or hoping for,” Cunniff said. “We are definitely facing adversity at this point in the season and how we respond to that adversity will show what kind of team this is. I did think Bret ran a really tough race and was glad that she finished in the top 20. The effort and attitude of our upperclassmen was great but we obviously have a lot of work to do.”
For the men, Baker’s senior teammates also managed finishes in the top 21 to help keep Georgia in front of Missouri (107). Brandon Lord, who had finished as high as 10th at conference meets in the past, took 17th after clocking a time of 24:28.84.
Four spots behind Lord was fellow senior Charlie Sparks. Sparks finished a career-best 21st after completing the course in 24:36.20. The Columbus native’s previous career-best performance at SECs was 39th to score in 2010.
A sophomore and a junior were the final two scorers for the Bulldogs on the day. Sid Vaughn trimmed 10 spots off of his 2012 finish to take 27th (24:53.87) while Zack Sims improved his 47th-place finish last year to a 32nd-place finish (25:01.98) this time around.
On the women’s side, McDaniel highlighted a team that posted only two individual finishes in the top 50. Senior Nicole DiMercurio matched her 2012 performance by taking 38th place. The Suwanee native ran a 21:41.37 in her final conference meet.
Junior Stella Christoforou posted the best finish of her career at the SEC Championships after taking 51st with a time of 21:58.17. One spot behind her was junior Erika Ramsey, who was 52nd after clocking a 21:58.32. Ramsey’s finish was more than 40 spots ahead of where she finished her first SEC meet in 2012.
The Lady Bulldogs’ fifth and final scorer was senior Savannah Kirk. Kirk was 71st with a finish of 22:21.21.
Junior Carly Hamilton, who had led Georgia in eight of the last nine meets that she had raced in, did not finish the race. The Springboro, Ohio, native was fourth at the 2012 SEC meet, but also did not finish the Wisconsin meet on October 19.
Georgia returns to action at the NCAA South Regional Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Nov. 15.
Full results and a recap of the SEC Championships can be found at georgiadogs.com.
1. Arkansas (31)
2. Florida (96)
3. GEORGIA (101)
4. Missouri (107)
5. Kentucky (173)
6. Auburn (175)
7. Tennessee (187)
8. Texas A&M (187)
9. Mississippi State (229)
10. Mississippi (242)
11. Alabama (251)
12. LSU (356)
13. Vanderbilt (369)
1. Arkansas (32)
2. Texas A&M (123)
3. Kentucky (134)
4. Florida (150)
5. Vanderbilt (161)
6. Alabama (174)
7. Missouri (178)
8. Tennessee (179)
9. Mississippi (190)
10. Mississippi State (191)
11. GEORGIA (224)
12. South Carolina (294)
13. Auburn (309)
14. LSU (460)
Bulldog Individual Finishes
Senior Luke Baker – $*4th (23:56.13)
Senior Brandon Lord – 17th (24:28.84)
Senior Charlie Sparks – *21st (24:36.20)
Sophomore Sid Vaughn – *27th (24:53.87)
Junior Zack Sims – *32nd (25:01.98)
Junior Steven Spevacek – 37th (25:05.00
Junior Brendan Hoban – 43rd (25:18.79)
Freshman Brad Hort – 63rd (25:45.24)
Freshman Morgan Malanoski – 82nd (26:11.56)
Freshman Trevor Grant – 86th (26:17.86)
$ - All-SEC First Team; ! – All-SEC Second Team; * - personal-best finish for scorers at SEC Championships
Junior Bret McDaniel – *18th (21:06.69)
Senior Nicole DiMercurio – *38th (21:41.37)
Senior Stella Christoforou – *51st (21:58.17)
Junior Erika Ramsey – *52nd (21:58.32)
Senior Savannah Kirk – 71st (22:21.21)
Junior Megan Malasarte – 81st (22:36.74)
Junior Brooke Koblitz – 91st (23:07.91)
Freshman Jenn Cora – 93rd (23:11.74)
Junior Carly Hamilton - DNF
Junior Sarah Perry - DNF
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