Georgia's Matt Cleaver Qualifies For NCAA Cross Country Championships
Nov. 12, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. --- Georgia junior Matt Cleaver qualified for his first NCAA Cross Country Championships to highlight the Bulldogs' day at the NCAA South Regionals in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday morning.
The Bulldog men managed a third-place finish with 94 points as Florida State (40) ran away with the team title. Florida secured second place with 68 points. Four Georgia runners also received All-Region honors after crossing the finish line in the top 25.
Individually, Cleaver earned his first trip to the NCAA Championships after taking a career-best seventh place in the men's 10k. The top four finishers not on a qualifying team are invited to the national meet.
"I thought the guys did a good job and compared to where we were last year at this point, we are making strides," said Bulldog distance coach Jeff Pigg, whose top finisher in 2010 on the men's side was 28th while Georgia's fifth scorer in 2011 was 27th. "I am pleased for Cleaver. I thought he ran a pretty smart race today. Brandon (Lord) was also steady out there. The season is not over yet so we're hoping our early season wins and performances push us in. But it's going to be tough."
With 2010 All-American Kristie Krueger resting with an injury, the Georgia women finished fifth with 208 points behind meet winner Florida State (34), who took first, second and third individually. Vanderbilt (54), Florida (62) and Mississippi (185) took second through fourth, respectively.
Junior Leslie Boozer earned All-Region honors after taking 24th with a time of 21:28.1 to lead the Lady Bulldogs. Boozer, a Birmingham, Ala., native, had a group of her family who live in the area to cheer her on in her second regional meet of her career.
"Boozer performed well and I am glad she got to have that kind of run in front of her family," Pigg said. "I also thought Hadley (Ferguson) and Morgan VanGorder did a nice job of wrapping up their cross careers as scorers."
With the top two teams from all nine regions advancing automatically, the rest of the teams hoping to make up the 31-team field at the NCAA Championships will now have to wait until Sunday evening to see if they receive an at-large bid.
The NCAA Championships will be run in Terre Haute, Ind., on Monday, Nov. 21.
For the men, Cleaver blazed to the best finish for a Bulldog since Ian Burrell took seventh in 2006 to advance to the NCAA meet. Cleaver clocked a 31:15.5 to be the second finisher from the Southeastern Conference. Nine spots behind him was sophomore Brandon Lord, who recorded a career-best time of 31:42.1 for 16th place and All-Region honors.
Juniors Brian Detweiler and Brett Richardson rounded out Georgia's All-Region honorees with a pair of career-best finishes. Detweiler posted a 21st-place finish (31:47.9) while Richardson battled to break into the top 25 by a second in 23rd place (31:50.1).
The Bulldogs final scorer was sophomore Luke Baker after the McDonough, Ga., native finished 27th (31:55.8) in his first collegiate regional.
On the women's side, senior Hadley Ferguson was next across the finish line behind Boozer in Ferguson's last collegiate cross country meet. Ferguson had a career-best finish of 38th (21:49.8).
The Lady Bulldogs' fifth and final scorer was senior Morgan VanGorder after recording a 22:16.0 for 66th place.
Full results and a recap from the NCAA South Regionals are also located at georgiadogs.com.