Hamilton Hopes Saturday Meet Begins Stellar Senior Season

Don't miss this latest Cross Country report as it highlights the goings on around the Cross Country program.

Sept. 3, 2014

By Ann Drinkard

As the summer temperatures rise and the training sessions intensify, the University of Georgia women's cross country team pushes through tough days with one thing in mind: NCAA Championships in November.

Senior Carly Hamilton knows the exact rush of adrenaline that comes with running in a meet of such stature. In her sophomore season, Hamilton helped Georgia to the NCAA Championships by being the team's leading runner in all six meets that she ran in. At NCAAs, Hamilton was once again the top finisher for the Bulldogs.

"Having Carly just makes our whole team better," distance coach Patrick Cunniff said. "The younger girls seeing the example of a truly elite athlete where they get the opportunity to train with her and to see how seriously she prepares is great."

Ask anyone and they will say that Hamilton sets the pace and the rest just roll with her. Competing yearlong in cross country and indoor and outdoor track at UGA means constant training. Training at that capacity could eventually become exhausting, but not for Hamilton.

"In track, I do love the mile and that training is different," she said. "They (cross country and track) are different, but it keeps it fun, it keeps it interesting and always something new."

This weekend when that starting-gun fires at their only home meet of the year, Hamilton and her teammates know that the season begins now. It becomes time to see who can step up and put together an effective 5K. All the work they put in throughout the summer leads to now.

While Hamilton has personal goals in mind, she is more of a team player than an individual awards type. For her, it wouldn't be as fun without the team there to support each other. Hamilton added that if she didn't like the people she was around each day, the experience would be remarkably different.

"I was just kind of imaging going to Nationals by myself without my teammates," she said. "It would not be as fun. We have a good time doing what we love to do and we push each other."

Hamilton can admit that the one personal achievement that she has not conquered yet and would most like to receive is an All-American honor in cross country, having already earned All-American honors twice in track. Although that goal sits in the back of her mind, the team goal of making it to the NCAAs is in the front. She is a team-oriented individual who considers herself lucky to have been surrounded great teammates all four years.

"Looking at Carly and knowing what she is capable of as we get into the back half of a season, she is somebody who wants to be in the top 10 in the SEC and the region," Cunniff said. "Ultimately, I think if you asked her one big goal it would be to have her team get to Nationals with her and to be an individual All-American."

Most sports get home field advantage at least twice a year, but that is not the case for cross country. Saturday's meet will be their one and only time this season they will get to feel in their element, running on their home course that loops around the UGA Equestrian Complex in Bishop.

Cunniff will also use this home meet to signal the true start to the cross country season, to bring alumni back to Athens in hopes of staying connected with the program but most importantly - to get a good look at the newest class of runners.

"This is going to be an interesting season for UGA cross country," Cunniff said. "We're excited about everything that we were able to accomplish last year and the future looks bright for years to come."

Hamilton calls it a "great confidence builder" to open the season at home. As a native of Springboro, Ohio, she knows it can be a hard adjustment making new friends in a strange place. Hamilton credits her team for taking her in when she first arrived in Athens.

"When I first was a freshman, everyone looked up to Kristy Krueger," Hamilton said. "She was really inspiring. She kind of set the tone of what it takes to be good."

Now, about to begin her senior season, it seems hard to believe that this city ever felt unfamiliar. Hamilton will do her best to lead the younger athletes on this team by helping them set the standard.  

"They (cross country program) have been so great to me for the past four years," she said. "It's been an honor to represent the red and black. I have so much Georgia pride. I'm grateful for the opportunity and proud to be a Dawg."

Ann Drinkard is a junior from Commerce, Ga., who is majoring broadcast journalism and also pursuing a sport media certificate from UGA's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is in her second year as a student assistant with the UGA Sports Communications office.

"Coming Attractions" is a weekly feature published on georgiadogs.com spotlighting a UGA student-athlete who will be competing in a key home event during the upcoming weekend. Previous stories include:
August 28 - David Andrews (football vs. Clemson)



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