Bulldog Cross Country Set For Saturday's Roy Griak Invitational
Charlie Sparks


Charlie Sparks
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Sept. 27, 2013

ATHENS, Ga. --- Georgia’s cross country teams traveled on Thursday to Minneapolis, Minn., for Saturday’s 28th-annual Roy Griak Invitational.

UGA will race a course that weaves around the University of Minnesota’s Les Bolstad Golf Course.  The 8000-meter Merrill Fischbein Men’s Gold race is scheduled to begin at 1:20 p.m. ET while the 6000-meter Jack Johnson Women’s Gold competition is scheduled for 2:10 p.m.

“The group we are taking is our top 10 men and women at this point in the season and our top seven during the championship portion of the season will more than likely come out of this group,” said Bulldog distance coach Patrick Cunniff, whose teams are not scheduled to run again after this meet until the Crimson Classic on Oct. 18/Wisconsin adidas Invitational on Oct. 19.  “We are excited that our top 10 are ready to go for this type of meet.  I expect the seniors, Charlie Sparks, Luke Baker and Brandon Lord, to lead the men and for Nicole DiMercurio, Bret McDaniel and Carly Hamilton to be the frontrunners for the women.”

UGA will be facing a number of squads ranked in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) poll this weekend.  In the women’s national poll, No. 5 Arizona, No. 12 Michigan State, No. 19 Minnesota, No. 20 Vanderbilt, No. 21 N.C. State and No. 26 Iowa State are a group of the teams the Lady Bulldogs will be squaring off against.

The Georgia men, who like the Lady Bulldogs are still receiving votes in the national polls, will be racing No. 4 BYU, No. 24 N.C. State, No. 29 Arizona State and a host of other programs from around the country.

Seniors Stella Christoforou, Nicole DiMercurio and Savannah Kirk, juniors Carly Hamilton, Brooke Koblitz, Megan Malasarte, Bret McDaniel and Erika Ramsey and freshmen Morgan Ainslie and Jenn Cora will be representing the Lady Bulldogs in Minneapolis.

On the men’s side, seniors Luke Baker, Brandon Lord and Charlie Sparks, juniors Brendan Hoban, Zack Sims and Steven Spevacek, sophomore Sid Vaughn and freshmen Trevor Grant, Brad Hort and Morgan Malanoski are traveling for Georgia.

Saturday’s competition is the first for Georgia since a group competed at the Furman Cross Country Classic in Greenville, S.C., on Sept. 14. 

“I thought we had really good performances at Furman and that it gave us exactly what we were looking for,” said Cunniff.  “It was also important to get Carly going before this weekend’s meet.  Since then, we have continued training as planned, still high-volume since we are nearing the midseason point.  We will slowly be introducing the quality portion of training to them soon.”

This will mark the second meet of the season for 11 of Georgia’s top 20 performers traveling to this weekend’s meet.  Lord won the season-opening Georgia Cross Country Invitational and was named the USTFCCCA National Men’s Athlete of the Week after clocking a 25:49.17.  He joined a number of his teammates as they trained through the Furman meet.

DiMercurio captured her first collegiate cross title after finishing UGA’s home course in 18:28.00.  Two weeks later, Hamilton, who was ill during the first meet of the year, picked up a victory at the Furman Cross Country Classic after speeding to a finish of 20:25.53.

Another seven Georgia men and women will be competing in their third meet of the year.  Kirk was the third Lady Bulldog to finish at the home meet for fourth place before being the second Georgia woman across the finish line (seventh overall) at the Furman meet.

Finally, a pair of Georgia runners who both competed at last year’s NCAA Cross Country Championships will be making their season debuts. McDaniel, who scored in all six of the meets she ran in last season, and Vaughn, who was 212th at the 2012 national meet during his first season, are expected to be in Georgia’s lineup on Saturday.

After taking a week off last week, Georgia’s last action came at the Furman Classic.  Hamilton was the Lady Bulldogs’ top finisher.  Kirk, Ainslie, Koblitz and Cora, who are also traveling to Minnesota, were the next four Georgia finishers at seventh, 16th, 17th and 22nd, respectively.

Spevacek was first across the line for the Bulldogs at the Furman meet after taking 22nd.  Malanoski, Hort, Grant and Hoban also ran two weeks ago, scored and will be running against some of the nation’s top competition on Saturday.

Full results and a recap from the Roy Griak Invitational will be found at georgiadogs.com.

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