Junior Luke Baker surged into the top 30 at the Greater Louisville Classic to help the Bulldogs take third overall and move to 24th on the latest national poll.
Oct. 4, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- The Georgia men’s cross country team has surged to 24th on the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) poll as the postseason nears.
After holding down the 28th spot on the USTFCCCA preseason poll, the Bulldogs were 30th in the first two regular season polls. Georgia dropped out of the top 30 in the third poll of the year before its recent six-spot surge.
The Bulldogs recorded the top finish (29th) of any SEC team at last year’s NCAA Championships. Now, Georgia has its top national ranking since the 2004 season. That year, the Bulldogs were 22nd in the preseason poll before taking 25th at the national meet.
"We are pleased and excited to see the new ranking,” said Bulldog distance coach Patrick Cunniff. “This is a great group of guys that has really worked hard the last year, and particularly over the summer, to build off qualifying for NCAAs last year and come back for more this year. Our performance at Louisville and this ranking say that we are moving in that direction.”
Georgia returned from the Greater Louisville Classic late Saturday night after taking third in a field of 31 teams. Four of the other teams in the Louisville field, including fifth-ranked Iona, are ranked in this week’s national poll.
Senior Matt Cleaver was the second finisher from the Southeastern Conference and 14th overall to cross the finish line in the 8k race. Juniors Brandon Lord and Luke Baker also finished in the top 30 to help drive the Bulldogs near the top of the team race.
Cunniff has stressed to his team that the runners now need to concentrate on the coming Wisconsin Invitational and the postseason.
“At the same time, I told the guys the same thing (this week) that I told them when we dropped out of the rankings two weeks ago, ‘We don't get a nicer starting box or a head start because we're ranked. We have to concentrate on how we prepare and how we run our races, and only the place on November 17th will ultimately matter,’” Cunniff said. “Luckily, this is just a super solid group of humble, hard-working young men. They are excited for the next challenge at Wisconsin, and focused for our three championship meets after that. We all feel we can run better than we did at Louisville and can't wait to see what that brings us."
Georgia returns to action at the Wisconsin Invitational in Madison, Wisc., on Oct. 12. The field at last year’s Wisconsin meet was called one of the most competitive regular season fields in the history of the sport and a similar listing of teams is expected this year.
The Bulldogs return to Nashville, Tenn., for the second time this season for the SEC Championships on Oct. 26 before going to Tallahassee, Fla., for the NCAA South Regionals. This season’s NCAA Championships are in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 17.