Brandon Lord led the Bulldogs at last year's Wisconsin Invitational and is hoping to combine with his teammates on another stellar performance in Madison on Friday.
Oct. 11, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- The Georgia cross country teams travel to Madison, Wisc., on Thursday to run in a meet on Friday that will feature 51 teams that are either nationally ranked or receiving votes.
The Georgia women will start their 6k course at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational at 1 p.m. ET. The 24th-ranked Bulldog men will be matched up with more of the nation’s top talent in an 8k competition at 1:40 p.m. on the Zimmer Championship Course.
With meet host Wisconsin, whose men are the defending national champions and the current top-ranked squad, along with the second-ranked Arizona women headlining the meet, there are 46 teams expected to compete on the men’s side and 49 on the women’s side.
“This Wisconsin meet is hugely important for both of our teams as the postseason nears,” said first-year Bulldog distance coach Patrick Cunniff. “The men are going in ranked 24th nationally, but we still feel like we have to earn our ticket to the NCAA Championships and the respect of other teams across the country. This is a hard-working, humble bunch and I think this is an opportunity for them to show their best qualities against most of the nation’s best. The men are efficient when it comes to concentrating on what they have to do at meets so I have confidence that will be the case in Madison.”
Last year’s Wisconsin Invitational was called the most competitive regular season meet in the sport’s history. The Georgia men came through with a 21st-place finish in 2011, which helped them clinch their first trip to the NCAA Championships since 2004. All five of the scorers from last year’s meet are again on the Bulldog roster this season.
Cunniff understands this year’s Wisconsin meet is just as much of a proving ground for the Bulldogs, who finished last year’s nationals as the top SEC team.
“The Wisconsin meet is probably THE best invite in the country so it’s going to be critical for us to score those elusive at-large points and pass some teams who are ranked around us or in front of us,” Cunniff said.
The Lady Bulldogs were 37th at last year’s meet in Wisconsin and last visited the NCAA Championships in 2007, taking 22nd. The Georgia women are coming off a 10th-place finish at the Greater Louisville Classic on Sept. 29. While that race was a 5k, the Lady Bulldogs already have one 6k under their belts and Cunniff is hoping his team will “dial it in” even more at the distance on Friday since all of their postseason races are that distance.
“I feel like the women took a step forward at the Louisville Classic,” Cunniff said. “There were teams who finished right in front of our team in Louisville that are either ranked nationally or that are receiving votes nationally so I think that boosted our confidence. Now, we will be on an even bigger stage and trying to dial it in again at the 6k distance. This will mark the first time that our true, complete team will race together this year so I think they are looking forward to the challenge.”
With three regular season meets complete, Georgia now has just the Wisconsin Invitational in front of them before the SEC Championships (Oct. 26), NCAA South Regionals (Nov. 9) and NCAA Championships (Nov. 17) arrive later in the fall.
A freeze warning is in effect for the Madison area in the early hours of Friday morning with temperatures expected in the mid-50s by race time. Cunniff is optimistic his teams are prepared to battle the challenges coming their way.
“I’m extremely optimistic about how our training has been going and what type of mindset our teams are in,” said Cunniff. “I think the Louisville meet two weeks ago jumpstarted our season and with the weather change in Athens, I think we are now concentrating on having success as the important part of the season nears. I like our development so far and the excitement level is high for what we can do in these type races. “
Last year, Brandon Lord led the team for only the second time in his career after finishing 37th with a time of 24:24. Thirty spots behind Lord was two-time SEC steeplechase champion Matt Cleaver, who took 67th with a 24:38. In a field featuring 270 runners, Georgia’s final three scorers were Brian Detweiler (116th – 24:54), Brett Richardson (155th – 25:11) and Luke Baker (156th – 25:11).
In the women’s showdown, three of five scorers from Georgia’s 2011 team return for this year’s meet. All-American Kristie Krueger was 20th overall (20:37) while Ashley Shiver was 131st (21:30) to lead last year’s team. The trio of returners for 2012 – senior Leslie Boozer, junior Savannah Kirk and sophomore Carly Hamilton – were the next Lady Bulldogs across the finish line.
Boozer was 224th (22:03), Kirk was 252nd (22:23) and Hamilton was 256th (22:25) to give the Lady Bulldogs 883 points in last year’s action.
Full results and a recap of the Wisconsin adidas Invitational will be located at georgiadogs.com.