Georgia Cross Country Breaks Into Nation's Top 20

ATHENS, Ga. --- The Georgia women's cross country team is now ranked 20th in the nation, according to the fourth poll of the season released by the U.S.
Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) on Monday night.

The Lady Bulldogs, who started the season ranked 27th, most recently finished 10th at the NCAA Pre-Nationals Invitational (Terre Haute, Ind.) and cross country coach Dave Hartman believes his team has the opportunity to jump even higher in the rankings as the final month of the season approaches.

"I'm happy with the ranking and I think it is one that this team deserves," said Hartman. "I also think we have the potential to be much higher in the poll after we work out the kinks on this team. But being ranked No. 20 helps the team to understand our potential and give us something to look forward when the conference meet arrives."

At the Pre-Nationals, Kristin Heffelfinger topped her teammates by crossing the finish line in 17th place (20:38) and senior Jill Steffens finished less than 2 seconds behind in 19th place (20:39.4). The Lady Bulldogs completed their meet on Oct. 14 in 10th place with 321 points.

Although Georgia had another pair of runners (Natalie Picchetti, Sarah Madebach) break into the meet's top 40 finishers last weekend, juniors Kiah Vernon, who had the best finish for the Lady Bulldogs at the 2005 NCAA Championships, and Nicole DeMarco, who was the fifth finisher for Georgia at last year's SEC Championships, did not finish the race following minor health issues.

If Vernon and DeMarco would have finished and continue to improve in the coming weeks, Hartman believes his team will have the chance to make an impact on the national level with the final four meets of the year left.

"I think our first four ran above where I thought they would be right now, but I know they all still have room for improvement," Hartman said. "I was very pleased with how they performed and when we're firing on all cylinders, we should be a tough team to beat. We could have finished last weekend's meet significantly higher if everyone would have finished the race."

Georgia now has until the conference meet arrives on Oct. 28 to work out its 'kinks'.

"We have only had one workout that I would call a speed workout," said Hartman. "We will now gear our training toward the meets at the end of the season, which means doing more and more of these speed workouts and then rest the team before the conference meet."

In addition to the Lady Bulldogs, Arkansas (No. 4), Tennessee (No. 15) and Florida (No. 17) are all ranked in the USTFCCCA latest women's cross country poll.

Both Georgia cross country teams return to the trails on Saturday, Oct. 28, for the SEC Championships in Baton Rouge, La.

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