BATON ROUGE --- The Georgia women’s cross country team highlighted the Southeastern Conference Championships by upsetting a pair of conference opponents and taking second place at the Highland Road Park on Saturday morning.
The 20th-ranked Lady Bulldogs (61 points) surpassed both 15th-ranked Tennessee (67) and 17th-ranked Florida (95) to earn runner-up marks at the 2006 conference meet. Arkansas, who is ranked fourth in the nation, won the women¹s side after scoring 17 points.
“We had a nice showing today after coming into this meet as the fourth-highest ranked team and finishing second,” said Hartman. "But we had a good day today rather than a great day. We know we can run a lot better and I think we can improve as the final meets of the season arrive. But overall, I am very pleased with how our girls performed today.”
Leading the way for Georgia was senior Jill Steffens, who took fourth overall (20:18.72) after trimming more than 20 seconds off her season-best 6K time. In addition to Steffens, senior Kristin Heffelfinger, who crossed the finish line in ninth place (20:27.05), and junior Natalie Picchetti, who took 13th place with her time of 20:40.42, also left Baton Rouge with All-SEC honors (Picchetti was on the All-SEC second team).
The Lady Bulldogs' other pair of scorers were juniors Sarah Madebach (19th - 20:57.75) and Kiah Vernon (20th 21:01.80). Junior Nicole DeMarco also broke into the field¹s top 50 after taking 35th place with a 21:39.10.
“Jill had a chance to win but ran out of gas near the end of the race but she definitely made a run of it today,” said Hartman. “I thought Kristin also had a great meet by finishing in the top 10 and I think that Kiah will have the confidence she needs after racing up to her capabilities today.”
Hartman added that he was also proud of Madebach's top-20 finish.
At last season's SEC meet, Lauren Burks, who was a senior, took fourth (19:54.90) to help give the Lady Bulldogs a third-place finish. Steffens was the next Georgia woman to cross the finish line in 13th place (20:26.43).
The men completed their conference meet by taking fifth place with 136 points, which was one spot better than their 2005 finish. Arkansas (21) completed the sweep of the meet by also winning the men’s side and Florida (73), Alabama (75) and Tennessee (121) finished after the Razorbacks, respectively.
Leading the charge for the Bulldogs during the 8K event was senior Ian Burrell, who earned All-SEC second-team honors with his 13th-place finish (24:35.83). Georgia’s other scorers were Matt Goodale (25:09.70) and Sam Gillespie (25:13.86), who finished 24th and 25th respectively, and Ryley Miller and Caleb Vogt.
While Hartman said Burrell struggled through most of the race with breathing problems, he was very pleased with the performances of Miller, who was 32nd with a time of 25:28.32 and Vogt, a freshman who clocked a 25:52.87 for 46th place.
“The guys ran aggressively today and I was pleased with our improvements since the Pre-Nationals (Oct. 24),” Hartman said. “Ryley was really aggressive throughout the race and came through with a breakout showing today and Caleb was a nice surprise and I thought he came through big for us.”
Burrell also paced the Bulldogs at the 2005 conference meet after crossing the finish line in fifth place overall (23:16.71) and the men completed the event in sixth place. Gillespie was the second Georgia finisher after registering a 24:29.50 for 34th place.
Georgia's next stop is Knoxville, Tenn., for the NCAA South Regionals on Nov. 11. The women are ranked fourth in the South Region, while the men are in the sixth spot. Those who qualify at the South Regionals will be battling the nation's top talent at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 20.
Georgia's finishers at the SEC Championships
Place. MEN – Time Place. WOMEN – Time
*13. Ian Burrell – 24:35.83 *4. Jill Steffens – 20:18.72
24. Matt Goodale - 25:09.70 *9. Kristin Heffelfinger – 20:27.05
25. Sam Gillespie - 25:13.86 *13. Natalie Picchetti – 20:40.42
32. Ryley Miller - 25:28.32 19. Sarah Madebach - 20:57.75
46. Caleb Vogt - 25:52.87 20. Kiah Vernon - 21:01.80
55. Ross Ridgewell - 26:12.27 35. Nicole DeMarco – 21:39.10
56. Bejan Abtahi - 26:12.83 61. Rebekah Madebach – 22:28.74
62. Matt Roberson - 26:25.34 89. Katie Weise – 23:49.78
81. Kurt Kimmons - 27:11.69 92. Bridget Lyons – 23:56.41
104. Madeline Sisk – 24:36.79
* - All-SEC honors
1. Arkansas – 21 1. Arkansas - 17
2. Florida – 73 2. Georgia - 61
3. Alabama – 75 3. Tennessee - 67
4. Tennessee – 121 4. Florida - 95
5. GEORGIA – 136 5. Mississippi State - 164
6. Mississippi State – 158 6. Kentucky - 177
7. Kentucky – 208 7. Vanderbilt – 226
8. Ole Miss – 222 8. Alabama - 241
9. LSU – 240 9. LSU - 250
10. Vanderbilt – 252 10. Auburn - 251
11. Auburn – 301 11. South Carolina - 302
12. Ole Miss - 368