Senior Kristie Krueger is gunning for back-to-back SEC titles on Monday.
Oct. 30, 2011
ATHENS, Ga. --- Georgia’s cross country teams storm into the postseason at the Southeastern Conference Championships in Maryville, Tenn., on the morning of Halloween Monday.
The men’s 8k is scheduled for a 10 a.m. ET start at the Lambert Acres Golf Course while the women’s 6k will begin at 11 a.m.
“Anytime you line up versus SEC competition, you can be confident you are competing against some of the nation’s top runners,” said Bulldog head coach Jeff Pigg, whose teams were both picked to finish fourth in the preseason coaches poll. “The Vanderbilt women are ranked third in the nation and then you have the teams who are traditionally tough every year with Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and our crew. But we have already seen some great talent at both the Notre Dame and Wisconsin meets so I expect our teams to handle the situation well.”
The Bulldog men are ranked second in the latest USTFCCCA South Region poll and are receiving national votes as Arkansas is holding down the No. 15 spot in the nation. Pigg will be traveling seniors Matt Cleaver, J.P. Hackney and Nick Long, juniors Brian Detweiler and Brett Richardson, sophomores Luke Baker, Brandon Lord and Charlie Sparks and freshmen Brendan Hoban and Zack Sims.
“I think the men are in a good spot, which is exciting to see for a group that has worked so hard,” said Pigg, whose men’s team has two runner-up finishes in SEC history (2003, 1936). “This group has kind of a blue-collar mentality and they probably have as good a bond as I have ever seen in my 20 or so years coaching. They are not worried about individual performances, just what they can accomplish as a team. Our leadership from J.P., Cleaver, Brett and a couple other guys has been pretty neat to see develop.”
The Lady Bulldogs, who are ranked fourth in the South Region poll behind No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 3 Florida, have four seniors leading the charge to the league meet. Kristie Krueger, Hadley Ferguson, Abbie Robinson and Morgan VanGorder will join juniors Leslie Boozer and Ashley Shiver, sophomore Savannah Kirk and a trio of freshmen - Anna Bowles, Carly Hamilton and Brooke Koblitz – against the SEC’s top performers.
“Our women have a lot of talent, with Kristie leading the way both in the meets and away from competition,” said Pigg. “Being around a winner like Kristie makes the whole team better. We don’t have to wonder what the great ones in the sport are doing or how they are training because we are with one of them all the time.
“We have a diverse group that loves to compete and where each person knows her role. Savannah Kirk is a sophomore who will be running in only the seventh cross country meet of her life, and is doing great so far. We also have a couple freshmen who have done some good so far and I am certain that will continue at this meet.”
Krueger finished the Hilton Field course in Columbia, S.C., in 20:41.25 to capture the Lady Bulldogs’ second SEC individual title at the 2010 conference championships. Only Sarah Madebach in 2007 has equaled Krueger’s league domination in Georgia history.
Krueger went on to win the NCAA South Regional crown and earn All-America honors with a 28th-place finish at the NCAA Championships several weeks later. Pigg discussed the opportunity for Krueger to be the first back-to-back SEC champion since Auburn’s Angela Homan won three straight (2003-05).
“I would be thrilled for Kristie and I think it would be neat for our program if she did repeat,” Pigg said. “Kristie has returned to the form she was during last year’s cross season after having to sit out the last two track seasons while recovering from an injury. But our primary focus for Kristie is for her to be someone who is tough to beat during the postseason and who will be healthy throughout this season and both track seasons in the spring.”
The Georgia men are coming off of arguably their best regular season meet in recent history at the Wisconsin Invitational. The Bulldogs bested five nationally ranked teams, including Florida, to finish 21st. Lord was the top SEC finisher after taking 37th as Cleaver managed a 67th-place finish.
Krueger was the bright spot for the Lady Bulldogs in Madison as she was the second SEC finisher and 20th overall. The Georgia women finished 37th as the team’s four other scorers were two juniors, one sophomore and a single freshman.
Led by Krueger’s victory at the 2010 SEC meet, the Lady Bulldogs finished fourth for the third consecutive year after taking third in 2007 and registering a second-place finish in 2006 at the SEC Championships.
Shiver was the second Georgia finisher last season as she took 27th overall. Although Taylor Adams and Kylie Foley have graduated after being the third and fourth scorers at the 2010 meet, Boozer is another returning scorer for Georgia after crossing the finish line in 36th place last year.
The Bulldog men finished sixth at the 2010 SEC Championships after finishing fifth in 2009. While graduated senior Caleb Vogt led Georgia with a 27th-place finish, all four of the other scorers are returners. Richardson was 28th with Hackney not far behind in 30th. Two freshmen – Lord and Sparks – were 38th and 39th, respectively, to round out the Bulldogs’ top five.
Full results and a recap from the men and women’s races on Monday will be located at georgiadogs.com.