Oct. 31, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. --- Georgia's cross country teams traveled to Gainesville, Fla., on Wednesday to prepare for the Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships scheduled for Friday morning.
Instead of joining the football team in Jacksonville, the Bulldog cross country teams will be battling the rest of the conference competition at the Mark Bostick Golf Course adjacent to the University of Florida campus.
The gun for the men's 8k will fire at 9 a.m. on Friday morning while the women's 6k is scheduled for 10 a.m. This is the first meet of the postseason for Georgia with the NCAA South Regional Championships (Tuscaloosa, Ala. - Nov. 15) and the NCAA Championships (Terre Haute, Ind. - Nov. 23) still on the schedule.
Admission is free to the SEC meet and spectator parking is available at the Florida Law School.
"The greatest thing about cross country, and even track and field, is that it's `season now'," said Bulldog distance coach Patrick Cunniff. "Nothing that we have done makes us run further than 6k or further than 8k, we don't get a worse starting box for what has already happened. If we come and do everything that we are capable of at this meet and the Regional Championship, and most importantly the NCAA Championships, that is our season.
"More than ever, this year's meet for us is about everyone. That sounds cliché, but I think it's the truth this year. We have some great senior leadership, our top three guys in Luke Baker, Brandon Lord and Charlie Sparks. Carly Hamilton is always a threat to be All-SEC and Nicole DiMercurio and Bret McDaniel are serious threats for all-conference honors as well. Cross country is so much about your fifth runner and I feel like all 10 people that we brought on both sides are capable of being in that top five so that is going to be the most important thing for us."
Cunniff traveled 10 men and 10 women for Friday's meet. For the men, seniors Baker, Lord and Sparks, juniors Brendan Hoban, Zack Sims and Steven Spevacek, sophomore Sid Vaughn and freshmen Trevor Grant, Morgan Malanoski and Brad Hort will be representing Georgia.
The Lady Bulldogs included on the team's first postseason trip are seniors DiMercurio, Stella Christoforou and Savannah Kirk, juniors Hamilton, Megan Malasarte, McDaniel, Erika Ramsey, Sarah Perry and Brooke Koblitz, and freshman Jenn Cora.
Only the Arkansas women (second) and men (12th) and the Ole Miss women (30th) carry national rankings into this year's meet. The Florida men sit atop the South Region poll and Georgia is third while the Razorbacks lead the South Central Region. The Vanderbilt women are also ranked second in the latest South Region poll while the Lady Bulldogs are eighth. Arkansas and Texas A&M are first and second, respectively, in the South Central poll.
The Georgia men (35 points) surged for a second-place finish behind Arkansas (73) at the 2012 SEC Championships. The Lady Bulldogs finished sixth (132), breaking a streak of four consecutive years in fourth place.
On the men's side, two of the five scorers are returning for another round. Lord (13th) and Baker (19th) are back while Matt Cleaver (5th), Brian Detweiler (16th) and Brett Richardson (20th) have finished their careers. Lord (10th) and Baker (17th) also scored in 2011 while Sparks took 39th in 2010 to be in Georgia's top five.
Three scorers from last year's Georgia women return this season in Hamilton (fourth), DiMercurio (38th) and McDaniel (39th). Morgan VanGorder (19th) and Leslie Boozer (32nd) were senior scorers last year.
The Bulldog men have been the second team to finish at the conference meet three times (2012, 2003, 1936). The Lady Bulldogs have earned runner-up honors five times, happening the last time in 2006 and by only 14 points in 1990.
Full results and a recap from Friday's SEC Championships will be located at georgiadogs.com.
The SEC Digital Network, in conjunction with XOS Digital, will be producing highlights and interviews of the 2013 SEC Cross Country Championships and will load them on to the XOS FTP server on Friday afternoon.
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