Sophomore Brandon Lord (Chattanooga, Tenn.), who is the only Bulldog runner in the team's current top 10 not from the state of Georgia, will be trying to lead Georgia to its first NCAA Championships since 2004 on Saturday.
Nov. 11, 2011
ATHENS, Ga. --- It has been since 2004 that the Georgia men’s cross country team has advanced to the NCAA Championships – and the Bulldogs are determined to end the drought at the NCAA South Regional Championships on Saturday.
Both the Georgia men and women will get their opportunity to punch a ticket to Nationals at the South Regional meet in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The men’s 10k, which will mark the first for the Bulldogs at this distance this season, will start at 11 a.m. ET while the women’s 6k is on the schedule for 12:15 p.m.
The two top teams from each of the nine regions will automatically advance to the national meet. Individually, the top four finishers who are not on a qualifying team will also receive an immediate invitation to the NCAA Championships. In addition, there will be a number of at-large bids for teams and individuals.
The NCAA Championships are scheduled at their usual home in Terre Haute, Ind., on Monday, Nov. 21.
The Bulldog men last advanced to the NCAA Championships in 2004 and finished 25th. However, the Georgia women advanced to the national meet in 2006 (15th) and 2007 (22nd) and have had Kristie Krueger earn a spot individually at the last two NCAA meets. Krueger earned All-America honors after taking 28th at the 2010 national meet.
Also in 2006 for the Bulldog men, Georgia’s Ian Burrell finished 105th in the 10k competition as the Bulldogs’ sole competitor.
“There are a lot of unknowns about who the at-large teams will be,” said Bulldog distance coach Jeff Pigg. “You can try and predict it, but you don’t know for sure until the race is over and results are in books. The path that we would like to take is right through the front door and that’s being in the top two and automatically qualifying.”
The UGA men traded places with Florida back to the No. 3 spot in the latest USTFCCCA South Region poll after the Gators edged the Bulldogs by two points at the Southeastern Conference Championships on Oct. 29. Florida State, who is ranked 16th nationally, has remained at the top spot in the region all year.
“Our men’s team has gotten a lot better, we are enjoying it and there has been a lot of feel-good stuff going on with a group of great guys,” Pigg said. “All that is nice, but at the same time we want to make our mark athletically as well. We’re not just doing this to have fun, these guys want to be good, beat some people and win some things. They want to be a top-25 team and have that success label linked to them by making it to NCAAs. They want to make a statement. We have put in many, many hours and miles and tons of hard work and we want to see that pay off. Anything less and those guys, and myself, would be disappointed.”
On the women’s side, Florida State is ranked No. 1 in the South Region as well as in the nation while SEC champion Vanderbilt is second, Florida third and Georgia fourth.
“This will be a good experience for our girls, which is a middle distance-oriented type of team who are primarily training for the track season,” said Pigg. “This late 6k will be good experience for them. I think we will go and realize that we belong there. Our focus is to have success on the track and we are going to make decisions about who competes at this meet according to that. At the same time, we are planning on going and competing hard and trying our best to slip into the national field.”
The Lady Bulldogs finished fourth at the 2010 NCAA South Regionals powered by Krueger’s first-place finish – a first for Georgia’s program. The Argyle, Texas, native clocked a 19:52.93 after winning an SEC title two weeks earlier as then sophomore Ashley Shiver was 22nd in the regional meet. Returner Leslie Boozer also scored for the Lady Bulldogs last year after taking 43rd.
The Georgia men finished fifth in their one and only 10k of the season last year at the Regionals. Departed senior Caleb Vogt was 28th (21:17.05) to lead the Bulldogs as all four of the other scorers are still team members in 2011. Brett Richardson was 30th as Charlie Sparks and Fraser Reade finished 37th and 38th, respectively, and J.P. Hackney was 42nd.
A recap and full results from the NCAA South Regionals will be located at georgiadogs.com following the meet.