Nov. 21, 2011
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. --- The Georgia men's cross country team grabbed the top Southeastern Conference finish by taking 29th at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., on Monday afternoon.
The Bulldogs' top five finishers scored 770 points to edge Florida (780) as Wisconsin (97), Oklahoma State (139), Colorado (144), BYU (203) and Stanford (207) rounded out the top five in the 10k race, respectively.
This was only the third trip for the Georgia men to the NCAA Championships and the first since the Bulldogs finished 25th in back-to-back meets in 2003 and 2004.
"Before we even saw what the results would be today, I would have said we have had a good year," said Bulldog distance coach Jeff Pigg. "This team worked extremely hard to get here and then worked hard again once the gun fired at this meet. I think our finish is a culmination of many hours training and preparing for a moment like this and this meet puts an exclamation point on a memorable season. But the best thing is that while we have a lot to be proud of, we all think we can do better and are optimistic about the future."
Cleaver led the charge by after taking 142nd overall with a collegiate personal-best time of 31:08.5. He was the fourth SEC finisher as he led his teammates in the fifth meet of the year, including the last three.
"I thought Cleaver did a really nice job out there today, as he has all year long," said Pigg. "After we look at the results now, I think we could have done better in the team results had we been able to pop into the field a little more upstream, so to speak, at the beginning, but that is all part of the experience. The good thing is we know we can do better in the future."
Junior Brian Detweiler and sophomore Luke Baker also broke into the top 200 finishers as Detweiler took 187th in the 252-man field and Baker was 195th. Detweiler managed a time of 31:35.5 in his first national meet as Baker clocked a 31:44.0 in only his 13th career collegiate meet.
Sophomore Brandon Lord, who was named the SEC Runner of the Week following his team-leading performance at the Wisconsin Invitational, was the Bulldogs' fourth scorer after taking 206th overall with a time of 31:51.5. Georgia's 21st-place finish at the Wisconsin meet earlier in the year was the foundation for its selection as an at-large team to Nationals. On Monday, Pigg credited Lord for helping Cleaver keep his pace earlier in the race.
The fifth and final scorer for Georgia was Gainesville, Ga., native Nick Long. The junior who redshirted in 2010, crossed the finish line in 32:03.9 to take 218th. Junior Brett Richardson, who had been battling a cold, was 228th (32:11.9) as senior J.P. Hackney, competing in his final cross meet, took 239th (32:26.7).
"I thought Detweiler has been steady all year and was solid again today," said Pigg. "He and Luke keep getting better. Also, Nick has been in the forefront of this team as they put in a lot of hard work the last three or four years and it showed as he was able to score in the meet. J.P. has been a great team captain through his examples on and off the course. I think for him to end up at the NCAA meet on the top SEC team is a great way to go out."
Pigg's distance corps will now prepare for the indoor track season which will begin in mid-January.
"I think the advantage of finishing on a high in cross country is that now all of these guys are prepared to be SEC scorers during the indoor track season and we are already fired up about the season's start," said Pigg.