The Georgia men's and women's cross country teams entered the 2002 season with the goal of improving on the previous year's results at the conference and regional level. Both squads relied on several newcomers, however the Bulldogs and Lady Bulldogs found plenty of success.
The Bulldogs placed in the top five in six of the eight meets they competed in on the season, including a home victory at the Bulldog Stampede. The Georgia men's fifth place finish at the Southeastern Conference Championships was an improvement over their sixth place finish from the previous season and the Bulldogs were just one point behind fourth place Tennessee. At the NCAA South Region Championships, Georgia matched its sixth place finish from a year ago.
The men's team had several new faces, but did not lack for experience. While five of the Bulldogs' top eight runners were newcomers, three of the newcomers came to Georgia with collegiate running experience. In fact, those three athletes, Philip Bett, Ian Dickinson and Andrew Lafrenz, were consistently among the Bulldogs' top five throughout the season and were Georgia's top three runners at the Southeastern Conference Championships.
Bett, a junior transfer from Moi University in Kenya, led the Bulldogs in nearly every meet in which the full squad competed, including a seventh place finish at the SEC Championships to earn First Team All-SEC Honors.
Dickinson, a junior transfer from UNC-Charlotte, joined Bett on the All-SEC team with a 14th place finish at the conference meet to earn Second Team honors. Dickinson led the Bulldogs at the NCAA South Region Championships, placing tenth, earning All-Region honors and missing an automatic individual berth to the NCAA Championships by one place. Lafrenz, a senior transfer from the University of Portland, placed 25th at the SEC meet and 31st at the South Region Championships.
As far as veteran Bulldogs, the team looked to senior Adam Tribble and junior Alex McQueen for leadership. Tribble began the year as one of the squad's top three runners, placing ninth at the Bulldog Stampede on September 14, but, unfortunately, a nagging hip injury hampered his season. McQueen steadily improved throughout the year and scored for the Bulldogs at the SEC meet as the team's number five runner, placing 33rd overall. McQueen moved up to score as the team's number two runner at the South Region meet, placing 29th overall.
Tribble was not the only Bulldog to struggle with injury as sophomore Mike Swope, the team's top runner last season, was limited to just one meet this year. Swope showed promise as the Bulldogs' second finisher at the Stampede, placing eight overall, but a leg injury caused him to miss the rest of the season.
The injuries did allow three freshman to step up this season. Grant Eichenlaub ran in the team's top five throughout the season, placing 27th at the SEC Championships as the Bulldogs' fourth finisher. Dan Fassinger gained valuable experience, running among Georgia's top eight all season. Kevin Foley, a redshirt freshman, provided Georgia with needed depth.
The young Lady Bulldogs placed in the top ten in four meets, including a victory in the first meet of the season, the Western Carolina Invitational. The Georgia women placed seventh at the SEC Championships and did not record a team score at the South Region Championships, running only four runners. Strong individual performances highlighted the season and showed promise for the future.
The Lady Bulldog squad was freshmen-laden, with just one senior and two juniors on the squad. The team's top runner all season was freshman Lauren Burks. Burks claimed individual victories at the Western Carolina Invitational and Furman Invitational. Burks' highlight of the season came at the South Region meet where she place sixth and became the first Lady Bulldog to qualify for the NCAA Championships since the team qualified in 1997. Burks was also named SEC Female Freshman of the Year as well as SEC Female Cross Country Athlete of the Week on October 15.
Another strong performer for the women was senior Whitney Nelson Stansell. Stansell was the Lady Bulldogs' number two runner at every meet and she provided leadership to the young squad as the team captain.
Three other freshmen gained valuable experience this season. Kelly Cordell competed in a Georgia singlet in only one race, but showed her potential as she was the team's third finisher at the SEC Championships, placing 34th overall. Freshman Clair Nowakowski and redshirt freshman Christine Shepherd ran consistently in the team's top five.