Nicole DiMercurio is one of the team's senior leaders.
Oct. 18, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. --- Following a three-week break from meets, Georgia's cross country teams return to action at the fifth-annual Wisconsin adidas Invitational in Madison, Wis., and at the Berry Invitational in Mt. Berry, Ga., on Saturday.
A total of 73 teams and 863 entries signed up for Saturday's race in Wisconsin on the Thomas Zimmer Cross Country Course. On the men's side, there are 20 teams ranked in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) top-30 poll, including nine in the top 15. Seventeen ranked women's teams are scheduled to compete, including seven of the top 10.
Seniors Luke Baker, Brandon Lord, Charlie Sparks, juniors Brendan Hoban, Zack Sims, Steven Spevacek and freshmen Trevor Grant and Morgan Malinoski will be joining seniors Nicole DiMercurio, Savannah Kirk, Stella Christoforou, juniors Carly Hamilton, Bret McDaniel, Brooke Koblitz, Erika Ramsey and freshman Morgan Ainslie against some of the nation's top talent.
The Bulldog men will take the course at noon ET for the 8k. The Georgia women will join 36 other teams in the 6k at 1 p.m. Mostly cloudy conditions with temperatures in the upper 40s and 10 mph winds are expected.
"This Wisconsin meet, along with the Pre-National meet held at the NCAA site in Indiana this weekend, are by far the two biggest regular season meets of the year," said Bulldog distance coach Patrick Cunniff. "The things that get us excited are the teams ranked between 25 and 30 and those who are receiving votes who will be running in this meet. The teams we have to beat to get into the NCAA Championships are all going to be at this meet so it's all there for us to do and take ourselves."
Cunniff understands that strong performances at the Badgers' home meet could pay large dividends later in the season.
"Wisconsin is probably our key chance to score at-large points, which gives us a little measure of confidence as we go into the Regional meet," said Cunniff. "We see our region being competitive this year and if we can pick up some points at this one, our chances improve of going to the national meet. The size of the field, meaning going against around 35 teams with 20 or so of those being ranked or receiving votes, helps to get our kids ready for the pressure they are going to face at SECs and at Regionals."
This marks the second consecutive trip the Bulldogs have made to the Wisconsin Invitational. In 2012, the Georgia men were 18th with 505 points and the Lady Bulldogs left with a 29th-place finish after registering 719 points. Hamilton (20:41), who was the top finisher for the UGA women, and Baker (24:09) each took 74th at the meet and are the top returners for Georgia on the women and men's side, respectively. 2012 senior Matt Cleaver led the charge for the men after crossing the line in 46th (24:00).
McDaniel (171st) and Kirk (218th) also both scored for the Lady Bulldogs at the meet last year. Lord is the other returning scorer for the Georgia men after he managed a 111th-place finish in 2012.
Thanks in part to the team's finishes last year, both Georgia squads advanced to the NCAA Championships together for only the second time in school history (2004).
"One thing that gives us confidence going into the Wisconsin meet is that we have a lot of runners who have already run at this meet before, or run at the national meet before," Cunniff said. "So for our freshmen and less experienced to travel to a meet like this and run next to Brandon Lord, Charlie Sparks and Luke Baker and Nicole (DiMercurio), Bret McDaniel and Carly Hamilton, who have all already been through meets like this, it gives the younger group confidence to do well and get ready for the gun. This is the meet where we see where our top five are and who will step into those spots, particularly who handles the strain of a meet this size."
The Bulldogs last competed at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, Minn., on Sept. 28. This weekend's meets are the final action for Georgia until the teams make the trip to the SEC Championships in Gainesville, Fla., on (Friday) Nov. 1.
"We set our schedule up like this on purpose to give us an idea of where we were coming out of the Griak and Furman meets," said Cunniff. "We built in three weeks between the Minnesota meet and this one and I think we used that extra week very well. We worked on a lot of race pace work. Team energy has been great the last two weeks and I am excited to see what we can do."
Student-athletes from 29 schools are expected to join Georgia's contingent at the Berry Invitational.
A total of 10 Georgia team members are making the much shorter trip to Berry. Junior Michael Giuliano and freshman Brad Hort will represent the Bulldog men's team while senior Shelby Robison, juniors Anna Bowles, Marrion Kalafut, Sarah Perry, sophomore Megan Charbeneau and freshmen Jenn Cora and Tori Martin will be running for the Lady Bulldogs.
The men's 8k will begin at 8:45 a.m. at the Berry meet while the women's 6k is set to start at 9:30 a.m. Cloudy conditions are also expected in Mt. Berry with temperatures in the low 50s.
"There are two critical reasons we are sending this group to Berry for themselves and for our program," Cunniff said. "At the SEC meet, we get the opportunity to run 10 and we were only allowed to run eight to the Wisconsin meet. So we have two people who have to get ready to run at SECs who are going to be at Berry. This meet also gives us an opportunity to have that next group of runners get experience for the future and hopefully step up in the future."
Full results and recaps from the Wisconsin Invitational and Berry Invitational will be found at georgiadogs.com.