The Georgia women’s cross country team took second place at the SEC Championships on Friday at the UGA Golf Course in Athens while the Georgia men’s cross country team placed sixth.
Scoring 88 points in the second race of the day, the Lady Bulldogs finished second in the 6k race behind Arkansas (35). This marked the sixth time in school history that the Georgia women have earned runner-up honors at the meet and the first time since 2006. The Lady Bulldogs also shaved eight spots off of their 10th-place finish in 2016.
The Georgia men began the meet by taking sixth (143 points) in the 8k competition as Arkansas (41 points), Alabama (81 points), Ole Miss (82 points), Kentucky (110 points) and Tennessee (125 points) rounded out the top five.
Individually, sophomores Jessica and Sam Drop placed fourth (20:17.1) and fifth (20:19.8), in that order, to earn All-SEC First-Team honors after finishing 14th and 24th as true freshmen last season. On the men’s side, senior Bryan Kamau crossed the finish line 12th (24:14.9), earning All-SEC Second Team designation and trimming four spots off of his 16th-place finish as a junior.
On the women’s side, three Bulldogs placed in the top 20 finishers, including the Drop twins in the top five, followed by junior Grace Tavani at 18th (21:04.2). Tavani was 96th at the 2016 SEC Championships. Jessica Drop’s fourth-place showing is the best for a Lady Bulldog since track All-American Carly Hamilton finished fourth at the 2012 meet. The last time the Georgia women had two finishers in the top 10 was in 2007 when Sarah Madebach won and Natalie Picchetti took third.
Junior Hailey Branch was next across the line for the Lady Bulldogs on Friday in 29th place (21:22.8). Her last SEC Championships experience saw her take 76th in 2015. Georgia’s final scorer accomplished the feat at her last SEC cross meet. Senior Addy Lippitt improved her 2016 finish by nearly 30 spots to take 34th with a time of 21:37.7
“I thought Jess and Sam were spectacular,” Georgia distance coach Patrick Cunniff said. “And then, Hailey, Grace and Addy, three fourth-year girls, who were totally unheralded coming out of high school, to come together and be the second team in the SEC is just spectacular. Could not be more happy or more proud.”
While Kamau led the Bulldog men for his 11th time in a row, another pair of seniors helped pace Georgia in the top 30. Austin Sprague went from 22nd in 2016 to 21st with a 24:32.1 while Eric Westog improved from 66th last year to 29th (24:46.2). Making his debut at the SEC Championships, redshirt sophmore Tyler Jones clocked a 24:50.0 also scored and another underclassman, redshirt freshman Michael Hans, missed out on SEC All-Freshman honors by two spots after taking 52nd to score with a finish of 25:19.0.
“I love seeing Bryan, Austin and Eric lead the team,” said Cunniff, who is leading the Bulldogs in their sixth consecutive postseason. “Three seniors who are 100 percent work and 100 percent heart. And to see them all finish with great races makes you super happy.”
The Bulldogs will next race at the NCAA South Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Nov. 10 and then prepare for the NCAA Championships at Louisville on Nov. 18.