The Georgia women’s cross country team will run in its first NCAA Championships since 2012 on Saturday morning in Louisville, Ky.
Arriving in Kentucky on Thursday, the 17th-ranked Lady Bulldogs now return to Nationals competition for the eighth time in school history. Georgia received an at-large invitation five years ago and this year marks their first automatic qualifying bid since 2007. The Lady Bulldogs’ top finish in history came as they took ninth in 1990.
When & Where: The Lady Bulldogs start their 6k course at the E.P. ‘Tom’ Sawyer State Park at 10:45 a.m. ET. UGA clinched its spot at the NCAA Championships by earning runner-up honors at the NCAA South Regional last week in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Georgia men concluded their 2017 slate by taking ninth at the South Regional.
Weather: With showers expected overnight and a 50 percent chance of rain lingering into the morning, Louisville is expecting temperatures in the low 60s on Saturday.
Who The Dawgs Are Lining Up: The Lady Bulldogs traveled seniors Addy Lippitt, Lauren Hovis, juniors Hailey Branch, Grace Tavani and sophomores Jessica Drop, Sam Drop, Yanely Gomez and Ansley Heavern to Nationals.
Sam Drop was recently named the South Region Women’s Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) after winning the Lady Bulldogs their first individual regional title since 2010 (Kristie Krueger). Twin sister Jessica Drop took third place at the meet after the Georgia women also recorded second-place honors at this year’s Southeastern Conference Championships in Athens.
Cunniff’s Comments: “It’s been an amazing season and the fact that we are at this meet is a testament to how incredible this group of young women is,” said Bulldog distance coach Patrick Cunniff, who took over the distance program at his alma mater before the 2012 season. “They worked hard for an entire year, especially last summer. They believed in themselves even when they were picked way down at the bottom in the SEC preseason poll. This group has pulled together as a true team all season long in a very special way.”
The Lady Bulldogs’ campaign has featured a number of team victories and strong showings at the national and conference levels. During one portion of the year, the women earned their highest regular season ranking (14th) in program history and are determined to finish strong.
“We are eager and ready for this race,” Cunniff said. “Regionals was a strong effort, but really all about taking care of business and making sure we qualified. This one is all out, give every ounce of energy that you have. I think the women have a strong sense of validating their regular season with a great performance on Saturday. I am so proud of what they have done and can’t wait to see what they can do against the rest of the country’s best!”