The UGA cross country teams traveled to Louisville, Kentucky on Thursday in anticipation for their final regular season meet, the NCAA Pre-Nationals which will take place this (Saturday) morning.
What & When: More than 100 collegiate teams will meet the Bulldogs on the course at the E.P. “Tom” Sawyer State Park. The field includes the 25th-ranked Lady Bulldogs along with a combined eight other men and women’s teams ranked in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) top-30 poll. The men’s 8k race begins at 10 a.m. and the gun for the women’s 6k is scheduled to fire at 10:45 a.m.
Who The Dawgs Are Traveling: The 25th-ranked Lady Bulldogs are traveling seniors Addy Lippitt, Lauren Hovis, juniors Hailey Branch, Grace Tavani, Caroline Dickey and sophomores Jessica Drop, Sam Drop and Yanely Gomez to the squad’s fifth regular season meet of the season.
The Lady Bulldogs are boasting their first national ranking since 2012. This is their top ranking since checking in at 13th in 2007.
The Georgia men, who are ranked fifth in the latest South Region poll, sent seniors Bryan Kamau, Austin Sprague, Eric Westog, Jon Moses, redshirt sophomores Jonathan Pelham, Tyler Jones and redshirt freshmen Jack Bradley and Michael Hans to UGA’s final tune-up before the Southeastern Conference Championships arrive in Athens at the UGA Golf Course on Friday, Oct. 27.
Last Time Out: Georgia is coming off a sweep at the Gene Mullin Invitational in Greenville, S.C., last weekend. Only four of the Bulldog men and women who traveled this weekend competed last weekend as the rest of the teams trained through and rested.
SEC Taking Note: Pelham, who was the top collegiate finisher at Furman, was named the SEC Men’s Runner of the Week, Hovis garnered the league’s Women’s Runner of the Week honor for the first time in her career and Millie Bergey was named the SEC Women’s Freshman of the Week following their performances at the Gene Mullin meet.
FLASHBACK: 2015 NCAA Pre-Nationals: Last time Georgia competed at the NCAA Pre-Nationals was in 2015. The Bulldog men finished 35th while the Lady Bulldogs left with a 45th-place finish. Zack Sims topped both UGA teams with a 108th-place individual finish two years ago and Bulldog distance coach Patrick Cunniff is aiming for these teams to improve on those finishes in 2017.
Cunniff’s Comments: “I think everyone is excited and eager for this meet,” said Cunniff. “The women want to build on their great momentum. The men want to get out there and put the pieces together the way they know we can. It’s important to run well so that we might pick up at-large points and just as important that we launch ourselves into championship season with confidence and momentum.”
The Bulldog men rallied for a third-place finish at the 2016 NCAA South Regional and the women were fifth, both narrowly missing an invite to the NCAA Championships. Cunniff now wants to position his squads now to earn a shot at the season’s final meet in Louisville on Nov. 18 of this year.
“We’re also fighting for respect on a daily basis and going into a quality field like this gives us that chance to prove we belong amongst the best teams in the country,” Cunniff said. “Our kids are tough, hard-working and competitive. Days like Saturday get them fired up and I know we are ready to compete. We’d like to be top 10 at a minimum and I think if we run our true team race, we can beat even more teams than that, which sets us up for the SEC and NCAA competitions very well.”
Glimpse At The Rest Of 2017: This is the final regular season meet for the Bulldogs. Next up will be the SEC Championships in Athens on Oct. 27. Following the league meet, the Bulldogs will race at the NCAA South Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Nov. 10 and then prepare for the NCAA Championships at Louisville on Nov. 18.