LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The UGA women’s cross country team had two All-Americans in the same season for the first time in history to lead them to their best finish since 2006 at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday morning.
Georgia scored 411 points to be the second Southeastern Conference team to score and finish 17th. This marked the top finish for UGA since the Lady Bulldogs were 15th in 2006. This was the team’s eighth trip to Nationals and it marked a 13-spot improvement from its last showing at the meet in 2012 (30th).
Twin sophomores Sam and Jessica Drop became the first Georgia cross country runners in history to earn All-American honors at the same NCAA Championships. Sam clocked a 6k time of 20:06.34 to take 30th while Jessica finished 31st with a time of 20:06.90. These are the first All-Americans for the program since Kristie Krueger took 28th in 2010 competing as an individual qualifier.
“Today was a great day for the Georgia cross country program,” said Bulldog distance coach Patrick Cunniff. “We had a fantastic team performance, one where all of the ladies ran hard in difficult, windy conditions. The competition was outstanding and for a team that started unranked and who was picked to finish near the bottom of the SEC and then finished 17th nationally, I think it’s a testament to our team’s outstanding work habits.”
Sam and Jessica Drop were the second and third finishers from the SEC in the 255-woman field. For Cunniff, the program’s fifth and sixth women’s All-Americans in history made this meet extra meaningful.
“For us to have two All-Americans is an awesome accomplishment,” Cunniff said. “Sam and Jess ran together for most of the second half of the race and finished incredibly strong. Having those girls earn that honor makes this meet extra special.”
All seven Lady Bulldog runners who competed at Nationals are eligible to compete again for UGA in the fall of 2018. Cunniff and the Bulldogs have also signed a number of runners for the future with the hopes of making the NCAA Championships qualification a trend.
“I also thought this was a great performance by our fourth-year runners in Hailey, Grace and Addy,” Cunniff explained about his elder crew who has redshirted in their careers. “I could not be more proud of this team’s effort and determination all year long. I am excited to potentially bring back everyone on this team next year and add an outstanding signing class to the mix. It makes me really excited about the future of this program.”
After leading the Lady Bulldogs with a 13th-place finish on this same course at the NCAA Pre-Nationals earlier this season, Sam Drop was 30th on Saturday with a 20:06.34. This performance came on the heels of her winning the NCAA South Regional last week and earning USTFCCCA South Region Women’s Athlete of the Year honors.
Jessica Drop, who was Georgia’s top finisher at the SEC Championships taking fourth, finished one spot and less than .5 of a second behind her sister. Jessica ran a 20:06.90 for 31st place after winning the first two meets of the year.
A third true sophomore, Yanely Gomez, made her debut at the NCAA Championships and was 140th to be Georgia’s third scorer. Gomez clocked a 21:01.34 after missing the team’s early-season opportunity to run the course as she rested for SECs.
Four sports behind Gomez was the Lady Bulldogs’ fourth finisher, junior Hailey Branch. Branch took 144th with a 21:03.08 and scored for Georgia for the sixth time this year. Fellow junior Grace Tavani rounded out the team’s scorers as she managed a 179th-place finish. Tavani completes a breakthrough 2017 campaign after the Roswell, Ga., scored for the first time in her career this season.
Senior Addy Lippitt, who redshirted the 2015 season, finished just behind Tavani with a 184th-place showing. Lippitt registered a time of 21:23.45 following an All-Region performance last week.
This ends the 2017 Georgia cross country season. The Bulldog track and field teams will crank up 2018 on January 6 at the Orange and Purple Classic in Clemson, S.C.
Women’s Team Standings
New Mexico (90)
San Francisco (105)
Boise State (264)
N.C. State (280)
17. GEORGIA (411)
Individual Lady Bulldog 6k Finishes
030. Sam Drop (20:06.34)
031. Jessica Drop (20:06.90)
140. Yanely Gomez (21:01.34)
144. Hailey Branch (21:03.08)
179. Grace Tavani (21:19.74)
184. Addy Lippitt (21:23.45)
253. Ansley Heavern (23:29.85)