CROSS COUNTRY: Dawgs at NCAA South Regional Cross Country Championships

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CROSS COUNTRY: Dawgs at NCAA South Regional Cross Country Championships

Zach Sims
[su_spacer size=”20″] Georgia senior Zack Sims finished in the top 10 individually to highlight the Bulldogs’ showing at the NCAA South Regional Cross Country Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Friday morning.


The Georgia men managed a fourth-place finish in the 10k race after scoring 127 points.  With an eighth-place overall finish for All-Region honors, Sims had the best individual Bulldog finish since Luke Baker and Brandon Lord went fourth and seventh, respectively, in 2013.


Florida State (58) edged Ole Miss (62) for the Regional title at the Harry Pritchett Running Park and both earned an automatic trip to the NCAA Championships in Louisville, Ky., on Nov. 21.


Coming into the meet unranked in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) South Region top-15 poll, the Lady Bulldogs finished 10th in the 6k competition with 364 points.  Junior Victoria Coppage led the charge for the second consecutive meet for Georgia.


Vanderbilt won the Regional with 65 points and Mississippi State (78) also qualified for Nationals with a second-place finish.


“I am really proud of the effort from both teams,” said Bulldog distance coach Patrick Cunniff.  “We had hopes of qualifying the men’s team today, but they still ran incredibly hard and I am pleased with the effort given on both sides.”


The two top teams from each of the nine regions nationwide automatically advanced to the NCAA meet.  Individually, the top four finishers who were not on a qualifying team (automatic or at-large) will also receive an invitation to Nationals.  In addition, there will be 13 at-large team bids for each gender and one at-large individual bid for each gender.  At-large bids are expected to be announced over the weekend.


With individual finishers in front of Sims coming from the non-automatic qualifying schools of Alabama, Samford and Florida (two), he looks to be the fifth finisher not on a qualifying team.  Sims redshirted in 2014 after scoring at the 2013 meet with an All-Region 10th-place finish.  This year, Sims ran a 30:56.7 to finish with a career-best eighth-place finish.


“Zack ran a truly amazing race and has put himself in position to earn a potential at-large individual bid,” Cunniff said, explaining that the top fifth finisher nationwide not on a qualifying team will receive the single individual at-large bid.


Sophomore Bryan Kamau was the Bulldogs’ runner-up on Friday thanks to an All-Region 17th-place finish at 31:22.1.  This represents a nearly 40-spot improvement from Kamau’s 2014 scoring finish and gives him two straight second-place finishes for the Bulldogs.


Leading Georgia with an All-Region 10th-place finish in 2014, senior Steven Spevacek was 26th in his final Regional after clocking a 31:43.1.  Spevacek has run in the last three Regionals for the Bulldogs, scoring twice, and has led his team at nine meets over the last three years.


“I thought Bryan and Steven also competed incredibly well, we really had a complete team performance on the men’s side,” said Cunniff.


Similar to Sims, junior Sid Vaughn sat out last season and returned to the Regional meet for the first time since 2013.  Vaughn scored for the first time in his career after running a 31:51.7 for 33rd place.  The Bulldogs’ last scorer was junior Morgan Malanoski.  Malanoski complemented his 2014 finish of 40th with a 44th-place finish (32:08.6) to be the fifth Georgia runner across the line.


On the women’s side, Coppage, who topped her teammates at the Southeastern Conference Championships with a 48th-place finish, shaved nine spots off of her 2014 Regional finish to take 53rd.  She clocked a 21:36.0 in just her second meet for Georgia this season.


“The women kept their heads straight and did the best they could on the course today,” said Cunniff.  “Coppage produced yet another great performance coming off of an injury and I am proud of the way she battled until the end.”


Fellow junior Lauren Kelly has now been the Lady Bulldogs’ runner-up in three out of the last four meets.  Kelly, who led UGA at last year’s Regional, completed the course on Friday in 21:53.7 for 70th place.


Redshirt sophomore Morgan Ainslie made her Regionals debut and scored as the third Georgia runner across the line.  Ainslie ran a 22:06.6 to take 81st.  Four spots behind Ainslie was sophomore Allie Castro, who was also running for the first time at Regionals and finished 85th (22:13.7).


Georgia’s fifth and final finisher was redshirt sophomore Morgan Green.  Green scored in 2014 and made it two straight after taking 92nd with a time of 22:19.3 at this year’s Regional.
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