The Bulldog cross country teams return for the second year in a row to run at the Paul Short Run in Bethlehem, PA, on Friday.
What & When: In its 44th year, the Paul Short Run will feature approximately 6,000 student-athletes from nearly 450 colleges and high schools at the Goodman Campus Course. The Bulldog men will run in the Gold 8k race at 11 a.m. while the Lady Bulldogs will line up in the Gold 6k at 11:45 a.m.
Who The Dawgs Are Traveling: The Georgia men, who are ranked seventh in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) South Region poll, traveled seniors Bryan Kamau, Jon Moses, Austin Sprague, Eric Westog, redshirt sophomores Tyler Jones, Jonathan Pelham, Ryan Peppenhorst, redshirt freshmen Jack Bradley, James Gildard, Michael Hans and freshman Darr Smith to Lehigh’s campus.
The South Region’s sixth-ranked squad, the Lady Bulldogs, traveled senior Addy Lippitt, juniors Hailey Branch, Caroline Dickey, Lauren Hovis, Grace Tavani, sophomores Jessica Drop, Sam Drop, Yanely Gomez, Ansley Heavern and Tiffany Yue to the team’s third meet of the year.
FLASHBACK – 2016 Paul Short Run: Last year, the Bulldog men were 10th at the Paul Short Run while the Lady Bulldogs took 13th. Jessica Drop finished third overall in just her third collegiate race and Sam Drop was 43rd to lead the UGA women. Kamau shot across the line in eighth place and Sprague battled for a 16th-place finish as the Bulldogs had three in the top 20. Six of the Lady Bulldogs traveling this season competed at the 2016 meet (four scored) while the Georgia men have five runners making the second consecutive trip to Bethlehem (three scorers).
Cunniff’s Take: “The goals for our teams this week will be to handle traveling, the size of the field and the quality of the competition and rise to that challenge,” said Bulldog distance coach Patrick Cunniff. “Everyone is excited to get in this race and see where we are and put all our hard training to work for us. Both races have more than 45 teams in them and I think finishing in the top 15 for both men and women would be a solid day. I am also eager to see how our top individuals stack up against great competition. Bryan (Kamau), Austin (Sprague) and both Drops (Jessica and Sam) ran amazingly at Paul Short last year and we’d love to see even more this year.”
Thus far in 2017, Georgia has made the short trip to Cullowhee, N.C., for the WCU Cross Country Festival where UGA easily swept the competition as Jessica Drop and Kamau picked up individual victories. The Lady Bulldogs also most recently won the Bulldog Southeastern Conference Preview at the UGA Golf Course on Sept. 9 and the men left the race with a fourth-place finish. Drop and Kamau also registered wins in the teams’ first home meet of the year.
“On Friday, we are expecting a fast course and a huge field of teams from all over the country,” Cunniff said. “I think both those things really help get the blood pumping. This is a huge step up in competition and just as importantly, time of year. I think we are ready and I can’t wait to see who steps up and how our teams pull together.”
Georgia hosted four other league teams for the Bulldog SEC Preview and several in-state squads three weeks ago. The Bulldog men had two finishers in the top four (Kamau, Sprague), had the 12th-place finisher (Westog) and then had scorers at the 37 and 38 spots. Led by Jessica and Sam Drop’s 1-2 finish, the Georgia women had five finishers in the top 10 after having six in the top 10 in the season opener.
“Hopefully we come out of this meet and we are still confused about top seven because so many kids ran well,” said Cunniff. “But it is critical that some of the men step into that gap at No. 3 from the home meet. I’m confident that the guys will respond. For the women, the key is executing just like we did at the SEC Preview, even though we’re away from home and the competition is better. We have to trust what we can do, and do it regardless of external factors.”
Glimpse At The Rest Of 2017: This is the third of five regular-season meets for the Bulldogs. UGA also has the Gene Mullin Invitational (Greenville, S.C. – Oct. 7) and the NCAA Pre-Nationals (Louisville, Ky. – Oct. 14) during the regular season. Following SECs in Athens, 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.