Athens, GA - The University of Georgia cross country teams can secure a spot in the NCAA Championships with a strong performance in this Saturday’s NCAA South Regionals.
Hosted in Hoover, Ala., by Samford University, the South Regional meet starts with the women’s 6K race at 10:45 a.m. ET, followed by the men’s 10K at 11:45.
The top two teams and the top four individual finishers not on those qualifying teams automatically advance to the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., on November 22. The third- and fourth-place teams also have a shot at earning at-large bids.
Junior Kristie Krueger is the only returning Bulldog to compete at the NCAA meet after battling at the 2009 competition.
“Coming off of the SEC meet, I thought we were solid, but a little flat,” said Bulldog distance coach Jeff Pigg. “This will be an opportunity for us to come in and move up.”
The women’s squad, led by Krueger, has been picked to finish fourth in the field of 15 teams by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
“This women’s team knows how to get the job done and wants to do it,” said Pigg. “If each runner has a little better finish than last year, we will be in the hunt.”
Krueger along with seniors Taylor Adams and Kylie Foley, sophomores Ashley Shiver, Leslie Boozer and Allyson McGinty, and junior Morgan VanGorder will represent the women. Krueger and Foley are the team’s two All-Region returners.
Krueger is riding the momentum of her individual Southeastern Conference Championship. Her first-place finish in the conference meet helped earn her team fourth place.
This marked only the second SEC individual title for a Bulldog. The other was won by Sarah Madebach in 2007.
“Kristie needs to go out there and put herself in the mix,” said Pigg. “A strong finish by her will give our team the best shot of advancing to Nationals and I’m confident she’s ready for the challenge.”
After finishing 12th in 2008, the Bulldog men placed fourth in 2009 and hope to replicate that success this year. They are currently ranked seventh out of the 15 teams after placing sixth in the SEC Championships.
Senior Caleb Vogt, juniors J.P. Hackney and Miles Svoboda, sophomore Brett Richardson, and freshmen Brandon Lord, Charlie Sparks and Fraser Reade will run for the men.
Lord and Sparks were both named to the All-SEC freshman team following the SEC meet.
“For the men, we want to go back and finish fourth of better again,” said Pigg. “We weren’t quite where we wanted to be at SECs. This means a lot to these guys want to finish strong and build up momentum going into track season. “
Both teams placed fourth in last year’s regionals, which was the best combined finish in school history. The only regional team title was won by the women in 2006.
Kruger was the only Georgia runner to qualify for nationals in 2009 after finishing eighth at the South Regionals. Senior Bejan Abtahi was the top finisher for the men after taking 15th place. Richardson is the men’s top returner, having placed 30th as a freshman.
“This crew is not running just to wrap up the season,” said Pigg. “Their focus is there and I am looking forward to see what they can do.”