Athens, GA - Georgia’s cross country teams will get an opportunity to test out the spot where the NCAA Championships will be when they compete at the NCAA Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind., at the LaVern Gibson Course on Saturday morning.
The Lady Bulldogs will be competing in their first 6k race of the season at 11:35 a.m. during the White Race. The Georgia men are scheduled to compete in the 8k Blue Race at 12:10 p.m.
Seven women – seniors Taylor Adams and Kylie Foley, juniors Kristie Krueger and Morgan VanGorder and sophomores Ashley Shiver, Nicole DiMercurio and Leslie Boozer – will join senior Caleb Vogt, juniors Brett Richardson and J.P. Hackney, sophomore Fraser Reade, freshmen Luke Baker, Brandon Lord and Charlie Sparks from the men’s team at the meet.
“This meet to me is about making the best preparations for the (Southeastern Conference) Championships,” said Bulldog coach Jeff Pigg as his teams continue preparations for the league meet on Nov. 1 in Columbia, S.C. “The Pre-Nationals always has a super high-power field. It’s a meet that it is a true knock-down drag-out.”
Eighteen of the nation’s top 30 men’s teams and 18 of the top 30 women’s teams will be on hand this weekend along with many other schools that have either been ranked or received votes during the 2010 season. More than 1,600 individuals are expected to race throughout the day on Saturday.
No. 24 Alabama and No. 30 Florida will join the Bulldogs to highlight the SEC teams on the men’s side. No. 25 Arkansas and No. 27 Florida will be the ranked SEC squads competing on the women’s side.
Pigg compared the intensity of this meet to a top-20 showdown in college football.
“There’s a lot of attention given when two top-20 teams in football face each other, but imagine about five of the top 15 teams in the nation in the same race,” Pigg said. “The competition level can’t get much higher than this meet.”
Krueger managed a 31st-place finish to lead Georgia at the 2009 Pre-Nationals after going across the line at 21:22. There have been two individual top-20 finishes for the Lady Bulldogs in the last four years at this meet (Kristin Heffelfinger, 2006, 17th-20:38; Sarah Madebach, 2007, 18th-20:48.4).
Four Lady Bulldogs running at this year’s meet also ran at last season’s meet. Krueger managed a 31st-place finish in the 6k race to lead six other teammates. Shiver, a freshman in 2009, was the fourth Georgia woman across the finish line after she registered a time of 22:32.3 for 140th. The Lady Bulldogs finished 19th in 2009.
“It’s always fun to see Kristie run in a meet like this where she will face a large number of girls who have already earned All-America honors in cross country,” said Pigg. “I think it’s good for her to face this type of competition. This meet is going to be a challenge for our team as a whole. It will give Taylor, Shiver and the others some more valuable experience going into the conference meet.”
Only five of 14 Georgia competitors traveling competed at last year’s Pre-Nationals. Junior Brett Richardson is the only member of the men’s squad to race in 2009 after he took 130th (25:32.1) to be the fourth Bulldog across the finish line. Richardson led Georgia in its first two races, winning the season opener at the Georgia Cross Country Invitational.
In 2008, Hackney made the best out of his first trip to Terre Haute as a freshman after leading Georgia with a 191st-place finish (25:39.5). Last season, the Bulldogs took 24th as a team.
“Brett is running well and I expect him to have a good showing this weekend,” Pigg said. “It will be another opportunity for Brandon to run, and this time it will be against some of the best guys that are out there. Caleb is back in the fire now after sitting out last year and J.P. has done a good job of getting to this level so we’re looking forward to it.”
Following Saturday’s races, full results and a recap from the Pre-Nationals will be located at georgiadogs.com.