Columbia, SC - In her third trip to the league meet, Georgia junior Kristie Krueger won the 2010 Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships to lead the Lady Bulldogs to a fourth-place team finish in Columbia, S.C., on Monday morning.
Krueger clocked a 20:41.25 on the 6k course at Fort Jackson to become just the second Georgia runner (second in four years) to capture an SEC cross country victory in school history (Sarah Madebach, 2007). Krueger topped Auburn senior Hollie Knight, who had a time of 20:49.39, for the victory.
While Krueger will bring All-SEC First Team honors with her back to Athens, Bulldogs Brandon Lord and Charlie Sparks earned a spot on the men’s All-SEC Freshmen Team. This is the second year in a row that the Georgia men have had a pair of runners on the All-SEC freshmen squad.
The Lady Bulldogs scored 130 points to finish behind Florida (60), Arkansas (61) and Vanderbilt (76). This gives the Georgia women a fourth-place finish for the third consecutive season.
On the men’s side, Georgia placed sixth as the team returned just a single scorer from the 2009 meet. Arkansas (34) cruised past Alabama (62) and Florida (69) to finish first through third, respectively. Ole Miss senior Barnabas Kirui (23:57.02) won his third SEC cross country title in five years.
Individually for the Bulldogs, senior Caleb Vogt crossed the 8k finish line in 25:12.29 to take 27th and sophomore Brett Richardson was 28th (25:15.50) as they led the Bulldogs during Vogt’s fourth SEC meet and first since 2008.
Following the morning races, the talk was all about Kruger’s first SEC crown.
“It was fun,” Krueger said. “I’m just so excited. Freshman year I never would have dreamed that I could do this, but Coach (Jeff) Pigg and my teammates have helped me along. I just wanted to start out and see if I felt comfortable, at least to halfway. I was going to see how strong I felt and then try to start pulling away. Thankfully, I felt pretty good, so it turned out well.”
“I tried to stay comfortable. I was pretty nervous through the first half because there was a big group of us and I didn’t know how good everybody felt at that point. Then I started working and trying to pull way and not thinking about who was behind me. Coming down the final hill, I knew I still had some in me and I was ready to outkick anyone who tried to come up on me. I was tired, but it was exciting and I’m glad I could pull it out.”
“Kristie looked fantastic and she did a great job; I’m really proud of what she’s done,” said Pigg. “She’s had continual improvement from two years ago to today. We put a lot of focus on the SEC meet and we are excited to come here and do the best we can. We want to do well and go to Nationals, but when you’re in the SEC, you have to focus on doing well here. You can be good 364 days of the year, but if you don’t hit it here, you can get beat. I think our pack was really good and we had a narrow gap between two and five, but unfortunately I think we were a little too far back. Good news is that we get to compete again in two weeks and I’m hoping we can move that pack up then.”
After taking fourth overall at the 2009 SEC Championships as a sophomore, Krueger had twice been named the SEC Female Athlete of the Week this season. She started the 2010 season by winning the season-opening Georgia Cross Country Invitational and then took second at the Greater Louisville Classic and ninth at the NCAA Pre-Nationals.
She was also a 2010 indoor All-American in the mile and finished third in both the 1500-meter run and the 5000 at the 2010 SEC Outdoor Championships.
“This was a natural progression over the last three years for a runner of her caliber,” said Bulldog head track and field coach Wayne Norton. “At last year’s meet, she showed me she would be this year’s favorite. This is a major accomplishment. In their three years together, Coach Pigg has done a fabulous job in guiding her development. He continues to build on a nice distance tradition that our former distance coaches have established.”
The Lady Bulldogs’ next four scorers all finished between 27th and 36th place. Sophomore Ashley Shiver, who finished 49th in 2009, was second for Georgia in 27th place with a time of 21:50.80. In her final SEC meet, senior Taylor Adams took 32nd after improving her time from last year by nearly a minute.
Fellow senior Kylie Foley was next across the finish line taking 34th (22:00.60) as sophomore Leslie Boozer, competing at her first SEC Championships, was the final scorer after taking 36th with a mark of 22:06.16.
Redshirting in 2009, Vogt finished 46th for the men in 2006, 62nd in 2007 and then 30th in 2008 before grabbing the top finish of his career at an SEC meet on Monday.
“The race started out really fast but the leaders didn’t string us out too badly,” said Vogt. “I just tried to keep Brett in sight. I think we came to the first 3k in like nine minutes, so that’s about where we wanted to be and we were also in the place we wanted to be. The last two laps on that hill really wore me down and I could tell it was wearing Brett down too. I finally caught up with him going to the last lap and I told him to get behind me and draft me because the wind was so bad. He hooked up on me and he pulled me along on the top flight and then during that last (kilometer), we just went after it. I think we caught two people at that point and we just fought until the end.”
Ole Miss ended up edging the Bulldogs 154-155 for fifth place, which bothered Pigg following the contest.
“When you get beat by a point, I think that stings a little bit,” Pigg said. “One hundred fifty-five to 154, that is disappointing. We had a couple of guys that did a pretty good job. Caleb did a good job, but he knows he can do better than that. I think J.P Hackney did a great job as our third man. He came out and did better than last year when he came in 44th. He was 30th this time; so he was solid. We’re just missing what we need up front. We had a solid group of guys who had a solid performance, but we were hoping for a little bit more but that’s what we got. Now we have to bounce back at the South Regionals.”
Vogt and Richardson were two of three Bulldog men to break into the top 30. Junior J.P. Hackney improved 14 spots from his sophomore finish and 24 spots from his freshman finish. Hackney was 30th overall with an 8k time of 25:22.63.
Lord and Sparks were awarded All-SEC Freshman honors after managing to grab the final two scoring spots for Georgia. Lord was 38th (25:34.46) and Sparks took 39th (25:38.86) after Richardson and Bill Matthews received the same honor in 2009. Matthews is redshirting the 2010 season for medical reasons.
In addition, sophomore Brian Detweiler (41sth – 25:49.55), freshman Fraser Reade (43rd - 25:54.70) and sophomore Danny Neff (45th – 26:07.85), who was competing in his first race of the season, all broke into the top 50 finishers for the Bulldogs and are all scheduled to return in 2011.
Georgia returns to action at the NCAA South Regional Championships in Birmingham, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 13 as both squads attempt to advance to the NCAA Championships.
Full individual and team results can also be found at georgiadogs.com.