The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

SEC cross country teams set to start season

Aug 27, 2014
SEC Staff
Photo: SEC Staff

Alabama

Alabama will kick off the season at the Alabama vs. Samford Dual in Birmingham, Ala., on Friday, August 29. The Crimson Tide will play host to the 2014 SEC Cross Country Championships at the Harry Pritchett Running Park on Friday, October 31.

Arkansas

Men

The University of Arkansas men's cross country team begins its 2014 season on Saturday as they compete in the 2014 Hurricane Cross Country Festival in Tulsa, Okla.. On Tuesday the USTFCCCA announced that the Razorbacks were selected as the No. 13-ranked team in the nation. On Monday the USTFCCCA named the Razorbacks the No. 1 team in the South Central region. Last week Arkansas was selected by the SEC coaches to repeat as the 2015 SEC Cross Country Champion. They earned 10 of the 13 first place votes. The Razorbacks will be led by 2013 NCAA All-American Stanley Kebenei, who finished sixth at last year's NCAA Championships and won the 2013 NCAA South Central Regional (29:41.30).

Women

The University of Arkansas women's cross country will start its 2014 season on Sept. 6 when they travel to Irvine, Calif., for the 2014 adidas/UCI Invitational. On Tuesday the USTFCCCA announced that the Razorbacks were selected as the No. 9-ranked team in the nation and earned a first place vote. On Monday, the USTFCCCA named the Razorbacks No. 1 in the South Central region. Last week, Arkansas was selected by the SEC coaches to repeat as the 2015 SEC Cross Country Champion. The team earned 13 of the 14 first place votes. Arkansas will be led by the duo of Dominique Scott and Grace Heymsfield. Scott is the reigning SEC Runner of the Year and won last year's NCAA South Central Regional (19:40.70) and Heymsfield finished third in the SEC Championship to earn All-SEC first team honors.

Auburn

The Auburn men's and women's cross country teams return 12 runners from last season, and will look to continue to improve under sixth-year head coach Mark Carroll. The senior-laden men's squad returns its top-6 runners including seniors Niklas Buhner, Ty McCormack and Kane Grimster. McCormack, who became Auburn's first male cross country All-America selection since Felix Kiboiywo and Ben Cheruiyot in 2009, finished 40th overall at the NCAA Championships with a time of 30:45.4. Sophomores Veronica Eder and Rachel Givens will lead the way for the women's team this season, as both are coming off successful freshman campaigns. During the 2013 season, Eder claimed four top-5 finishes including a fourth-place performance at the Mountain Dew Invite, leading Auburn to its first win of the season. The duo led the way for Auburn's win at the Georgia State Invite with Givens placing second at 14:25.86 and Eder taking third with a time of 14:30.40. Joining the teams will be a group of freshman that will look to make an immediate impact. A pair of Tennessee natives - Wesley Pectol and Coleman Churitch - along with Kevin Wyss from Albuquerque, New Mexico will provide the Tigers depth on the men's side. Molly Mckenna from Newport News, Va., and Kenzley Defler from Louisville, Ky., highlight the women's class. The Tigers will begin the 2014 season on Aug. 29 in Mobile, Ala., as it squares off against South Alabama.

Florida

The Florida cross country teams open the season for the fourth-straight year at the Western Carolina Invite on Friday. During that time span, the Gators have swept the men's and women's team title every year.

Men

In the SEC's Preseason Coaches Poll, the men ranked second. The Gators feature returning All-SEC seniors Jimmy Clark and Eddie Garcia in their top-five. Redshirt junior David Kilgore, a Colorado transfer, is expected to immediately impact the Gators. In addition, Florida's 2014 recruiting class featured two Gatorade Cross Country Runners of the Year in Thomas Howell and Mac Macoy.

Women

Redshirt freshman Becky Greene makes her debut in cross country. The New Zealand native won 2014 Indoor Women's Freshman Runner of the Year and ran the fifth-fasted 3,000-meter in Florida indoor history. Newcomer Lauren Brasure is expected to make an impact as well for the Gators. The freshman competed at the 2013 Foot Locker Nationals.

Georgia

Men

The 2013 NCAA South Regional champion Bulldogs return to action at their one and only home meet of the year on a course that loops around the UGA Equestrian Complex in Bishop, Ga., on Sept. 6. The Georgia men and women have swept the last five consecutive Georgia Invitationals. Distance coach Patric Cunniff, who ran for Georgia from 1988-91, will be starting his third year with the program at his current post. In 2013, Georgia advanced to its school record third consecutive NCAA Championships and also registered a third-place finish at the SEC Championships. The Bulldogs return four regular scorers from last year with 2013 All-Region performer and senior Zack Sims, senior Brendan Hoban, senior Steven Spevacek and junior Sid Vaughn lining up again in red and black. Following a tune-up at the Furman Invitational on Sept. 13, Georgia travels to Louisville, Ky., to take on a nationally-ranked field at the Greater Louisville Classic on Oct. 4 and then to Madison, Wisc., for the always challenging Wisconsin adidas Invitational. While another group is planning on making the brief trip to Rome, Ga., for the Berry Invitational on Oct. 18, the Bulldogs' traveling squad competes on Halloween in Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the SEC Championships. Georgia returned to Athens with its first NCAA regional title since 2003 the last time the squad ran on Alabama's course in 2013. Two weeks later, the Bulldogs travel to Tallahassee, Fla., for this season's NCAA South Regionals and will be gunning for a bid to their sixth straight NCAA Championships (Terre Haute, Ind.) on Nov. 22.

Women

Coach Patrick Cunniff is aiming for the Lady Bulldogs to return to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2012 this year. Wrapping up their season with a sixth-place finish at the 2013 NCAA South Regionals, the Georgia women return a group of runners who were repeat scorers last year. 2014 NCAA First Team All-American (mile) and senior Carly Hamilton, who earned All-Region honors in cross last year, headlines this crew after leading the Lady Bulldogs in three of the 2013 races. Fellow senior Bret McDaniel topped her teammates to take 18th at the last season's SEC Championships and will be joining Hamilton as Georgia's frontrunners. As the underclassmen continue to develop and the program adds another batch of talented freshmen, the Lady Bulldogs are looking to improve on their 11th-place finish at the SEC Championships last year and gain momentum as the national postseason begins.

Kentucky

The UK cross country teams will begin their third season of action under the direction of head coach Edrick Floréal on Aug. 29 at the Belmont Opener in Nashville, Tenn. The Wildcats will host one meet in the fall, as the Bluegrass Cross Country on Sept. 13. The Wildcats will be led by Matt Hillenbrand on the men's side. Hillenbrand will be accompanied by Cassidy Hale and Amy Hansen on the women's side. UK was picked to finish eighth in the Southeastern Conference by the coaches in both men's and women's cross country. The UK men's cross country program made strides in 2013, notably the team improved by a spot from the previous year posting a fifth-place finish at the Southeastern Conference Championships. Matt Hillenbrand earned All-SEC honors in cross country in 2014. He is a two-time All-American in track and has won three SEC Titles on the oval. Hillenbrand has exhausted his track eligibility, and returns for a final cross country season. UK Head Coach Edrick Floréal has returned the program to prominence in two seasons. In cross country he has coached three NCAA Qualifiers, and two First-Team All-Americans in addition to the 2012 Women's SEC Champion. The Wildcats earned a total of 25 All-America honors for the 2014 season, and Floréal was named Southeast Region Indoor Coach of the year. Additionally the Wildcats turned in school-record performances in the team competition at the SEC and NCAA Track and Field Championships last year. Women's cross country coach Hakon DeVries enters his third year at UK women's cross country and distance programs back to national prominence over the past two seasons. DeVries has coached three cross country All-Americans and 11 total across all NCAA athletics disciplines in two years at UK. Additionally Cally Macumber won the 2012 SEC Cross Country Championship under his direction, and he has coached a total of four SEC Champions. Sean Graham enters his second season overseeing UK's men's cross country and distance runners. Graham enjoyed great success on the track in his first year in Lexington, including a NCAA Bronze Medalist, four SEC Champions, three All-America selections and the Southeast Region Indoor Runner of the Year.

LSU

The LSU cross country team opens up the 2014 season on Friday, Aug. 29, in Lake Charles, La., to compete in the McNeese XC Relay. Last season the men and women placed 17th at the 2013 NCAA South Central Regional. This season the men's team is ranked 12th in the SEC Coaches Preseason Poll, and the women's team is ranked 14th. Senior Philip Primeaux looks to lead the men's cross country team this 2014 season. Primeaux finished his junior campaign with a 49th-place finish at the 2013 regional. The Baton Rouge native was one of the top performers on the team. Jack Wilkes enters his first year for the Tigers and is poised for a successful season for the men's team. Wilkes was a standout cross country runner at Shreveport's Airline High School and placed 12th at the 2013 LHSAA Class 5A State Cross Country Championships his senior season. Andria Aguilar enters her senior season for the women's team. Aguilar was the top Lady Tiger finisher in four of six meets and placed 120th at last year's regional. At the 2013 NCAA South Central Regional, junior Morgan Schuetz posted a personal-best 23:00.2 for a 85th-place finish. Carley Boyce will be a key newcomer for the women. Boyce, the 2013 Louisiana Class 4A Cross Country Champion, was a five-time state championship qualifier during her prep career at St. Scholastica Academy in Covington, La.

Ole Miss

Men

The Ole Miss men were predicted to finish third in the Southeastern Conference Cross Country race this year in a vote by the SEC head coaches. The Rebels, who received three first-place votes in the poll, are poised for a breakout season under head coach Brian O'Neal. Picked fourth in the USTFCCCA South Region preseason rankings, they return top sophomores Robert Domanic and Trevor Gilley and welcome several highly regarded newcomers with the likes of freshman Sean Tobin, Northeastern transfer Wesley Gallagher, junior Daniel Bulmer, redshirt freshman Mark Shaw and others. Domanic was an All-Region pick last year, while Gilley earned SEC All-Freshman honors. Tobin arrived at Ole Miss in January and promptly turned in record-breaking efforts en route to SEC Men's Indoor Freshman Runner of the Year. Gallagher made the NCAA Cross Country Championships as an individual at Northeastern last season. The Rebels begin their season this Saturday at the Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic.

Women

The Ole Miss women are ranked seventh in the USTFCCCA South Region preseason rankings and were picked to finish 11th in the SEC by the league coaches. The Rebels return seven letterwinners from last year, but welcome a big class of newcomers that should help bolster the team immediately. Sophomore Mary Alex England looks to pace the team this year after walking on to the team last fall and improving so much in the outdoor season that she shattered the 10,000 meter school record in her first ever attempt at that distance. The Rebels begin their season this Saturday at the Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic.

Mississippi State

Mississippi State opens its season at the Memphis Twilight on Saturday, Aug. 30. The men's and women's teams both took home first place in the event last year. SEC Preseason polls predict women to finish sixth and men to finish 11th in the conference. Flotrack ranked women's team at No. 31. Between the two teams MSU returns 16 veterans to the squads and welcomes eight newcomers. Sophomore Rhianwedd Price returns after placing 12th in the NCAA South Regional Championship 6K with a time of 20:33.58. Senior Damian Rozsko also finished 12th in the NCAA South Regional Championship 8K with a time of 30:26.34. Junior Patrick Monaghan recorded a new personal best in the 2013 SEC Championship 8K with a time of 25:32.58. Freshman Mia Meydrich begins her Bulldog career after a standout high school career where she claimed the 2013 Louisiana District 9-5A Cross Country Championship. The women's team finished 10th in the SEC Championship and the men's squad finished in ninth. Both teams recorded a seventh-place finish in the NCAA South Regional Championships.

Missouri

The Tigers are set to kick off the 2014 season on Friday (August 29) with a dual against Illinois at their home course in Champaign, Ill.

Men

The Tiger men maintained their No. 4 position in the conference after the Championship last year, and bumped up a slot in the NCAA Midwest Regional Pre-Season Rankings, coming in at No. 7. With Hayden Legg being the only graduate after the 2013 season, the Tigers are looking forward to the large group of experienced veterans to lead the exciting freshman class forward. Included among the returners is T.J. Carey, who earned the 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year honor for cross country, 2013 Second Team All-SEC finisher Sam Dickerson, and multiple All-SEC Freshman Team finishers: Dan Roe, Drew White, Tyler Schneider, and Joe McKenna.

Women

The women also return an exciting group, losing no one to graduation from their 2013 post-season squad. Among the returnees is Kaitlyn Fischer, who had a stellar freshman season, which culminated in the SEC Freshman of the Year, First Team All-SEC and All-Midwest Region honors. She closed the season as the sole Tiger at the NCAA Championships. The women also retained their position in the conference after the 2013 Championships, coming in at seventh in the pre-season rankings, and moved up on spot on the Midwest Regional Rankings at No. 5.

South Carolina

South Carolina enters the season ranked No. 15 in the Southeast Region by the USTFCCCA. The team returns six of its seven top runners from 2013 including sophomore Mary Reiser, who became the third Gamecock to earn SEC All-Freshman Team honors in the past six years in 2013. The Annapolis, Md., native was second on the team in six of the seven races in which she competed in and finished 29th overall at the NCAA Southeast Regional at 21:21.3. The Gamecocks though will be without the services of their top runner from a season ago in a Meredith Mill, who graduated early. With no seniors on the 2014 roster, one of the Gamecocks top athletes in junior Anna Todd will be looked upon for leadership from the veterans, along with fellow junior Kayla Lampe, a former All-SEC runner, who has been hampered by injury during the summer. Joining this year's squad is a talented group of 13 freshmen highlighted by Hannah Giangaspro, one of the top 3200-meter runners in Florida, and who has been on an upward climb since last spring.

Tennessee

Tennessee cross country will begin the 2014 season on Friday, Sept. 5, when it takes part in the annual Powerade Invitational in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The event will usher in a new era for Volunteer cross country as it marks the first race under the leadership of new head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan. After 15 years as the head coach of Penn State, where she spent the last eight as the director of a combined men's and women's track and field program, Sullivan was named director of track and field and cross country at the University of Tennessee. A long distance specialist herself, Sullivan was the captain of the cross country team from her sophomore through her senior seasons at her alma mater, the University of Minnesota. Sullivan is assisted by Rodney Stoker, appearing in his third season with UT. Junior Chelsea Blaase is back for the women's side, coming off a season in which she won her first career race by finishing the Crimson Classic 5K in 17:21.19. She went on to earn All-SEC and All-Region honors after recording top 25 finishes in five meets and a 10th place finish at the NCAA South Regional Championships. Meanwhile, on the men's side, senior Austin Whitelaw will look to build off his own All-Region honors after putting up a PR of 30:39.39 at the NCAA South Regional Championships.

Texas A&M

The 2014 season for Texas A&M features a new cross country course and the Aggies will host a pair of competitions on the venue. The first meet will be held this Friday, August 29 at 6:30 p.m. as A&M hosts Lamar and Stephen F. Austin. Texas A&M will also play host to 11 schools when the course is officially dedicated on September 20.

Men

The Aggies return a bulk of the young squad that competed last season and have senior leadership from Isaac Spencer, who qualified individually for the NCAA Championships last year. Preseason rankings have the Texas A&M men number four in the South Central region while the SEC coaches' preseason poll predicts a sixth-place finish for the Aggies in the conference meet.

Women

A pair of senior leaders return in Hillary Montgomery, a NCAA individual qualifier, and Grace Fletcher along with sophomore Karis Jochen. They were the top three finishers for the Aggies when they placed second in the SEC Championships, the best finish in program history, and finished third in the South Central region in 2014. Preseason rankings have the Aggie women tabbed for third in the South Central region and the SEC coaches' preseason poll predicts the A&M women to place third in the SEC Championships.

Vanderbilt

With an abundance of optimism, excitement and experience, the Vanderbilt cross country teams are ready to embark on what could be one of the most memorable seasons in the program's history. The Commodores, who will compete in the Belmont Opener on Aug. 29, are looking to build on last fall's success, which included the women's team making the NCAA Championships for the third straight year. The two Vanderbilt rosters feature a combined total of 15 upperclassmen, with Hannah Jumper, Lily Williams and John Ewing being just a few of the key returnees. The Commodores are also expected to get a big boost from the freshman who formed last year's outstanding recruiting class. "Every year, because of recruiting, the quality and the depth of our team gets better," said head coach Steve Keith. For the VU women, the returnees (listed by class) include: seniors Claire Benjamin, Rebecca Chandler, Amira Joseph, and Grace Orders; juniors Sara Barron, Katherine Delaney, Hannah Jumper and Vanessa Valentine; sophomores Reagan Anderson, Carmen Carlos and Lily Williams. For the men, the list includes seniors Andrew Bachman, Matthew Cleveland and John Ewing; juniors Andrew Fix and Nick French; and sophomore Jake Van Geffen.