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    Arkansas, Vandy Win Cross Country Titles

    By Mark Maloney
    SEC Digital Network


    Cross Country Photo Gallery
    Men's Results
    Women's Results

    MARYVILLE, Tenn. – Same old, same old for the Southeastern Conference cross country men.
    But those women, oh!
    Vanderbilt, ranked third nationally, placed five individuals in the top nine to capture its first SEC women’s cross country title Monday at Lambert Acres Golf Course. The Commodores, led by overall runner-up Alexa Rogers, scored a mere 30 points.
    Arkansas, paced by individual champion and course record-setter Kristen Gillespie, placed second with 61, a point less than defending champion Florida.
    No. 15 Arkansas had the 1-2 finishers in the men’s race with Eric Fernandez and Duncan Phillips. That led the defending champion Razorbacks to their 19th SEC title in 21 years. Arkansas scored 33, followed by Florida with 66 and Georgia with 68.
    “We’re very happy. This is our first line of defense, obviously, when we go into the championship season,” said Chris Bucknam, coach of the Arkansas men. “I’d have to say this is our most important meet of the year. It’s really a thrill to watch our guys perform like they did today. I’m proud of them.”
    While Bucknam has experienced the thrill of SEC titles before, the outcome was brand new for Vanderbilt women’s coach Steve Keith.
    “I never imagined that we’d score so low,” said Keith, a 1981 Vandy graduate who is in his sixth season as coach of his alma mater. “But I’d never put anything past these girls because when they get their minds set to it, they can do it.”
    With the men first to go on a crisp autumn morning, Fernandez was practically chomping at the bit. Bucknam said his junior from Baldwin, Mo., was first to show up for breakfast, and first to the van for the ride to the course.
    Coach gave runner the green light to swing away: “ ‘When you feel good, it feels right, go ahead and take off,’ ” Bucknam said in recounting his pre-race advice. “And see if anybody will go with you.’ He looked really strong and was confident. I can’t be happier for a guy.”
    Fernandez, sixth in last year’s race, patiently waited. The lead pack still had at least 20 runners through a 9:05 two-mile. At about 5,000 meters (3.1 miles), Fernandez made his move.
    “We had been going pretty slow up to that point, so it was still pretty bunched up,” Fernandez said. “But I assumed that people’s different fitness levels – there might be some people hurting in that front pack. So by making a move there, people tail off early and they try to follow and then they’ll break.”
    As Fernandez surged, Florida sophomore Mark Parrish tucked in close behind, followed by Arkansas’ Duy Tuach. Then came Florida’s Matt Mizereck and Kentucky’s Luis Orta.
    Fernandez gradually widened the gap, completing the 8,000-meter course in 24 minutes, 10.60 seconds. That is the second-fastest time run on the course. The record of 23:55.79 was set by Arkansas’ Michael Power in the 1998 SEC Championships.
    Phillips unleashed a furious kick to edge Parrish for second place, 24:22.57 to 24:23.69.
    Then came Mizereck, Orta and Arkansas’ Rick Elliott.
    “We come to the SECs for the team title, and the best way to help the team is to score as low as possible,” Fernandez said. “So winning’s always fun, but we’re looking at the grand scheme of things – one point’s better than two.
    “Then Duncan got second, too. That was so sweet! When I saw him cross the line, that made me happier than when I crossed the line just because I knew with that 1-2 punch – and then I knew how the other guys were racing – we had it in the bag. So it was fun.”
    In the women’s race, the Vanderbilt women ran much the way Fernandez had.
    Through a 5:27 opening mile, the Commodores were second as a team, while Arkansas led. The unofficial team score at that point had Arkansas with 21 points, Vandy with 65.
    A pack of 11 runners passed two miles in 11:02, and Vandy had moved ahead of Arkansas 42-55. There was no catching Gillespie, a senior from Overland Park, Kan.
    The 14th place finisher a year ago, Gillespie completed the 6,000 meters in 20:19.84. That beat the course record of 20:29.67 set by Auburn’s Hollie Knight in the 2008 NCAA Sourth Regional.
    “I didn’t want to have to go out and set the pace at the front from the get-go,” Gillespie said. “But I wanted it to be a true race. … It went out at an honest pace and I ended up in front kind of early, but that’s OK. I just made sure I was comfortable and then, when people started making moves, I was ready to go.”
    Vandy senior Alexa Rogers also beat the former course record, closing in 20:22.72.
    Then came Florida’s Genevieve LaCaze in 20:32.98. Vandy sophomore Liz Anderson took fourth. Then came Florida’s Cory McGee and defending champion Kristie Krueger of Georgia. Rogers said Vandy’s near-title last year – the Commodores placed third, 16 points behind first-place Florida – provided motivation ever since.
    “At the very beginning (of the season), we all had the fire in us because we were so close last year,” she said. “Every day we’d just see it, and we worked for it. So I knew we could do it, and they knew we could do it.”
    Men’s teams – 1. Arkansas 33; 2. Florida 66; 3. Georgia 68; 4. Kentucky 126; 5. Tennessee 169; 5. Alabama 169; 7. Mississippi 179; 8. Auburn 183; 9. Mississippi State 234; 10. LSU 235; 11. Vanderbilt 300.
    Men’s individuals (8,000 meters) – 1. Eric Fernandez (Arkansas) 24:10.60; 2. Duncan Phillips (Arkansas) 24:22.57; 3. Mark Parrish (Florida) 24:23.69; 4. Matt Mizereck (Florida) 24:28.14; 5. Luis Orta (Kentucky) 24:28.36; 6. Rick Elliott (Arkansas) 24:29.59; 7. Jimmy Clark (Florida) 24:30.79; 8. Matt Cleaver (Georgia) 24:30.82; 9. Martin Kirui (Mississippi) 24:31.89; 10. Brandon Lloyd (Georgia) 24:33.46; 11. Dey Tuach (Arkansas) 24:39.64; 12. Carrison Kemei (Alabama) 24:39.97; 13. Patrick Rono (Arkansas) 24:41.89; 14. Kane Grimster (Auburn) 24:48.02; 15. Brett Richardson (Georgia) 24:49.31.
    Women’s teams – 1. Vanderbilt 30; 2. Arkansas 61; 3. Florida 62; 4. Georgia 124; 5. Mississippi 158; 6. Alabama 181; 7. Tennessee 184; 8. Kentucky 214; 9. Mississippi State 233; 10. Auburn 247; 11. South Carolina 295; 12. LSU 337.
    Women’s individuals (6,000 meters) – 1. Kristen Gillespie (Arkansas) 20:19.84 (course record); 2. Alexa Rogers (Vanderbilt) 20:22.72; 3. Genevieve LaCaze (Florida) 20:32.98; 4. Liz Anderson (Vanderbilt) 20:35.84; 5. Cory McGee (Florida) 20:38.84; 6. Kristie Krueger (Georgia) 20:40.45; 7. Jordan White (Vanderbilt) 20:42.48; 8. Louise Hannallah (Vanderbilt) 20:43.11; 9. Kristen Smith (Vanderbilt) 20:51.62; 10. Florence N’Getich (Florida) 20:52.20; 11. Logan Waites (Mississippi) 20:56.23; 12. Brittany Sheffey (Tennessee) 21:00.63; 13. Kaitlin Flattmann (Arkansas) 21:04.29; 14. Jessica Jackson (Arkansas) 21:06.17; 15. Katie Breathitt (Mississippi) 21:07.13.

    Cross Country All-SEC Teams

    Women's First-Team All-SEC
    Kristen Gillespie, Arkansas
    Alexa Rogers, Vanderbilt
    Genevieve LaCaze, Florida
    Liz Anderson, Vanderbilt
    Cory McGee, Florida
    Kristie Krueger, Georgia
    Jordan White, Vanderbilt
    Women's Second-Team All-SEC
    Louise Hannallah, Vanderbilt
    Kristen Smith, Vanderbilt
    Florence N'Getich, Florida
    Logan Waites, Ole Miss
    Brittany Sheffey, Tennessee
    Kaitlin Flattman, Arkansas
    Jessica Jackson, Arkansas
    Women's All-SEC Freshman Team
    Kaitlin Flattmann, Arkansas
    Jessica Jackson, Arkansas
    Grace Orders, Vanderbilt
    Amira Joseph, Vanderbilt
    Anna Bowles, Georgia
    Rebecca Chandler, Vanderbilt
    Grace Vandegrift, Florida
    Men's First-Team All-SEC
    Eric Fernandez, Arkansas
    Duncan Phillips, Arkansas
    Mark Parrish, Florida
    Matt Mizereck, Florida
    Luis Orta, Kentucky
    Rick Elliott, Arkansas
    Jimmy Clark, Florida
    Men's Second-Team All-SEC
    Matt Cleaver, Georgia
    Martin Kirui, Ole Miss
    Brandon Lord, Georgia
    Dey Tuach, Arkansas
    Carrison Kemei, Alabama
    Patrick Rono, Arkansas
    Kane Grimster, Auburn
    Men's All-SEC Freshman Team
    Jimmy Clark, Florida
    Patrick Rono, Arkansas
    Kane Grimster, Auburn
    Austin Whitelaw, Tennessee
    Eduardo Garcia, Florida
    Brendan Hoban, Georgia
    John-Logan Hines, Florida