By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
Preview | Championship Page
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky’s Cally Macumber upped her mileage and downed her times.
As a result, she has put herself in a position to challenge for the Wildcats’ first individual Southeastern Conference cross country title since 1989 when the 2012 SEC Cross Country Championships are contested Friday at 10 a.m. CT in Nashville.
Macumber, a Rochester Hills, Mich., native, is in her fourth year as a member of the Kentucky program, but has seen improved results under the direction of first-year assistant coach Hakon DeVries, who oversees the Wildcats’ women’s distance program.
“We’re a very strength-based program with tempo runs and longer intervals,” DeVries said. “She has obviously responded really well to it. We’ve moved her mileage up and she has touched into the 70s [miles per week] this year. It has just been the addition of a good, solid, long run and intervals – that is the difference between this year and her past training.”
Macumber sat out the 2011 cross country season due to Iliotibial Band Syndrome and was hungry for a great year upon her return.
“It was definitely hard just watching; I wasn’t used to that,” Macumber said. “I had never been injured in my entire life to that point. It really made me want to get back out there and start training again. I was excited for the season to start.”
Macumber’s excitement has translated into her performances, as she has posted a top-10 finish in each of the four meets in which she has competed in 2012. She currently holds the SEC’s top times this season at both the 5K (16:55.14) and 6K (20:09.00) distances.
Her breakout meet came at the Greater Louisville Classic, where she placed second individually in the race. Macumber finishing ahead of Washington’s Katie Flood, the defending Pacific-12 Conference champion and a 2011 top-10 NCAA finisher, at that meet made a resounding statement.
Two weeks later at the highly competitive NCAA Pre-National Meet, also in Louisville, she placed eighth overall against a tough field and was the highest-finishing SEC runner in the field.
Those two performances make it very plausible that Macumber could claim the league title on Friday. She would be the first Wildcat since Valerie McGovern in 1989 to accomplish the feat.
“I definitely expect her to challenge for it,” DeVries said. “Between her and some of the other individuals around the SEC, it’s definitely going to be a very challenging race up front. If Cally can put her position and just wait for the final kick, I imagine that she will have herself in it. It’s just a matter of getting it done that day.”
Macumber also has her sights set on the conference crown, but has a modest approach to her next race.
“It’s a goal, but you never know what’s going to happen the day of,” Macumber said. “I’m just trying to stay positive, keep working and hope everything turns out well. I try to work hard every day, try to be the best that I can be and hopefully that will pay off.”
In addition to notable improvements in her own performances, Macumber has been inspiring her teammates to strive for continual progress and focus on competing to the best of their abilities.
“Cally is the kind of girl who leads by example,” DeVries said. “She may not be the vocal, rah rah leader on the team, but it’s the way she conducts herself at practice. She just bought fully into the program and that’s been great to have somebody that’s a senior being able to be in there and support the changes that are being made.”
Macumber’s influence can be felt throughout her team, which is now receiving votes in the latest U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Poll.
“Obviously, we have a talented group,” DeVries said. “It’s been exciting receiving those votes in the polls but, at the end of the day, we have to get it done each time out. Kentucky has a rich history with winning the NCAA Championship in the past, along with other NCAA top finishes. We’re trying to restore a little bit of what Coach [Don] Weber built here. We do have an older group and I think that has been helpful.”
Macumber also attributes the recent success to an improved team spirit, which she hopes will help her squad post one of its best team finishes at the SEC Championships in a long time. The Wildcats won their last of three SEC women’s cross country titles in 1989.
“I think the morale as a team is higher and I think we know we can accomplish some bigger goals than we have in the past,” Macumber said. “We just want to be better than we were the race before and we obviously want to place higher than we have in the past in the conference.”