By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
NASHVILLE – It had been more than two decades since a Kentucky runner had won the Southeastern Conference women’s cross country title. Cally Macumber changed all of that on Friday when she crossed the finish line first at the 2012 event at Percy Warner Park in Nashville.
Macumber, who has recorded a top-10 finish in each of the meets in which she has competed this season, took home the victory in a 6K time of 20:23.29. She became just the second person in UK school history to claim a women’s cross country individual title, joining Valerie McGovern, who won in 1989.
“Today, it was more about strategy,” Macumber said. “I just tried to hang with the leaders and then try and kick. Thankfully, I was able to do that. It’s a great feeling and I’m happy.”
For Macumber it was a bit of redemption, following a year in which she battled injuries and missed the 2011 cross country campaign.
“It’s the first SEC Championship for our new staff and it’s really exciting to have Cally get out there and run really, really well,” said Hakon DeVries, Kentucky’s first-year assistant coach for women’s distance and cross country. “She was banged up last year and it’s been a trying year for her. She’s really bought into everything and it’s really exciting knowing that she came out there and had a really good race.”
Macumber has come on strong this season and entered the conversation of favorites for the SEC Championships when she placed second at the Greater Louisville Classic in late September. She solidified that reputation when she placed eighth at the NCAA Pre-National Meet in mid-October.
On Friday, she had confidence that her training would pay off in her biggest moment of the season to date.
“I just went out there and tried to do my best,” Macumber said. “We’ve been putting in all the training, so we were just ready to compete.”
Macumber, who was in the lead for much of the race, fell behind Florida’s Florence Ngetich late in the race before pulling away in the final 100 meters to secure the conference title.
“In like the last 100, it kind of clicked and I thought I could get her,” Macumber said. “I just went for it and gave it all that I had.”
But it wasn’t just Macumber. Her teammate and training partner Chelsea Oswald, who also placed in the top-25 individually at the NCAA Pre-National Meet, was third overall at the SEC Championships, clocking a time of 20:35.03.
The Wildcats placed fifth as a team.
“With Chelsea getting third, that’s a great race for her,” DeVries said. “We didn’t quite have the depth to be able to compete up there for the title but, obviously, we’re making a lot of improvements. It’s exciting; I think that more is to come.”
The 1-3 finish for Kentucky, including Macumber’s title served as a bit of validation for the Wildcats and DeVries’ new training system.
“I think it just reinforces a lot of things that we do at practice all the time,” DeVries said. “The girls have bought in, but with having the results to back up all the hard work that we’ve been putting in makes things a lot easier going forward.”
For DeVries, the meet was a good preview of the Wildcats’ abilities heading into the postseason.
“Clearly, they were composed under pressure and obviously it’s a big meet,” DeVries said. “For some of them, it is their first SEC Championship in a while, especially with Cally missing a year. Getting out there and competing really hard is a good sign.”