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    SEC Cross Country Season Begins This Weekend

    Complete Release in PDF Format

    The cross country programs of the Southeastern Conference are set to begin their 2013 seasons this weekend as a majority of SEC teams open up with a number of meets across the country. Seven SEC squads open their campaigns on Friday, while four begin their slates on Saturday.

    Four Southeastern Conference cross country teams are ranked among the nation’s top-25 according to the preseason edition of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Coaches Poll. On the men’s side, Arkansas checks in at a tie for No. 5 nationally, while Florida is No. 23. Men’s teams Georgia, Alabama and Missouri also are receiving votes. On the women’s side, Arkansas is ranked No. 9, while Vanderbilt is No. 20. Women’s teams Georgia, Florida and Texas A&M all are receiving votes.

    In a preseason vote of the league’s head cross country coaches, the Arkansas men and women have been picked to win the 2013 SEC Cross Country Championships. The Razorback men were a unanimous pick to claim the league crown after capturing their 20th SEC Cross Country Championship in the last 22 years in 2012 and finishing 10th at the NCAA Championships. The Razorback women, who placed second at last year’s SEC Championship and were 18th at the 2012 NCAA Championships, were selected to win the 2013 crown. The Razorbacks garnered 11 first-place votes, while Florida was second with two first-place votes and Vanderbilt was selected third with one first-place vote.

    The 2013 SEC Cross Country Championships are slated to take place Friday, Nov. 1 at Mark Bostick Golf Course in Gainesville, Fla.

    Upcoming Schedule

    Friday, August 30
    Auburn at Trojan Invite (Troy, Ala.)
    Florida at Western Carolina Invitational (Cullowhee, N.C.)
    Kentucky at Belmont Opener (Nashville, Tenn.)
    South Carolina hosts Carolina Challenge (Columbia, S.C.)
    Texas A&M at Baylor Twilight (Waco, Texas)
    Tennessee at Belmont Opener (Nashville, Tenn.)
    Vanderbilt at Belmont Opener (Nashville, Tenn.)

    Saturday, August 31
    Alabama at Samford (Birmingham, Ala.)
    Georgia hosts Georgia Cross Country Invitational(Bishop, Ga.)
    Ole Miss at Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic (Memphis, Tenn.)
    Mississippi State at Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic (Memphis, Tenn.)

    Team-by-Team Notes

    The Crimson Tide enters 2013 with hopes of improvement after an inconsistent 2012 season in which a freshman-heavy squad struggled ... 16 runners (8 men, 8 women) return for head coach Dan Waters and distance coach Adam Tribble ... the veterans join 12 newcomers (4 men, 8 women) on a team that was 11th in both divisions at the 2012 SEC Championships ... among the newcomers, junior college transfer Matt Airola (American River CC, California) is expected to lead the men's team while freshmen Hilary Stafford (London, Ontario) and Allison Gregg (Cedar Falls, Iowa) should provide a boost to the women's squad ... Airola is a former California JC cross country champion and the team's most versatile distance athlete ... Stafford and Gregg have the talent to develop into top collegiate runners with experience ... sophomore Katelyn Greenleaf (St. Petersburg, Fla.) is the Tide's top returnee for the women's squad after a top-20 finish at the SEC meet as a freshman ... Alabama opens the 2013 season this Saturday at the Samford Opener in Birmingham ... Alabama hosts two meets this season - the Crimson Classic in Tuscaloosa on October 18 and the NCAA South Regional Championships in Tuscaloosa on November 15 ... both home meets will be run a the Harry Pritchett Running Course.

    Men - The University of Arkansas men’s cross country team is a majority pick to win the 2013 SEC Cross Country Championships, in a vote of the league’s head coaches. Arkansas is the three-time defending conference champion, having most recently won the program’s 20th SEC cross country title in 2012. The Razorbacks have won seven consecutive conference titles dating back to the 2011 outdoor track and field title.The Razorbacks return 2012 All-American Kemoy Campbell for his senior season as well as SEC Freshman Runner of the Year Cale Wallace. Senior Solomon Haile also brings three years of cross country experience and awards including 2012 All-Region and First-Team All-SEC honors. Senior David Flynn also earned 2012 All-Region honors. Women - The University of Arkansas women’s cross country team was picked to win the 2013 SEC Cross Country Championships, in a vote of the league’s head coaches. The Razorbacks return five members from last year’s team, Grace Heymsfield, Diane Robison, Jessica Kamillos, Paige Johnston and Shannon Klenke that earned All-Region honors after winning the NCAA South Central Regional in Fayetteville, Ark. Arkansas has won 13 SEC cross country titles since joining the conference in 1991 with the program’s last league crown coming in 2008. The Razorbacks have been the conference runner-up the past three seasons. The team will be under the guidance of Harter who will begin his 24th season at the helm of the Razorback women’s cross country and track and field programs.

    The Auburn men’s and women’s cross country teams open the 2013 season on Aug. 30 at the Trojan Invitational in Troy, Ala. The Tiger enter the meet as the three-time defending team champion at the event, while the AU women will look to defend its first place finishes in each of the last two years. On the men’s side, senior Hunter Hayes will look to defend his individual title from a year ago at the Trojan Invitational. Hayes won last year’s 8K in 28:04.68. The men and women’s programs enter 2013 which distinctive differences, as the men’s teams return their top six competitors from a year ago and will have Clemson transfer Ty McCormack to add depth. The men’s 12-man roster features five seniors and five juniors. The seniors on the men’s side include Niklas Buhner, Hayes, Jason Miller, Samuel Mueller and Andrew Scott. The women’s team has a younger feel as the Tigers have 11 underclassmen on the roster including six sophomores. The lone seniors for the AU women are Lizzie Briasco and Erica Kolakowski. Briasco won the 2011 Trojan Invitational with time of 11:08.17 over 3200m. In the SEC preseason coaches’ poll the men were picked to finish fifth and the women 13th by a vote of the conference coaches.  Following the season opening meet, the Tigers will take a week off before resuming action on Sept. 14 at the Mountain Dew Invite in Gainesville, Fla.

    Both Florida cross country squads kick off the 2013 season Friday (8/30) at the Western Carolina Invitational in Cullowhee, N.C., where the women will run a two-mile race, the men a 5K. The Gators next return home to host the 25th Annual Mountain Dew Invitational Sept. 14. The Mountain Dew Invite will be the first of two UF-hosted meets in 2013, as Florida will additionally play host to the 2013 SEC Championships Nov. 1 at the Gators’ Mark Bostick Golf Course. Men - The UF men’s squad earned two individual at-large bids to nationals (Mark Parrish, Jimmy Clark), as the Gators had representation at NCAAs for the third consecutive season. Parrish crossed first for UF at NCAAs and also recorded the fourth-fastest 8K in men’s program history at Pre-Nationals Oct. 13. Florida turned in a third-place finish at the South Region Championship in Tallahassee, its third straight top-three finish on the men’s side. Five Gators picked up USTFCCCA All-South Region accolades (Jimmy Clark, Eddie Garcia, JL Hines, Matt Mizereck, Mark Parrish), as UF placed all five scorers in the top 25. Florida posted a fifth-place showing at the 2012 SEC Championship in Nashville, the program’s 16th straight top-five finish. Two athletes were All-SEC selections. Women - Last season, the Gator women’s team captured the 2012 SEC Championship under the tutelage of distance track and cross country coach Paul Spangler, who was tabbed the 2012 SEC Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year in his first season at the helm of the XC teams. UF’s women were crowned league champs for the third time in a span of four years and now own six SEC titles, second-most for any team in the SEC. The ladies squad went on to pick up an at-large bid to the 2012 NCAA Championships, sending the Gators to nationals for the six time in seven seasons as a team. UF turned in a 23rd-place finish, its second-best performance in its last six trips to nationals (2009, 7th). Five Gator women were named All-SEC selections and departing seniors Callie Cooper and Florence Ngetich represented the Gators on the USTFCCCA All-South Region squad as Florida made it eight straight years with a top-five regionals finish (4th).

    The 2012 cross country season saw both Bulldog teams advance to the NCAA Championships, a feat Georgia had only accomplished one time before (2004) in program history.  The UGA men took 19th at nationals, wrapping up the season with their top finish in school history, while the Lady Bulldogs were 30th.  Last year marked the first time since 2007 that the Georgia women competed at NCAAs. Five of the seven Lady Bulldog competitors from the 2012 NCAA Championships return in 2013 with four of seven returning for the Georgia men.  Coach Patrick Cunniff returns to the cross country trails for his second season after having additional success on the track this past spring. This season opens with the only home meet of the year on August 31.  The Bulldogs will host the Georgia Cross Country Invitational at the UGA Equestrian Complex in Bishop, Ga., and are expecting Georgia Tech and Mercer, among others.  The Bulldogs swept the 2012 meet in nearly perfect fashion. Georgia’s 2013 campaign has regular season highlights of a trip to Minnesota for the Roy Griak Invitational and to Wisconsin for the Wisconsin adidas Invitational.  Both of these destinations are considered annual premier regular season showdowns for the nation’s talent. A day before the football team kicks off against Florida in Jacksonville on November 2, Georgia’s cross country teams will battle at the SEC Championships in Gainesville, Fla.  The Bulldog men will be working to improve on their second-place showing last season.  Georgia then has the NCAA South Regionals in Tuscaloosa, Ala., (November 15), a meet where UGA went second (men) and third (women) in 2012.  As usual, the Bulldogs will aim to conclude their season at the NCAA Championships on November 23 as the meet returns to Terre Haute, Ind.

    Men - The Kentucky men’s cross country team opens the season Friday at the Belmont Opener in Nashville, Tenn. Leading the way for the Wildcat men in 2013 will be Matt Hillenbrand, who enjoyed a breakout campaign on the track last season. Hillenbrand won the SEC Mile Championship and was second in the Conference 1,500m Championships. He reached the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 1,500m and was All-American in the event. The UK men’s XC team will also take on a fresh feel this season, welcoming new men’s distance coach Sean Graham as well as 14 newcomer competitors. Women - The Kentucky women’s cross country team opens the season Friday at the Belmont Opener in Nashville, Tenn. The UK women’s team will be led in 2013 by Cally Macumber. She won three races, including the SEC Championship and NCAA Southeast Regional before placing sixth at the NCAA Championships with a school record 6k time in 2012. The UK women’s team returns three All-Southeast Region selections to the 2013 squad: Macumber, Anna Bostrom and Allison Peare. The Wildcat women tied Duke for the most All-Region runners from the Southeast in 2013. Kentucky will welcome six newcomers to the women’s cross country team as the 2013 season begins.

    LSU’s cross country teams will open up the 2013 season on Saturday, Sept. 14, with a trip to Gainesville, Fla., to run the course at the Mark Bostick Golf Course at the Mountain Dew Invitational hosted by the University of Florida. When the Tigers and Lady Tigers open up the season, they will be led by a new coach as two-time Olympian Khadevis Robinson has joined Dennis Shaver’s staff as an assistant coach directing the cross country teams in the fall and the middle distance and distance groups on the track during the 2014 indoor and outdoor track and field seasons. Robinson joins the LSU staff in place of Mark Elliott, who was recently named the new director of track and field at Clemson University this summer. Robinson served in the same capacity at UNLV in 2011-12 and Ohio State in 2012-13 prior to his arrival in Baton Rouge this month. Robinson is also one of the most decorated middle distance runners in the history of USA Track & Field as an eight-time U.S. champion in the 800 meters following a brilliant collegiate career at TCU where he was crowned the 1998 NCAA Outdoor champion. He has also represented the United States at the Olympic Games in 2004 in Athens, Greece, and 2012 in London, England.

    Ole Miss
    Men - Ole Miss begins the 2013 cross country season at the Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic on Saturday, Aug. 31. The Rebels will travel the hour-plus drive north with nearly a brand new team from last season. Only two men return who participated in last year’s SEC meet – sophomore Ian Carter and junior Max Holman. Head coach Brian O’Neal has added several newcomers that are expected to help the team immediately, including Robert Domanic (Lewisville, Texas), Trevor Gilley (Southlake, Texas) and Mark Shaw (Middlesbrough, U.K.). Other newcomers are Ben Pleak (Marietta, Ga.), Arman Rehmann (Norcross, Ga.), Will Spiers (Tallahassee, Fla.), Jon Luke Watts (Columbia, Miss.) and Bingham Wikoff (Bay St. Louis, Miss.). Ole Miss finished 10th at last year’s SEC meet. Women - A year after earning their highest SEC cross country finish in program history, the Ole Miss women look to carry that momentum into 2013. They will start the campaign at the Brooks Memphis Twilight Classic on Saturday, Aug. 31. Despite losing Katie Breathitt (second team All-SEC, NCAA participant) and Anne Threlkeld (16th place at 2012 SEC meet) to graduation, the team returns key contributors in seniors Kayleigh Skinner and Amy McCrory and junior Haley Cutright. A large group of newcomers will compete for spots in the rotation. Those include Saga Barzowski (Ironton, Mo.), Scarlett Fox (Tampa, Fla.), Elisabeth Gaillet (Ridgeland, Miss.), Karlie Garcia (Roseville, Calif.), Annie Kelly (Alpharetta, Ga.), Sophie Linn (Adelaide, Australia), Tavyn Lovitt (Madison, Miss.), Michaela Quinn (Sydney, Australia), Kacy Smith (Estero, Fla.), Haley Ward (Athens, Tenn.), Katherine Yost (Norcross, Ga.) and Leanne Zimmer (Suwanee, Ga.). The Rebel women were fourth at last year’s SEC meet and placed fifth at the NCAA South Regional.

    Mississippi State
    Beginning the season in a new setting than previous years, the Mississippi State men's and women's cross country teams travel to Memphis, Tenn., Saturday, Aug. 31 to run in the Memphis Twilight hosted by Christian Brothers University. The Bulldog squads have consistently opened their season with the Sewanee Invitational, running and winning the meet four of the last six years. This season, MSU will kick off the year competing in a race under the lights at Mike Rose Soccer Complex. While both MSU teams are picked to finish 11th in the Southeastern Conference, the return of distance veterans will provide a boost in team leadership. The Maroon and White men will see all runners return, except for Philip Johnson. The Lady Bulldogs lose leaders Renee Masterson and Chloe Phillips, but will look to sophomore standout Cornelia Griesche and senior Katie Huston to lead the way. State will be joined in Memphis by SEC foe Ole Miss. Action is slated to begin Saturday at 8:20 p.m. After returning home from Tennessee, the MSU squads will prep for the Commodore Classic hosted by Vanderbilt on Saturday, Sept. 14.

    The University of Missouri will kick off the 2013 season on September 6 in Fayetteville, AR, in a dual against Arkansas.  Men – The Tiger men had a big year last year, making their way into the USTFCCCA National Rankings for the first time since 2000.  They will look to continue the forward momentum this year as most of the 2012 squad returns, led by senior Hayden Legg.  Legg was Second Team All-SEC last year, helping lead the black and gold to a third-place finish at the Championship.  He is joined by sophomores Tyler Schneider, Evan Chiplock, and Joe McKenna, who all made the All-SEC Freshman Team.   Other key returners include senior Merid Seleshi and junior Sam Dickerson. Women – The Tigers will look to juniors Liz Reida, Maria Effinger, Courtney Wood, Courtney Brown, and Ali Ross to take the lead on the young women’s squad.  This strong group of returners and an exciting incoming class look poised to continue making great strides forward as a program this year.

    South Carolina
    South Carolina returns six of its top seven runners from the championship distance last year, a year that the Gamecocks posted their best team finish in a decade. The squad brings back second-team All-SEC runner Kayla Lampe, who finished 17th in the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 10K last spring. Also returning are veterans Penny Boswell and Meredith Mill, who ranked third and fourth on the team in last year's NCAA Southeast Regional. And among the crop of rookie standouts, Mary Fouse, Christine Kent and Lisa Zimmer also return. They work with new cross country coach Andrew Allden, who returns after nine years working primarily in coaching education and with pros. Curtis Frye will also lend his expertise, as he takes the title of head coach while charging Allden with the distance and cross country groups. The Gamecocks have seven races on the docket for the fall before the Southeastern Conference Championships. Twice the Garnet and Black will take on 6K courses before the championship portion. Three of those events will keep South Carolina at home, including the team's first two. The Carolina Challenge opens the slate on Aug. 30, while the first Gamecock Invitational follows a week later.

    The season is fast approaching for the Tennessee men's and women's cross country squads. Both teams are set kick off the year at the Belmont Opener on Aug. 30 in Nashville, Tenn. Men – Junior Peter Okwera is set to lead the men's team again this year. The native of Kampala, Uganda, earned All-America honors in cross country last year and was the Vols' top finisher at every meet last season. He placed sixth at both the SEC Championships and the NCAA South Regional Championships. Other top returners include junior Austin Whitelaw (Monroe, Mich.), a member of the 2011 SEC All-Freshman team who had an injury-shortened 2012, and redshirt sophomore Kyle Walter (Knoxville, Tenn.), who recorded top top-20 finishes last season. Women – On the women's side, Alexis Panisse is back after her standout freshman season. She was the top finisher for the team in all but one meet last year and recorded two top-10 finishes, including a second-place result at the Crimson Classic in Alabama. She was named to the 2012 SEC All-Freshman Team. The Tennessee women were 12th at the SEC Championships and 10th at the NCAA regional last season.

    Texas A&M
    Men – Heading into its second season in the SEC, the Aggie men’s team will be led by a returning group that includes Isaac Spencer, Micah Dettmer, Colin Slattery and Ryan Miller. The top returning runners is Spencer, who placed 17th in the SEC last fall and then finished third in the SEC steeplechase and fifth in the 5,000 during the outdoor conference meet. Newcomers who may have an impact this season include Austin Wells, Ryan Teel, Cameron Villarreal and Alex Riba, who each qualified for the Nike national cross country meet last year. Texas A&M opens the season attempting to defend team victories the past two years at the Baylor Twilight on Aug. 30 in Waco. The Aggies bettered Baylor by a single point last season, 37-38. Women – A returning nucleus for the A&M women’s team includes Amanda Jenkins, Hillary Montgomery, Grace Fletcher, Gabby Salazar and Sophie Blake, who each competed in the SEC Championship meet last year. Jenkins was the top finisher at the SEC a year ago, placing 36th. Karis Jochen headlines a trio of Aggie newcomers for the women that includes Katie Willard and Katie Pia. Jochen is a two-time Texas Gatorade Cross Country Athlete of the Year who finished fifth in both the Nike and Foot Locker national meets last season. The A&M women open the season in Waco on Aug. 30 with the Baylor Twilight.

    Men - The Vanderbilt men's team was picked to finish in a tie for 12th in the SEC with LSU by league coaches. Junior John Ewing leads the way for the Dores on the men's side after a solid sophomore campaign. Fellow juniors Matthew Cleveland and Andrew Bachman will look to build off their sophomore seasons as well. Sophomore Nick French adds depth to the team and true freshman Jake Van Geffen has impressed coaches since his arrival on campus. The Commodores open the season on their home course at Percy Warner Park in the Belmont Opener on August 30. Women - Vanderbilt returns several top runners off last year's squad that finished third at the SEC Championship and made it's second straight trip to the NCAA Championships. The league's coaches picked the Commodores to finish third in the SEC this season. Reigning SEC Freshman of the Year and first team All-SEC runner Hannah Jumper leads the way for the Commodores. Senior Liz Anderson brings All-SEC credentials to the squad as well earning first team honors in 2011 and All-Freshman honors in 2010. Rebecca Chandler, Amira Joseph and Grace Orders all captured SEC All-Freshman honors two years ago and will look to contribute this season as juniors. The Dores open the season on their home course at Percy Warner Park in the Belmont Opener on August 30.