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    SEC Cross Country Today: Friday, August 30

    Florida Cross Country Sweeps Western Carolina Invitational to Open 2013 Campaign

    CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Seniors Mark Parrish and Agata Strausa claimed individual race victories to help lead the Florida men’s and women’s cross country squads to season-opening team victories at the Western Carolina Invitational in Cullowhee, N.C., Friday evening.

    In their season debut, the Gator women turned in a perfect 15-point score, sweeping the top five spots in the women’s two-mile field. Strausa led the way, followed by senior Shelby Hayes (Winter Park, Fla.), sophomore Julie Macedo (Wilmington, Del.), freshman Taylor Tubbs (Sebring, Fla.) and senior Stephanie Strasser (Fernandina Beach, Fla.) in second through fifth, respectively. Florida’s men’s squad notched a 28-point finish for the invitational title, using Parrish’s 5K win and three other top-six finishes to help lead the Orange and Blue to the team title. Behind Parrish, juniors Jimmy Clark (St. Johns, Fla.), Eddie Garcia (Jacksonville, Fla.) and JL Hines (Orlando, Fla.) crossed the finish line in third, fourth and sixth, respectively.

    On the women’s side, Furman (53) and High Point (81) claimed second and third behind Florida and High Point (43) and Furman (54) additionally rounded out the second and third-place finishers in men’s action.
     


     

    Gamecocks Take Seven of Top 14 Finishers in Carolina Challenge
                     
    COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina cross country team showed off its strong depth in its first race of the year, as seven of the top-14 finishers in the Carolina Challenge came from the host Gamecocks.

    South Carolina, which finished second in the team standings, saw junior Meredith Mill go out for the win with a strong early push. Leading after almost half the race, she crossed the line in fourth, leading the Gamecocks with her 18:49.26 time. Senior Penny Boswell and freshman Mary Reiser finished seventh and eighth at 19:08.19 and 19:09.51, respectively, matching team champion Coastal Carolina with three racers in the top nine.

    The quality of the Gamecock roster’s strong middle showed next, with freshman Martha McCoy claiming 10th in 19:33.00. Sophomores Christine Kent (19:33.67) and Brandy Wybersky (19:33.80) took 12th and 13th while freshman Melanie Ng (19:34.71) came in 14th overall with a 19:34.71 clocking.

    Coastal won the team race by two points, 39 to 41, over South Carolina, but assistant track coach Andrew Allden, who leads the cross country team’s efforts, said he was pleased with his team’s efforts. He points to the return of all-region performer redshirt sophomore Kayla Lampe and others who could help the team achieve even more this fall.

    Other Gamecock finishers included sophomore Stephanie Berger (19th, 19:43.82), sophomore Allie Whitley (24th, 20:08.05), freshman Meri Heneage (29th, 20:21.68), freshman Sarah Falta (32nd, 20:24.97), sophomore Alex Mullin (34th, 20:40.22), freshman Brittany Day (35th, 20:47.66), junior Sarah Pellegrini (37th, 20:51.60), sophomore Anna Todd (41st, 20:57.28), senior Liz Locke (43rd, 20:59.32), sophomore Courtney Swink (46th, 21:09.79), sophomore Kaleigh Higgins (53rd, 21:22.40), freshman Haley Saxby (69th, 23:04.27),

    South Carolina hosts its second home meet of the year, the Gamecock Invitational #1, next Friday evening at Hilton Field.
     


     

    Hillenbrand’s Top-5 Finish Starts UK Cross Country Season

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Kentucky cross country program opened the 2013 season at the Belmont Opener on Friday. The Wildcats were led by Matt Hillenbrand’s fifth place finish on the men’s side and a ninth-place performance from Cally Macumber on the women’s side.

    The 5,000 meter races were scored with a unique dual meet format as UK was only scored against Vanderbilt and Tennessee, the other two Southeastern Conference opponents in the field.

    Both the men’s and women’s teams split the results against UT and Vandy.

    The UK Men defeated Vandy, but lost to UT. The UK women beat UT, but dropped the dual meet to Vandy.

    Hillenbrand covered the Percy Warner Park course in 15:52.75 to earn a top-4 finishing spot. Freshman Zach Beavin was the No. 2 Wildcat finisher, as he placed 14th with a time of 16:14.66.

    Macumber crossed the finish line in 18:26.95. Allison Peare was 13th with a time of 18:36.44, and Anna Bostrom placed 16th with a time of 18:46.36. Macumber, Peare and Bostrom were all All-Southeast Region selections in 2012.

    Kentucky’s next meet will be the program’s first home meet in more than a decade. The Bluegrass Cross Country Invitational will be held at Masterson Station Park on Saturday, Sept. 14 - the day of the UK vs. Louisville football game - at 9:30 a.m. ET.
     


     

    Commodores claim second at Belmont Opener

    Nashville, Tenn. - The No. 20 Vanderbilt women's cross country team claimed second place at the Belmont Opener at Percy Warner Park Friday afternoon with five runners in the top 15.

    Sophomore Vanessa Valentine paced the team with a time of 18:25.20 to take eighth place overall. After Valentine, the Dores came home in pairs with freshman Courtney Kriegshauser and junior Rebecca Chandler crossing the line in 10th and 11th overall. Freshman Carmen Carlos and junior Claire Benjamin placed 14th and 15th respectively. For Kriegshauser and Carlos it was their first-ever collegiate race. Kriegshauser covered the 5K course in 18:28.37 and Carlos in 18:38.71. Benjamin shattered her 5K cross country personal best, running the race in 18:44.35 to top her previous best of 20:23.10. Junior Katherine Delaney finished in 19:04.60 with freshman Reagan Anderson coming in next at 19:11.70. Sara Barron notched a time of 19:23.38 just in front of senior Megan Yohe, who finished in 19:25.74.

    Lanni Marchant of the Nashville Harriers took the top spot with a time of 17:08.30 with Lipscomb taking the team title.

    In the men's race, freshman Jake Van Geffen led the way for the Dores with a time of 16:52.84 in his first collegiate race. John Ewing followed with a time of 17:02.50 and Nick French ran 17:14.45 over 5K. Vandy's top five was rounded out by Matthew Cleveland at 17:22.16 and Sam Reilly at 17:26.21. For Reilly it was his first race as a Commodore after transferring from Bates College. Andrew Bachman stopped the clock at 17:34.30 and David McAdams at 17:35.59. Freshman Sam Andrews finished in 17:53.29 in his first collegiate race. Andrew Fix clocked in at 18:04.22 and Dan Henderson came across the line at 19:16.34 to round out the Commodores' squad.

    Tennessee's Peter Okwera took home the men's top time at 15:41.85.

    The Commodores' return to Percy Warner Park on September 14 to host the Commodore Classic.
     


     

    Tennessee's Okwera Wins at Belmont Opener

    NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Junior Peter Okwera won his first collegiate cross country title as Tennessee started the 2013 season Friday night at the Belmont Opener.

    Okwera off Belmont's Matt Miller in a sprint through the finish line, completed the extended 5,000-meter course in 15 minutes, 41.85 seconds at Percy Ward Park.

    The Vols' returning All-American was not the only runner in orange and white in the front of the pack. Tennessee's men placed three in the top 10 with Kyle Walter (15:58.54) finishing sixth and Stephen Derlath taking ninth (16:02.62).

    In the women's competition, freshman Emily Williams paced the Tennessee runners in her career debut. Williams crossed the line in 18:49.05. Top UT women's returner Alexis Panisse was 28th in 19:06.75.

    Both racing did not use traditional cross country scoring but instead used a dual meet format. The race was also slightly longer than a 5k. The men defeated SEC foes Kentucky and Vanderbilt, while the women lost to both rivals.

    The winner's circle was a long time coming for Okwera, who recorded five top-10 individual finishes last year as a sophomore. He placed third at the Belmont Opener a year ago and was a season-set second at Commodore Classic.

    "Peter had a couple of tough races last year that he didn't win but was very close," Tennessee director of track and field/cross country J.J. Clark said. "He looked good. He looked very controlled."

    In all, the Vols had five finishers in the top 20. Austin Whitelaw was 15th (16:15.74) and J.R. Creekmoore was 19th (16:26.85).

    "It was exciting to see the men's team get going," Clark said. "They've had a good summer. No one graduated from last year, so I look forward to seeing their progress as the year continues."

    Williams provided the highlight for the Lady Vols, which had its top five runners place in the top 51. Williams and Panisse where followed by Chelsea Blaase (38th, 19:26.65), Patavia Lowery (46th, 19:54.83) and Kianna Ruff (51st, 20:03.43).

    Redshirt senior Kelsey Kane was back in competition for the Lady Vols. She finished shortly after Ruff in 53rd (20:14.75).

    "The women had a bright spot in Emily, our newcomer, being our first runner this meet," Clark said. "I thought that she did a great job on that. Our team on the women's side needs to gel a little more. That needs a little work. We'll see what we can do in the next six weeks. I believe we'll come together and run a much better race."
     


     

    Auburn Cross Country Men Win Trojan Invite, Women Second

    Troy, Ala. – The Auburn cross country teams opened the 2013 season with a first-place team finish on the men’s side, while the women finished second Friday at the Trojan Intive hosted by Troy University.

    Junior Francis Hernandez led the Tiger men with a first-place overall finish in the 5k run with a time of 16:10.62. Auburn had five top-10 finishers as Jason Miller finished fourth (16:41.84), Andrew Scott was fifth (16:41.84), Reid McClenny took ninth (17:07.46) and Hunter Hayes claimed 10th (17:07.81).

    “To get a win in first meet of the season is a very positive start to season for our men,” said head cross country coach Mark Carroll. “It was great to see Francis get his first win at Auburn. He looked strong and took control of the race from the start and never let up. We did a good job of pack running with five guys in the 10 ten with Jason, Andrew, Reid and Hunter all finishing in the top ten. It was a good confidence builder for him and the rest of the team as we prepare for the next meet in two week.”

    The men tallied 27 total points to claim the team title, outdistancing second place South Alabama who had 34 points. Troy (74 pts) was third followed by Alabama State (100).

    In her first collegiate race, freshman Veronica Eder was the top Auburn women’s finisher in the 3k race, taking third place in a time of 10:55.59. Fellow freshman Rachel Givens took fourth in 10:56.46 while Sage Blackwell finished 10th (11:09.90) Kristin Sheehan (11:22.34) finished 14th and Emily Stevens (11:32.18) was 20th to round out the Tigers’ top-20 finishers.

    “I was very impressed with our women ad with Veronica and Rachel finishing third and fourth,” Carroll said. “Veronica ran from the front and led through the first mile before getting caught, but overall she had a great run for a newcomer. Veronica and Rachel for freshmen had great starts to their college careers and overall for the team was a positive start to the season.”

    UAB won the women’s team title with 31 points, followed by Auburn with 50. Georgia State was third (85 pts) and South Alabama (105 pts).

    The Tigers will return to action in two weeks as they travel to Gainesville, Fla., to compete in the Mountain Dew Invite.

    “We’re excited about our next meet in two weeks in Gainesville,” Carroll said. “It is where we will have an opportunity to preview the course that will host the SEC Meet later this season."
     


     

    Aggie men and women each place fourth at Baylor Twilight meet

    WACO – Texas A&M opened its cross country season with a pair of fourth place team finishes at the Baylor Bear Twilight Invite on Friday evening.

    The Aggie women scored 138 points to place behind Baylor (26), SMU (29) and Texas (84) as A&M bettered North Texas (162), Houston (174), Texas State (175) and TCU (216).

    A team score of 109 points placed the Aggie men behind North Texas (37), Texas (48) and Baylor (70) while A&M bettered Houston (114), TCU (156) and Texas State (171).

    “It was a good rust buster for some of our kids and for us to see some new faces,” noted Texas A&M assistant coach Wendel McRaven. “There was a mix of newcomers as well as some who have not raced in cross country for a while.

    “Overall, we had positive insights into where we are right now. We’ll get a better idea in a couple of weeks when we line up our full squad at Rice.”

    Micah Dettmer and Austin Geerts led the Aggie men by placing in the top 15 among the field of 65 finishers. Dettmer covered the 6,000-meter course in 19:18.5 while Geerts crossed the finish line in 19:21.6. The next three A&M finishers were spaced out a bit as Jake Roberts ran 19:29.6 for 22nd place as Aaron Murray finished 28th in 19:44.9 with Bobby Zeller 37th at 19:56.6.

    “I was really pleased with Dettmer, Geerts and Roberts,” said McRaven. “All three battled back from some adversity over the past couple of years.”

    Leading the Aggie women were Lauren Fontana and Ashley Chamberlain as they placed 28th and 29th among 89 finishers. Fontana ran 14:59.9 over a 4,000-meter course as Chamberlain finished in 15:00.4. A tight pack followed with Katie Willard in 37th with a 15:04.6, Meredith Gleitz placing 39th in 15:06.7 and Heather Sterling 40th with a time of 15:08.7.

    “It was nice to see Fontana run like that after she had surgery in her senior year of high school and didn’t run in her first season at A&M,” McRaven said. “It’s also nice to see Chamberlain turn in that kind of performance in her first ever cross country race.”

    The rest of the men’s group included Dillon Worley (40th, 20:02.3), Colin Stoeber (44th, 20:07.3), Cameron Thornton (54th, 20:42.5), and Dylan Williams (58th, 21:06.3).

    Johanna Galloway was the sixth finisher for the A&M women, placing 42nd (15:11.8), with another trio of Aggies placing 51st, 52nd and 55th with Katie Pia (15:21.2), Haley Deakins (15:22.8) and Caitlin Gilmore (15:30.3). The rest of the crew included Rachel Williams (58th, 15:31.2), Emily Willingham (62nd, 15:38.6) and Sara Shaw (70th, 16:04.0).