Arkansas Men and Florida Women Claim SEC Cross Country Titles
Nov. 1, 2010
COLUMBIA, S.C. - The Arkansas men's cross country team ended its two-year SEC title drought with the program's 18th team title, and three Florida runners placed in the top eight of the women's race to lead the Gators to their second consecutive team title at the 2010 SEC Cross Country Championships held Monday morning at Hilton Field.
Mississippi's Barnabas Kirui won his third SEC cross country title in five years with a time of 23:52.07, becoming the fourth runner in SEC history to claim three league titles. Kirui capped his senior season with his best showing at the conference meet after also claiming titles in 2006 (23:53.24) and 2009 (24:24.75). He is the first back-to-back winner since Arkansas's Josphat Boit claimed titles in 2004 and 2005, and he is the first three-time winner since Alabama's David Kimani claimed three consecutive from 2000-02. The other top three finishers for the men included Auburn's Ben Cheruiyot (24:01.36) and Arkansas's Dorian Ulrey (24:03.46).
"It means a lot," Kirui said of his third individual title. "I've been training very hard for a long time. There have been ups and downs since I won the first time as a freshman, but it's great to win again in my last SEC Championship."
Georgia sophomore Kristie Krueger claimed the individual women's title at 20:41.25, making her the second Bulldog in four years to win the women's race. Krueger's title comes one year after placing 42nd as a freshman in her first conference meet. She was followed by Auburn's Hollie Knight (20:49.39) and Florida's Charlotte Browning (21:11.13) to round out the top three finishers.
"It was fun," Krueger said. "I'm just so excited. Freshman year I never would have dreamed that I could do this, but Coach (Jeff) Pigg and my teammates have helped me along. I just wanted to start out and see if I felt comfortable, at least to half way, and I was going to see how strong I felt and try to start pulling away. Thankfully I felt pretty good, so it turned out well."
Arkansas coasted to the men's team title with all five scorers placing in the top 10. The Razorbacks had runners in third, sixth, seventh, eighth and 10th to finish at 2:01:17 for 34 points. The top runner for Coach Chris Bucknam's squad was Ulrey, with teammates Eric Fernandez (24:10.12), Solomon Haile (24:17.35) and Bryan Cantero (24:22.16) placing sixth through eighth, respectively. Junior Dey Tuach came in 10th overall the clinch the title ahead of defending champion Alabama (2:02:42, 62 points) and Florida (2:03:06, 69 points). Tennessee and Mississippi rounded out the top five in the team standings, followed by Georgia, Mississippi State, Kentucky, LSU, Auburn and Vanderbilt.
"We're very happy," Bucknam said. "I'm proud of my athletes. I `m happy for them. They've worked awfully hard, and it's nice to show something from that hard work. We're excited about it and we're going to move to the national's now. Anytime you win an SEC title, it's the best. It's not easy to do. I'm really proud of our athletes. They did a great job."
The Florida women picked up their fifth team title by edging Arkansas by a single point, 60-61. The Gators had a time of 1:47:05 with Arkansas running 1:47:11 as the teams combined for five of the top 10 runners. Browning led the Gators in third and was followed by Rebecca Lowe in sixth (21:15.47) and Genevieve LaCaze in eighth (21:16.10). Cory McGee took 17th (21:38.33) and Stephanie Strasser finished 26th (21:49.94) to push the Gators to the overall title.
"The girls really believed that they were not gong to lose today," Florida cross country coach Todd Morgan said. "There was a lot of place changing even in the last 600 to 800 meters of the race, and it just shows the character of the girls to come out here and win this morning. To win last year was phenomenal, but to come back and win again is really a different approach. We've battled injuries and had to overcome some obstacles this season, but the girls have fought through that and they never had a doubt that they were going to win."
Arkansas had Miranda Walker and Stephanie Brown finish fourth and fifth, respectively, and three other runners also placed in the top 20 to give the team 61 points. Vanderbilt came in third (1:47:28, 76 points) with its highest finish in program history. Georgia (1:48:36, 130 points) and Mississippi State (1:49:49, 156 points) rounded out the top five team finishes on the women's side. The rest of the standings, in order, were Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, LSU and Tennessee.