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Cross country: Macumber, Oswald share close bond on and off the course

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Cally Macumber (right) and Chelsea Oswald (left) finished first and third, respectively, at the SEC Cross Country Championships. (Michael Rivera, UK Athletics) Cally Macumber (right) and Chelsea Oswald (left) finished first and third, respectively, at the SEC Cross Country Championships. (Michael Rivera, UK Athletics)
At one point in last weekend's Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships, University of Kentucky runners Cally Macumber and Chelsea Oswald were at the head of the pack, pacing the 124-athlete race.

Running side by side, the two have formed a dynamic duo for cross country coach Hakon DeVries' team, as Macumber took the heat for her second individual win of the year and Oswald finished less than 12 seconds behind her in third place.

As cool as it may appear to have your teammate right beside you in the biggest conference race of the year, the two have spent much more time away from the training course and have formed a special bond. Macumber, who is from Rochester Hills, Mich., and Oswald, from Medina, Ohio, stepped on the UK campus their freshmen year and immediately became close friends. The two are in the midst of their fourth consecutive year of being roommates and have a very good relationship, pushing each other to become a better runners every day.

"Cally is an amazing workout partner and an amazing person in general," Oswald said. "I definitely think we push each other everyday and that's helping both of us. "

Not only do they benefit from each other on the course, but off the course as well. By living together, the two can make sure they are living the running lifestyle outside of practices and events by eating right and working out together.

In his first year at the helm under Edrick Floreal, DeVries couldn't have found many runners that have better working relationships than Macumber and Oswald. DeVries believes that neither runner would be as successful as they are without the other right there training with them.

"They work their butts off in practice every day," DeVries said. "They are each better at different things which is nice because some days Cally is on and really pushing Chelsea and other days Chelsea is on and can really push Cally. The fact that they are really good friends and not overly competitive in practice, brings practice just to the right level."

The Wildcats finished up the SEC Championships in Nashville, Tenn., with the women placing fifth and the men coming in sixth. This was a major improvement for the women as they were voted No. 10 in the SEC preseason polls.

The team's progression has been key as they have stepped up their intensity in training with DeVries' coaching philosophies. The group has made a step in the right direction and it could mean a lot for the future of the program.

"I was definitely excited for how we did as a team," Oswald said. "Coming into the season we were ranked 10th in the SEC and I think one of our main goals was to improve on that and we ended up fifth, which I think was a big improvement and achieved one of our goals."

As for Macumber, the 2012 cross country season has been a memorable one. After an injury-plagued 2011 campaign, the junior has recorded a top-10 finish in all five races this year and has placed in the top two in all but one. She not only took the title at the SEC Championships, but became just the second Kentucky women's runner to accomplish the feat and the first in 23 years.

Macumber also achieved something that no other female UK runner has done before, as she was named the 2012 SEC Cross Country Runner of the Year.

With all the glamorous awards and accolades, she stays humble and realizes there is a bigger goal in mind with the postseason in her and the team's sights.

"There is always room for improvement I think and we are going to keep pushing each other and try to run the best we can in regionals," Macumber said.

Next up for the Cats is the NCAA Southeast Regional on Friday, Nov. 9 in Charlotte, N.C., In order to earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Championships, the Wildcats would have to place in the top two of the invitational. There are a few at-large bids that the committee will look at but DeVries doesn't want that to be the team's goal.

According to the rankings, Kentucky isn't supposed to finish near the top of the field but the Wildcats proved the SEC wrong and now it's their opportunity to do the same at regionals.

"They put out some rankings and that's not what we are ranked right now but that's why they run the race," DeVries said. "Everybody has to go out and perform on that day. That implies to Cally and Chelsea all the way down to our fifth, sixth and seventh girls so it's going to take a team effort and we will just have to see what happens out there."

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