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'Courageous' Macumber helps put UK in good Friday position at SECs

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Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart embraces Cally Macumber after her second-place finish in the 10k on Friday at the SEC Championships. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart embraces Cally Macumber after her second-place finish in the 10k on Friday at the SEC Championships. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For a normal person, preparing to run more than six miles is a months-long undertaking.

Cally Macumber needed only a few days after she decided to run the 10,000-meter race at the Southeastern Conference Track and Field Championships.

"It wasn't originally the plan to run the 10," Macumber said. "Kind of a last-minute decision to try and get some points for the team."

The decision paid off for both Macumber and her Kentucky team. She ran the 10k in 34:01.52, finishing second behind Arkansas' Dominique Scott to pick up eight important points for the Wildcats.

"Anytime you gotta be crazy or courageous enough to volunteer to run a 10k, you're a special athlete," UK head coach Edrick Floreal said. "She performed very special."

The performance was even more special considering Macumber's history in the 10k. A year ago, she finished seventh at SECs in the same race.

"It was a hard decision to make not having the best track record with it," Macumber said. "But I knew it would really help my team and once you think about that, it's worth it, the 25 laps."

It's that willingness to sacrifice for her team, in fact, that paved the way for her record effort.

"Getting them to the point where it's their idea is so important," Floreal said. "Had I forced her to do it, it would have been a different story. But she wanted to do it."

Macumber has always been a good teammate, but her attitude has undergone a change that represents the culture shift brought on by Floreal's arrival two summers ago. A promising, albeit inconsistent, performer in her first three years at UK, Macumber has transformed into an All-American under Floreal and women's distance coach Hakon DeVries.

"It's been crazy to watch," Macumber said. "Everyone, just as soon as Coach Flo stepped on campus, it was like a transformation with everybody, everyone's attitudes. It's been so exciting and without them I wouldn't have seen the improvements I've seen and I know the other kids on the team wouldn't have seen as big of improvements either."

Ibn Short and Nathan Donnellon joined Macumber as Friday point-scorers for UK, finishing fifth and seventh in the decathlon, respectively. Dezerea Bryant, Keilah Tyson, Kendra Harrison, Keffri Neal and Allison Peare, meanwhile, advanced to finals to put Kentucky in good position -- third on the women's side with 13 points, sixth on the men's with six -- entering Saturday and Sunday of a loaded SEC meet.

"All that stuff is good," Floreal said. "It's momentum. The kids in the locker room were very excited about where we are and about what their chances are of doing well. That's all I want. I just want them to give it their absolute best shot and where the chips fall, they fall."

All those laps behind her, Macumber will play a role in deciding where a few more of those chips fall. She will run as one of the favorites in the 5k late Sunday afternoon.

"I'm definitely looking forward to it," Macumber said. "I think I've got a little bit left in the tank. I have a day tomorrow to just cheer on my team, relax, chill out and then be ready to go Sunday."

The idea of running another three-plus miles in less than 48 hours might sound unpleasant, but it's exactly where Macumber wants to be.

"I love it," Macumber said. "I couldn't ask it for it to be in a better place my last year, going out on the home course with all my teammates and people supporting me. I'm just really happy to be here."

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