Cross Country: Cats Set for SEC Championships

Oct. 31, 2010

LEXINGTON, Ky. --  After four regular season meets, the Kentucky men’s and women’s cross country teams enter postseason competition as they head to Columbia, S.C., for the 2010 Southeastern Conference Championships on Monday.

The University of South Carolina will host the event at the Fort Jackson Army Training Center. The base's Hilton Field will be the site of the women's 6,000-meter race at 10 a.m. ET, followed by the men's 8,000-meter contest at 11 a.m. ET. SEC Weekly will feature a recap segment of the meet, televised by ESPNU on Nov. 3 at 5 p.m. ET.

 In his 27th-year, head coach Don Weber will lead seven men to Columbia, S.C., Stacey Eden (Simpsonville, Ky.), Colin Heenan (Liverpool, N.Y.), Matt Hillenbrand (Louisville, Ky.), Adam Kahleifeh (Milford, Ky.), Josh Nadzam (Monaca, Pa.), Luis Orta (Caracus, Venezuela) and Matt Wagner (Beavercreek, Ohio). The Wildcats are looking to improve on a seventh place finish last year in the event compiling 152 points.

The women will be traveling seven student-athletes as well, including Chelsea Oswald (Medina, Ohio) who will be making her first appearance since winning the Iona College Meet of Champions on Sept. 18. In addition to Oswald, Anna Bostrom (Versaillies, Ky.), Suzanne Holt (Greenville, Ky.), Cally Macumber (Rochester Hills, Mich.), Allison Peare (North Canton, Ohio), Taylor Wendler (Syracuse, N.Y.) and Hiruni Wijayaratne will make the trip to their fifth meet of the season. The women, like the men, look to improve on their finish from last year’s SEC Championship, where they finished eighth totaling 175 points.

“Chelsea has been cleared to run and she is very excited to be back and strong for the SEC Championships,” assistant coach Thomas Morgan said. “Her fitness has elevated and her motivation and leadership will set the mood for a inspired run into the postseason.”

Despite a roster that includes a majority of underclassmen – six sophomores, and three freshmen – the women’s team has finished outside the top five in only one of four meets this season. Oswald leads the way for the Wildcats after winning her second career individual title at the Iona Meet of Champions, breezing through the six-kilometer course to win by nearly 13 seconds. With Oswald’s performance and a seventh place finish by Wendler, the women took the team title as well. The women started the year on a high note, finishing runner up at the San Francisco Invitational when Oswald took second place and Wendler crossed the finish line seventh overall.

Oswald and fellow sophomore Orta, are coming off second team All-SEC and SEC All-Freshman team honors a year ago.

“Luis’s intelligence in training and racing will be a great asset for him in the upcoming postseason,” Morgan said. “He has progressed perfectly this season and his best running is ahead of him.”

Orta has competed in eight meets in two years at UK, posting team-best times in six of those competitions. He collected his first individual title this season at the San Francisco Invitational. Thanks in part to Orta’s outstanding run, the men’s team claimed a runner-up finish – its best of the year. In four meets this season, Orta has compiled three top-five finishes along with one top-25 performance. Junior Nadzam and Eden are main contributors as well, posting five combined second- or third-place finishes for the Wildcats.

The Cats closed out their regular season with a pair of fourth-place team finishes, including Orta’s second-place individual finish at the Blue Ridge Open on Oct. 15.

Both the men’s and women’s team are currently ranked in the Southeast Region listings heading into the conference championship and should be at full force for the first time since Sept. 18. Impressive performances from both teams at the SEC Championships will land the Wildcats in good position heading into the NCAA Southeast Regional held at E.P. Tom Sawyer Park in Louisville, Ky., Nov. 13.