Wildcats Race in NCAA Southeast Regional Saturday

Nov. 14, 2008

CLEMMONS, N.C. - The University of Kentucky cross country teams begin their quest for an NCAA Championship berth at the NCAA Southeast Regional hosted by Wake Forest University in Clemmons, N.C., on Saturday. The women's 6K race begins at 11:00 a.m. ET followed by the men's 10K race one hour later.

Last season, each team improved four spots over the previous year's finish in the final standings as the UK women's squad placed fourth and the men's team finished 12th at the 2007 Southeast Regional hosted by Louisville. Kentucky is the only Southeastern Conference institution participating in the regional that is predominantly made up of teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Entering the weekend, the Wildcat women rank seventh in the Southeast region and have been led all year by UK senior Jessica Ortman. Two weeks ago at the SEC Championships, Ortman continued her impressive season by finishing 15th overall with a season-best 6K time of 21:07 to lead the Wildcats to a sixth-place team finish. Ortman has crossed the finish line first for the Wildcats at each meet this season and nine of her 11 career races in the Blue and White.

Senior Andrea Halasek and sophomore Katherine Peterson have scored in each of UK's meets this season. Halasek owns the conference's 20th-best 6K time this season while Peterson ranks two spots behind her teammate. Additionally, senior Jenna Ortman, who owns the 19th-best time in the league, and junior Lindsay Petri have turned in top-five team finishes on four out of five occasions after each missed one meet during the year due to injury.

"On the women's side, we finished fourth last year at the regional meet," said assistant track and field coach for distance and cross country John Mortimer. "This year's predominant favorite, North Carolina State, is having a down year. So that opens up the meet to anyone really, like Wake Forest, North Carolina, Duke, us and a few others. This meet could be wide open. Our ladies' team was the first one out last year, which was heartbreaking, but we came back a lot more motivated this year."

The Kentucky men's squad ranks 12th coming into the Southeast Regional. The young men's squad has been led this season by sophomore Adam Henken who earned All-SEC Second Team honors at the league championships. Henken slowly worked his way up through the field passing several runners on the final two loops of the 8K course while posting a personal-best time of 24:12 to place 14th overall. The award is Henken's second from the conference after claiming All-SEC Freshman Team accolades last year. The Catharpin, Va., native has finished first on the team in four consecutive meets this season.

"To be an individual qualifier (at the NCAA Championships) you have to be one of the top four individuals not on a qualifying team," said Mortimer. "There are nine regions throughout the country but Adam certainly has the chance to make the Championships."

At the conference meet, junior Will Rover completed his best race as a Wildcat by finishing second on the team with a personal-best 8K mark of 25:08 to claim 32nd overall. Rover clocked in 90 seconds faster than his time at the 2007 Championships. Seniors Chris Long and Bruce Hordusky each ran their best 8K time of the year to score for the Wildcats at the conference meet.

UK junior Jeremy Zagorski has scored in each meet this season for the Wildcats while freshman Colin Heenan has continued his stellar rookie campaign by finishing in the team's top five on three occasions, including a first-place finish in the team's season opener.

"I have been telling our guys lately that we are a lot better than we were last year - and we are," said Mortimer. "On paper, we have had athletes improve dramatically from last year to this year."

Click UKathletics.com for a full recap and results from the NCAA Southeast Regional.