Sept. 4, 2009
LEXINGTON Ky. -
The Kentucky men's and women's cross country team open their season slate Friday afternoon at Eastern Kentucky University's wood chip trail in Richmond, Ky. against Marshall University and the host Colonels, beginning with the women's race at 4:00 p.m. ET followed by the men one hour later.
"Early season meets are a pretty accurate indication of the quality of the training each individual athlete took upon themselves during the summer," said UK head coach Don Weber. "That personal investment in their careers will be obvious in the race Friday, but more important the self-motivation their summer training was rooted in will pay-off over the entire year."
The Wildcat women are coming off of their fifth NCAA Championship bid in school history. UK finished 31st in the nation in 2008 and return four harriers from that squad in seniors Lindsay Petri and Claire Laverty along with juniors Katherine Peterson and Suzanne Holt. This year's squad features nine freshmen that should provide youthful support to the small group of veterans.
On the other hand, the UK men only feature two newcomers to this year's squad that returns six runners from a team that placed 13th at the NCAA Southeast Regional last season. Junior Adam Henken looks to lead the Blue and White after running as an individual competitor at the NCAA Championships last year. Henken crossed the finish line first for the Cats in six of seven meets in 2008.
The Wildcats return to EKU after a one-year hiatus; in 2007 both UK squads ran away from the Colonels and Thundering Herd. In that meet, the Kentucky women finished eight runners in the top 12 including three upperclassmen set to lead this year's squad: Petri, Peterson and Laverty. Meanwhile, the UK men placed seven harriers in the top 13 including 2009 juniors Henken and Matt Wagner in their freshman debuts.
Wildcats picked in middle of SEC by conference coaches
The Kentucky women's and men's cross country squads were voted to finish sixth and seventh, respectively, in the Southeastern Conference standings according to the conference head coaches, the league office in Birmingham, Ala., earlier this week.
Last preseason the Wildcat women were picked fifth while the UK men held the eighth spot. At the 2008 SEC Championships in Starkville, Miss., the women finished sixth and the men took home seventh.
"We anticipate both teams will be better than we have been in the past, so we are eager to see where we are now this weekend and hopefully everyone will leave the meet eager and encouraged about where we go from here," Weber said.
After Kentucky opens the 2009 schedule this weekend at EKU, the Wildcats stay in the Bluegrass state through early October. UK travels to Bowling Green, to participate in the Old Timers Classic hosted by Western Kentucky University in two weeks then run in the Derby City on the opening weekend of next month.
Later in the season, the Cats wrap up the regular season at Penn State before the postseason begins at the SEC Championships at Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss., on Halloween. UK returns to Louisville in mid-November to race in the NCAA Southeast Regional.
As the defending SEC Champions, the Crimson Tide has claimed two titles for the program's history. Their 2008 title snapped a 17-year reign for the Arkansas Razorbacks in cross country titles.
In the women's poll, Florida received eight first-place votes and tallied 15 total points for the top spot. The defending champion Arkansas Razorbacks received four first-place votes and posted 18 points for second-place.
Points for the men's poll were awarded on a 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10 basis while the women's poll was awarded on a 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11 basis.
SEC Women Ranking Total Points
1 Florida 15
2 Arkansas 18
3 Tennessee 38
4 Auburn 45
5 Georgia 56
6 KENTUCKY 63
7 Alabama 67
8 Vanderbilt 75
9 Mississippi State 88
10 South Carolina 101
11 Ole Miss 112
12 LSU 117
Ranking Total Points
1 Alabama 11
2 Auburn 23
3 Arkansas 26
4 Florida 37
5 Tennessee 51
6 Mississippi State 58
7 KENTUCKY 62
8 Georgia 64
9 LSU 86
10 Ole Miss 89
11 Vanderbilt 98
New web features debut in September
Two new web features related to UK cross country and track and field make their debut this month. "Mondays with Mort" features insight from assistant coach for cross country and distance John Mortimer. A sneak peak of the feature in which Mortimer discusses the season outlooks for each Wildcat squad will be posted Friday.
In addition, UK track and field All-American Ashley Muffet with offer commentary and unique athletic features from an athlete's perspective in "Off the Cuff."
Stay tuned to UKathletics.com for all of the latest Kentucky cross country news.