Nov. 11, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Coming off a strong showing at the Southeastern Conference Championships, the University of Kentucky men's and women's cross country teams head to Louisville, Ky., to compete in the NCAA Southeast Regional on Saturday with a bid to the NCAA Championships on the line.
The men's team will begin its 10,000-meter race at 10:00 a.m. ET at E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park. The women's race will follow soon after with its 6K race at 11:15 a.m.
"What you would like, is for everybody to rise to the competition," UK head coach Don Weber said. "The competition will be better, hopefully we'll be better."
The top two teams from each of the nine regions spanning the country will automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 22. The remaining 13 teams (men's and women's) of the NCAA field are chosen by at-large bids. At-large teams are selected based on their finish in their respective regional, as well as their results in the regular season. Final selections will be announced Sunday.
The men's cross country team enters Saturday's race coming off its best finish at the SEC Championships since 1993. Finishing in fourth place two weeks ago at the conference championship meet, Kentucky placed three runners inside the top 25.
"If the men run the way they did in the SECs, for the most part, I'll be pleased," Weber said. "There are a handful of them, though, that would do even better if they were a little bolder and less timid in their running. That's true for everyone though."
The women's team, led by junior Chelsea Oswald, finished in eighth last week in the SEC Championships. Oswald, a Medina, Ohio native, finished in 23rd. Like the men's team, Weber is looking for the women's squad to be more daring at the regional meet.
"We will need a better turnout this week from the women's team," Weber said. "I think the challenge is to not be as timid and as uncertain."
Competing in Saturday's race are teams from the states of Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The race features four teams on the men's side that are ranked in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association's top 30 poll, including N.C. State (No. 14), Eastern Kentucky (No. 20), North Carolina (No. 25) and Louisville (No. 26). The women's side features three teams ranked in the top 30, including N.C. State (No. 20), Virginia (No. 21) and North Carolina (No. 25).
The Wildcats should feel very comfortable Saturday at the E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park after having run the course Oct. 1 during the Greater Louisville Classic. There is one difference, though, as the men's race is a 10K on Saturday, while it was an 8K on Oct. 1. Also, the women's race is a 6K on Saturday, and was a 5K on Oct. 1.
The men have been led throughout the season by junior Luis Orta. Orta finished fifth at the SEC Championships two weeks ago, earning first team All-SEC honors in the process. It was the best finish by a UK runner since current assistant coach Thomas Morgan in 2003. Orta has finished in the top 10 in every race this season.
"He's had a very good season, I've been very pleased," Weber said. "But as the competition goes up, he has to be more daring as well. He needs to allow that better competition to bring about a better performance out of himself. Hopefully he'll have an opportunity to qualify for the national championships."
For all cross country news, including results from Saturday's NCAA Southeast Regional meet in Louisville, go to UKathletics.com.