Cross Country Gears Up for SEC Championship
Oct. 29, 2009
AUBURN, Ala. - The Auburn cross country squads continue its 2009 season with one of the more important meets of the year, the SEC Championship, that is being held on Sat., Oct. 31 in Oxford, Miss. The meet, hosted by Ole Miss, will be held on the universities golf course and will consist of a men's 8k race that begins at 10 a.m. followed by the women's race at 11 a.m.
The meet will serve as a warm-up prior to the Nov.14 NCAA South Regional Meet in Tuscaloosa. The forecast for the race looks to be perfect, with sunny skies and a high of 70 degrees being predicted.
The women enter the race ranked behind Florida, Tennessee, and Georgia, who occupy three of the top-four spots in the most recent NCAA South Region poll. Alabama ranks a spot behind the Tigers with a No. 6 regional ranking, while the Vanderbilt Commodores are No. 7.
For the fourth time in four races, Holly Knight was the top finisher for the Tigers at the NCAA Pre-National meet, coming in 21st place with a time of 21:10.4. Additionally, she was the top-SEC finisher in the race in what was her first 6k race of the season. Knight will look to improve on her runner-up finish at the SEC Championship from a year ago as she finished 11 seconds behind meet champion Catherine White of Arkansas (20:18.52).
Stephanie Barnes finished second for the Tigers at Pre-Nationals for the third time on the year with a time of 21:32 to place 44th. She will look to hold steady as Auburn's No. 2 runner as she has been for much of the 2009 campaign.Senior Laurel Pritchard was Auburn's other top-20 finisher for the Tigers in last season's SEC Championship, as she clocked a 21:34.39 to place 20th. She has improved in each SEC Championship in her career, as she placing 37th as a freshman and 35th as a sophomore.
Junior Allison Smith will run in her third championship meet, as she placed 81st as a freshman and 65th as a sophomore. Fellow junior Cathryn Albright will run in her second SEC Championship as she placed 84th with a time of 24:08.26.
The surging Auburn men's team moved up five spots in the most recent south region poll, as the team was ranked No. 8 prior to their sixth-place finish at NCAA Pre-Nationals. Alabama figures to be the team to beat, as the Crimson Tide are ranked No. 7 nationally and hold the No. 1 spot in the latest regional poll. Tennessee and Florida occupy the No. 4 and No. 5 spots in the regional rankings, followed by No. 7 Georgia.
Junior Ben Cheruiyot, placed 10th at the Pre-National meet after he clocked a time of season-best 8k time of 24:03.5. Cheruiyot has now finished first in every Auburn meet this season. He enters Saturday's race knowing something about cross-country titles, as he captured the NJCAA National title for Rend Lake C.C. in 2007. The time is Cheruiyot's best of the season, as he previously ran a 25:05.4 at the Wisconsin adidas Invite.
All-American Felix Kiboiywo, running in his second meet of the season at NCAA Pre-Nationals, placed 14th with a time of 24:08.4. Both runners finished No. 1 and No. 2 as SEC runners, as the closest finisher was Alabama's Julius Bor who placed 15th. Kiboiywo placed fourth at last season's meet with a time of 23:26.98, behind a pair of former teammates, Girma Mecheso who won the race (23:11.26) and Elkanah Kibet (23:20.35) who placed third.
As a team last season, the Tigers finished second with 62 points, 30 points behind meet champion Alabama.
A pair of Auburn seniors will look to play a large role on Saturday in Jean-Pierre Weerts and Scott Novack. Novack will be competing in his fourth and final championship meet. In 2006, he was Auburn's top-finisher at the race with a 48th place finish, and placed 42nd as a sophomore in 2007. Last season, he played a key part in Auburn's runner-up finish, coming in as the Tigers fourth finisher with a 22nd-place finish.
Weerts has been a steadying force for the Tigers this season, as he has finished been the Tigers second and third finisher on two occasions each. Last season, he placed 39th with a time of 25:22.22 at the league meet after missing the majority of the 2008 season due to injury.
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