Sam Drop

Szm Drop runs at the SEC Cross Country Championships at the UGA Golf Course in Athens, Ga. on Friday, Oct. 27, 2017. (Photo by Caitlyn Tam)

Georgia’s cross country team starts the season on Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina, seeking to make history on the women’s side and make strides on the men’s side. All five scorers for the women’s team return this year, while the men’s team lost four of its regular scorers.

Georgia’s women’s team returns two All-Americans in Jessica and Samantha Drop, along with junior Yanley Gomez, and seniors Hailey Branch and Grace Tavani. After a 17th place finish at the national championship meet last year, the Bulldogs are relying on their veterans to get them back to where they were last season.

“It’s a group that they really know what they can do and I think they’re growing into the confidence that they belong at that level,” head coach Patrick Cunniff said of the women’s team.

Cunniff has decided to rest his five returning scorers on the women’s side for the Charlotte Opener to ensure that they are ready for next weekend’s home meet. Cunniff said that this meet will serve as a good preseason assessment for his runners.

“We definitely want to keep it controlled, but I think we all just want to see how we’re feeling,” junior Tiffany Yue said. “Also just seeing how we work together as a team in what we can take as a controlled race.”

The women’s team was picked to finish 19th in the nation this year in the USTFCCCA preseason coaches’ poll. They are picked to finish second in both the Southeastern Conference as well as the southern region.

On the men’s side, senior Daniel Navarro is returning after missing all of last season due to injury. Navarro will lead the team along with 2017 scorers Michael Hans, Tyler Jones and Jonathan Pelham.

Last season the men’s team finished sixth in the SEC Championship, but failed to qualify for nationals. This year the men are picked to finish eighth in the SEC and ninth in the southern region.

“We want to see people seize the opportunity,” Cunniff said of the men’s team. “We want to see people believe that they can step into those spots and keep our team at a high level.”

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