The Georgia cross country teams were in action at the Southeastern Conference Championships on Friday morning at Indian Pines Golf Course in Auburn, Ala. The women’s team managed a fourth place finish out of 14 teams, while the men’s team finished in ninth place out of 12 teams.
The Lady Bulldogs, ranked No. 24 in the nation, gained a total of 144 points, slightly edging out Missouri who scored 149 points. Arkansas, ranked fifth nationally, lead the pack of SEC teams with 24 points, marking their sixth straight league title.
This is the Lady Bulldogs' first top-four finish since they did it four seasons in a row from 2008-2011.
The women’s team was led by a seventh-place finish from their junior standout Jessica Drop. Drop, a Durham, Conn. native, burst into second place at one point during the race but eventually held onto a hard-fought seventh place. After her performance, Drop earned expected first team All-SEC honors for the second year in a row.
She was followed by strong finishes from Yanely Gomez and Grace Tavana, who came in 23rd and 27th place, respectively.
The last two women’s runners who scored were true freshman Anna Marian Block and senior Hailey Branch. Block had her first scoring performance of the fall after she finished at Athens Academy last spring. As for Branch, this her third SEC championship and her second time scoring at one since 2015.
“In the women’s race, Jessica Drop was in that top pack and in contention throughout the race,” said Bulldog distance coach Patrick Cunniff. “Anna Marian Block and Yanely Gomez had a great showing today and truly battled until the finish line.”
As for the men’s team, they struggled more than the women’s team.
They managed a 190-point performance that led them to their ninth place finish in the 8K race. The team was led by two underclassmen, Michael Hans and Sam Bowers.
Hans came in 26th place, marking the fourth time he has been the top finisher for the Bulldogs this fall. Bowers, who came in 28th place, earned expected SEC All-Freshman Team honors with his finish.
Junior Jonathan Pelham and senior David Navarro were next to score for Georgia, coming in 42nd and 44th place. Pelham improved his 75th placement from last year and shaved almost a minute and a half from his time as well. Navarro, who started in fall 2014, scored for the third time in his career.
Behind Pelham and Navarro, redshirt sophomore Nate Reichard was the final member of the men’s team to score, finishing in 52nd place. This is Reichard's first postseason, and he started it off by scoring at his third meet in a row.
“For the men, I think they had a good race plan and executed it well,” Cunniff said. “We moved up throughout the race and I was proud of (Jonathan) Pelham and (Daniel) Navarro for setting the tone and sticking in there. The future is bright with the finishes of our top two guys in sophomore Michael Hans and freshman Sam Bowers and now we have to get ready for Regionals in two weeks.”
This was the first meet of three possible postseason meets for both Bulldog teams. The women’s team is looking to qualify for its second-straight NCAA tournament appearance, while the men’s team is looking for its first berth since 2013.
“I’m really proud of both teams,” Cunniff said. “Today was a great reminder of how competitive and tough the SEC is. I think our teams competed as well as they could have out there.”