Tuscaloosa, Ala. – The University of Alabama women’s team finished third at the 2014 SEC Cross Country Championships Friday in Tuscaloosa, marking a three-spot leap for the women in the standings from last year’s championship. The Crimson Tide men’s squad finished sixth, an improvement of five places from the squad’s 11thplace standing last year.
The Alabama women finished with 140 points, just behind Arkansas and Vanderbilt. The third-place women’s finish is the highest at a conference championship since the Tide finished second three years in a row from 1992-94. Arkansas won the team championship for the second year in a row. The Razorbacks earned a meet-low 32 points, placing the first and second place runners while. Junior Dominique Scott of Arkansas won the SEC women’s individual title for the second year in a row with a time of 19:22.74.
The Tide men finished sixth in the team standings with 195 points. Arkansas completed a sweep of the team championships with its fifth straight SEC men’s title, earning 52 points. Senior Stanley Kebenei from Arkansas won the men’s individual title with a time of 23:49.27.
At the two-kilometer mark of the six-kilometer race, the Tide women stood fifth behind Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Missouri and Florida. By four kilometers, Alabama had moved into third, passing both Missouri and Florida. The Tide and Missouri remained close for the remainder of the race, but Alabama was able to stave off the Tigers’ advances.
“Everyone ran really well today,” junior Katelyn Greenleaf said. “Overall, as a team, we did really well. You could tell that this was our home course. We had all of our track teammates out here and some of the other athletes from the other sports came to support us. I think the atmosphere today really helped us run our best.”
Alabama was led by Greenleaf in the 6k race. The Tide veteran finished 11th overall in a time of 20:23.62, a 21-second improvement from her time at last year’s championship. Sophomore Hannah Waggoner followed her teammate across the line in a time of 20:37.45 to finish 15th. Junior Kimberley Ficenec (20:59.03) and junior Rebecca Stover (21:14.38) crossed the line next in 32nd and 41st, respectively. Sophomore Allison Gregg (21:30.49) finished 51st to round out the scoring for the women’s team.
“I was extremely pleased with how the women finished today,” UA head coach Dan Waters said. “Taking a look at the women, that’s about where we thought we would finish going into the race. Every one of the athletes really competed hard. Katelyn [Greenleaf] did a fantastic job and so did Hannah [Waggoner]. Allison Gregg really stepped up today and ran a great race to finish in the fifth position for us. That was really the difference for our team.”
At two kilometers, the Alabama men were in 11th place. The team worked its way to eighth place through four kilometers and held on through five kilometers. By the finish, the team had pushed to sixth, its highest finish since a fifth-place finish at the 2011 conference championships.
“Today was really good,” senior Matt Airola said. “The race went a lot better than what I could have dreamed. We thought we could potentially finish fifth or sixth. The team is going to be a lot more positive after this race. Those of us who had a good run are going to continue with that positive motivation. I think regionals is the race where we are all going to come together.”
The men were led by Airola, who finished the 8k race in 12th overall in a time of 24:52.20. Sophomore Robbie Farnham-Rose followed with a 20th-place finish in a time of 25:03.60. Junior Parker Deuel (25:24.68) and sophomore Payton Ballard (26:02.66) crossed the line next in 32nd and 61st, respectively. Junior Eric Sivill (26:41.53) rounded out the scorers for the men’s squad with an 84th-place finish.
“On the men’s side, our athletes really showed up today,” Waters said. “They were tough. I was really pleased with a sixth-place finish. We moved up quite a few spots from last year. Matt [Airola] was phenomenal today and had his best race of the year. Robbie [Farnham-Rose] and Parker [Deuel] had their best races of the year. I was very happy with those three guys.”