Oct. 28, 2011
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -
The 2011 Vanderbilt cross country teams head to Maryville on Monday, October 31st for a chance to do what no other group of Commodore runners has done before: win an SEC title.
"It's never been done before," said head coach Steve Keith. "And like I said, we've got to get over the hump. As of right now, we have no SEC title and we have not qualified for nationals. The girls have a lot to prove. And that's one of their main goals."
The women's team is coming hot off a second place finish at the Wisconsin-Adidas Invitational on October 14th, where they not only outran everyone's expectations, but their own as well. Led by senior Alexa Rogers, who set a new personal best on the 6K course with a time of 20:32, the Commodores beat 19 Top-30 nationally ranked teams, rocketing into the poll themselves for only the second time in school history--and this season--to find themselves at No. 3.
The team credits their "synergy" with their successes so far this season, and the girls are dedicated to win events, not for themselves, but for each other. With Rogers, Louise Hannallah, and Jordan White, who last year competed at the NCAA regionals, the core of the team has four years of experience guiding them.
"For Coach Riley and myself, and what we've been trying to do for the last five years or so--her recruiting the last four years of classes has just been great--it would be really special for the both of us," said Keith. "It's a lot of time to get your butt kicked before your kids develop, before you can get to that point where you can be in that conversation."
Last year, the women's team placed third behind Arkansas and Florida, who will provide stiff competition this year as well. Arkansas made the national list last week at No. 14, while Florida was receiving votes.
"If you look at the last few years the ladies have progressed nicely, we've gone from like 8th to 5th to 3rd..." Keith said of his team, stopping short of saying what's on everyone's mind. "It will be a real matchup with the top three teams, Florida and Arkansas (and Vanderbilt)."
Running will be Rogers, White, Hannallah, Kristen Smith, Liz Anderson, Kristen Findley, Kristabel Doebel-Hickok, Grace Orders, Amira Joseph, and Rebecca Chandler.