Commodores prepare for SEC Championships Friday

The Commodores will compete in the Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships Friday at Indian Pines Golf Course in Auburn, Ala.

Eleven Vanderbilt participants, topped by redshirt junior Sara Tsai, are entered in the meet. She will be joined by senior Devon Grisbaum, juniors, Kacie Breeding, Kendall Derry, Caroline Pietrzyk and Mailin Struck, sophomores Anna Grace Morgan and Gillian Mortimer, and freshmen Grace Jensen, Alena Sapienza-Wright and Haley Walker.

Steve Keith’s Commodores are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2017 conference meet when several key injuries resulted in a depleted team that finished ninth overall.

“This is a championship meet and we want to see everybody’s best effort this Friday,” Keith said. “This team is coming into the meet off two good weeks of work and preparation, so I’m excited to see how we compete.”

Keith is looking for the Commodores. to compete for a top-five team result behind pre-meet favorites Arkansas, Georgia and Ole Miss. In their last competition, the Dores earned a third-place finish at the Arturo Barrios Invitational in College Station, Texas.

“As a team, we want to show more consistency,” Keith said. “I’d like to see Sara run her race, the freshmen contribute to progress and some of our returnees come up with big efforts.”

Tsai is looking to claim All-SEC honors for a second time, following up her 11th-place overall finish in 2016. She has been solid throughout the 2018 campaign. Opening the year with a strong performance at the Auburn Invitational in early September, Tsai has been the Commodores’ fastest runner in four competitions. In her last race, Tsai finished 13th of 166 entrants at the Barrios Invitational.

The Commodores will look to Pietrzyk and the freshman trio of Jensen, Sapienza-Wright and Walker to push Tsai. Pietrzyk, a first-team All-SEC performer in 2015, is back from injury and finished just behind Tsai at the Auburn Invitational. Walker, Sapienza-Wright and Jensen have shown excellent development in their first year on campus, and are coming off top-five team results at the Barrios Invitational.

The women’s competition, staged over a six-kilometer distance, will start at 9 a.m. CT.

Vanderbilt team results at the SEC Cross Country Championships

The Commodores have captured one SEC Cross Country Championship title, coming in 2011 at Maryville, Tenn. Vanderbilt dominated that edition, defeating runner-up Arkansas by 31 points.

From the 2010-16, the Commodores earned a top-five team result in every conference meet. Besides the 2011 win, Vanderbilt claimed a second-place finish in 2014 and third-place results in 2010, 2012 and 2015.

Top Commodore individual performance at the SECs

Pietrzyk became one of five Vanderbilt first-team All-SEC recipients when she claimed a third-place individual finish at the 2015 edition.

Pietrzyk’s performance ranks as the second-best effort by a Commodore at the SEC meet, trailing only a runner-up finish by Alexa Rogers in 2011. Rogers was one of three Commodores to finish in the top eight at the meet, helping Vanderbilt claim the team title.

Vanderbilt’s all-time All-SEC performers:
2016    Sara Tsai, 2nd team All-SEC
2015    Caroline Pietrzyk, 1st team All-SEC, All-Freshman
2014    Katherine Delaney, 2nd team All-SEC
Claire Benjamin, 2nd team All-SEC
Sara Barron, 2nd team All-SEC
2013    Liz Anderson, 1st team All-SEC
2012    Hannah Jumper, 1st team All-SEC, All-Freshman
Kristen Findley, 2nd team All-SEC
2011    Alexa Rogers, 1st team All-SEC
Liz Anderson, 1st team All-SEC
Jordan White, 1st team All-SEC
Louise Hannallah, 2nd team All-SEC
Kristen Smith, 2nd team All-SEC
Grace Orders, All-Freshman
Amira Joseph, All-Freshman
2010    Jordan White, 2nd team All-SEC
Rita Jorgensen, 2nd team All-SEC
Liz Anderson, All-Freshman
2009    Jordan White, All-Freshman
Allie Scalf, All-Freshman
2008    Kristabel Doebel-Hickok, All-Freshman
2004    Ashleigh Wetzel, 1st team All-SEC
2003    Erika Schneble, 2nd team All-SEC
2001    Kylene Kownurko, All-SEC
1999    Beth Van Dusen, All-SEC
1997    Christine Creighton, All-SEC
Pamela Johnson, All-SEC
1996    Whitney Spanuth, All-SEC
1992    Beth Tallent, All-SEC