SEC Championship Recap

SEC Championship Recap


COLUMBIA, S.C. — Despite several injuries the Commodore Cross Country teams held their own at the 2005 SEC Championship meet.

Led by junior Ashleigh Wetzel, the women placed seventh out of the twelve teams competing. The SEC pre-season coaches poll predicted VU to take fourth place at the event, but injury put the team’s lead runner, Erika Schneble, out of the contest.

“We really didn’t have one hitter up front for us,” VU Head Coach Jim Spivey said. “When Erika doesn’t race it really puts a lot of pressure on the rest of the team.”

In Schneble’s absence junior Wetzel took the lead for the Commodores. Though Wetzel placed fifth in the SEC last year, illness had kept her at the fourth runner position through most of this season.

“I had six weeks of training, more consistent training,” Wetzel said. “I’ve been healthier for longer coming into this race than any other race this season.”

Wetzel took 28th place overall with a 21:08 finish at the 6k. Amy Huss ran a race consistent with her past performances, finishing second for the Commodores with 21:12 and taking 31st place overall.

JulieEckerly finished 33rd overall with a mark of 21:21, despite complaints of knee pains throughout the course. Caitlin Shannon (21:24) and Whitney Thurman (21:46)rounded out the top five for Vanderbilt.

“I felt the team did well overall. The people who needed to move up moved up,” Wetzel said.

The men’s team also struggled with several injuries. Former fourth runner Matt Long was unable to participate due to an injury sustained earlier in the season. In addition, second runner Kyle Morrison fell ill Thursday night before the contest but still competed on Saturday.

The team placed 11th overall, a disappointing but not unexpected finish for the Commodores, according to VU Head Men’s Coach Don Bailey.

“It was kind of what I expected,” Bailey said. “This type of race requires lots of speed and anerobic strength. We just don’t have the roster full of top athletes that are capable of this, so we make the choice to focus more on long distance races, like the Regionals.”

Sophomore Austin Williamson led the Commodores with a 25:19 mark in the 8k event.

“I thought Austin could have placed higher individually,” Bailey said. “But he ran a smart and solid race.”

Senior Kyle Morrison finished behind Williamson at the 26:11 mark, followed by team captain Tyler Harlan at 26:14, senior Mike Gaske at 26:23, and freshmen Mike Nordlund at 26:27.

“This is a tough race,” Williamson said. “We weren’t quite as solid as we usually are throughout. This is similar to what happened last year at the tournament, but a performance like this just gets us fired up for the regionals.”

Nordlund was the only VU freshmen able to participate in the race this year but the rookie proved he earned his spot by setting another personal record time.

“Mike is real consistent and runs really tactically, especially for a freshmen,” Bailey said.

Next up for the Cross Country teams is the NCAA Regionals in two weeks.