Oct. 2, 2007
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The third installment of the 2007 Division I Cross Country Regional Rankings has been released. Many of the same teams remain in the top 15, but some shifting has occurred between institutions.
The Vanderbilt women’s team fell two spots to eighth place in the South Region after spending last week ranked sixth. Head Coach Steve Keith knows that the loss of Julie Eckerly from this past weekend’s race due to injury played a significant role in the Commodores current standing.
“When Julie is unable to finish, then we drop back further than what a 100 percent healthy team would be,” said Keith. “You take that in stride, but that’s why polls are fun to look at because the only one that really does matter is the one at the end of the season.”
At the Colonial Inter-Regional Challenge, the Commodores ran against a tough field that included two current nationally ranked teams: Virginia Tech (#23) and Georgetown (#25). As a result, Coach Keith believes the team improved dramatically because of the experience.
“It helped us because you have to see what the upper level of teams are running in order to know where you need to go,” commented Keith. “In some respects, it’s a little bit of an awakening. It helps preparation throughout the season.”
In all, the Southeastern Conference placed seven teams in the top 15 of the South Region, with three in the top four. Florida State retains the top spot in the region for a third straight week in 2007.
The Vanderbilt men’s cross country team dropped to 14th place overall in the South Region after the team jumped to 12th in last week’s rankings. Similar to the women’s team, the men’s team was without one of their top runners, Austin Williamson, for the Greater Louisville Classic.
“When you don’t run with your number one runner (Austin Williamson), you’re going to suffer,” said Keith, adding, “That’s simply reflected in the polls. With Austin in there, we would probably gain at least 100 to 130 points on the team score.”
Alabama has been the top ranked team in the South Region for all three weeks of the season, and five of the top seven ranked teams in the region are from the Southeastern Conference.
In the end, Coach Keith knows that results matter more than rankings, saying, “Polls are not the be-all and end-all by any means. If I was ranked number one or ranked number 20, I’d be saying the same thing. When we run at the Arkansas meet in two weeks against more nationally ranked teams, hopefully we have learned a little bit.”
The men’s and women’s cross country teams will race again on October 13. The men will be in Fayetteville, Ark., for the Arkansas-Chile Pepper. The women’s team will split squads. One squad will run in Fayetteville, Ark., at the Arkansas-Chile Pepper, while another squad will travel to Chattanooga, Tenn., to participate in a race hosted by UT-Chattanooga.