NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WYMT) – All eyes around the Kentucky athletics world will focus on Nashville on Saturday, but the UK cross country teams will kick off the weekend – and the 2013 season – in the same city with the Belmont Opener of Friday.
Both the men and women will race across the same 5,000 meter course at Percy Warner Park. The veteran Wildcats are familiar with the course having competed in the same meet last season, as well as at the same park for the 2012 SEC Championships.
The meet will pit eight teams on the women’s side, and nine teams on the men’s side against one another, including Southeastern Conference foes Vanderbilt and Tennessee.
The men’s race will begin at 6:30 p.m. ET and the women’s race will start at 7 p.m.
“Pretty simply this is year two of a journey we began last season,” second-year head coach Edrick Floreal said. “We’re looking forward to moving on to cross country and getting our team to do better than last year. That is our goal from year to year: to keep improving, and put a product out there, which is worthy of what the University of Kentucky deserves.”
The UK women’s team will be led in 2013 by Cally Macumber. She won three races, including the SEC Championship and NCAA Southeast Regional, before placing sixth at the NCAA Championships with a school record 6k time in 2012.
Macumber was undefeated at Warner Park in 2012 having won both the SEC Individual Championship and the Belmont Opener.
The UK women’s team returns three All-Southeast Region selections to the 2013 squad: Macumber, Anna Bostrom and Allison Peare. The Wildcat women tied Duke for the most All-Region runners from the Southeast in 2013.
Kentucky will welcome five newcomers to the women’s cross country team as the 2013 season begins.
Leading the way for the Wildcat men in 2013 will be Matt Hillenbrand, who enjoyed a breakout campaign on the track last season. Hillenbrand won the SEC Mile Championship and was second in the Conference 1,500m Championships. He reached the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 1,500m and was All-American in the event.
The UK men’s cross country team will also take on a fresh feel this season, welcoming new men’s cross country and distance coach Sean Graham as well as 14 newcomer competitors. Hakon DeVries begins his second season as women's cross country and distance coach.
The UK women begin the season ranked fifth in the southeast region; while the men are preseason No. 13 in the southeast.
Both the UK men’s and women’s teams were picked to finish seventh in the SEC this season. The men and women finished sixth and fifth respectively at the conference championships last season.
Kentucky will have five regular season meets in 2012, highlighted by the program’s first home meet in more than a decade. The Bluegrass Cross Country Invitational will be held at Masterson Station Park on Saturday, Sept. 14 – the day of the UK vs. Louisville football game – at 9:30 a.m. ET.
The SEC Championships will be hosted by Florida on Nov. 2 followed by NCAA Regionals two weeks later before the NCAA Championship Meet returns to its traditional home, Terre Haute, Ind. on Nov. 23.