MARYVILLE, Tenn. - The Ole Miss women earned their best finish in school history with a fifth-place showing, and the Rebel men took seventh at the 2011 Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships on Monday.
Led by Logan Waites' 11th-place result, the women's team shattered the program's previous best finish of eighth place in 1987. Waites is the first female in Ole Miss cross country history to earn All-SEC honors, which are awarded to the top 14 finishers at the SEC meet.
Waites and 15th-place Katie Breathitt both set personal best times and placed better than any other female in school history at the SEC Championships, a remarkable feat for the very hilly Lambert Acres Golf Club course just outside Knoxville, Tenn.
Martin Kirui was the top finisher for the Rebel men, earning All-SEC accolades with a ninth-place result. He also was also an All-SEC performer at last year's meet.
"This was a great day for both our cross country teams," said Ole Miss head track and field coach Joe Walker. "It was our best team finish for the women, and all of them ran their hearts out. I am so proud of them."
Waites, a native of Hattiesburg, Miss., crossed the finish line with a personal-best 6K time of 20:56.23. Breathitt also set a personal best with her 21:07.13 time, finishing one spot below All-SEC recognition. Finishing next for the Rebels was the trio of Amy McCrory, Anne Threlkeld and Kayleigh Skinner that came in 45th, 46th and 47th, respectively - and all with personal-best times. Kelsey Breathitt (59th) and Elise Luers (73rd) rounded out the scoring for Ole Miss. McKenna Coughlin, Haley Cutright and Tia Leake also competed on Monday.
For the men, Kirui turned in his best result at an SEC meet with his ninth-place showing, crossing the line with an 8K time of 24:31.89. The Litein, Kenya, native finished 14th a year ago. Max Holman was next in 33rd place with a time of 25:20.89, and Loren Newsom finished 38th in 25:27.49 - both personal bests. Sophomore Kipchirchir Kiptoo, who was battling sickness, finished 46th with a time of 25:40.37. Riley Young and Al Lowe rounded out the scoring for the Rebels.
"The guys and girls all ran as hard as they could possibly run," said associate head coach Doug Blackwell, who oversees the cross country program. "The women gave us just an awesome performance. Everybody from top to bottom ran extremely well. Logan even got off to a bad start and fought all the way back to 11th."
Vanderbilt was the winning team in the women's race, with Arkansas' Kristen Gillespie taking the individual title. The women's order of finish after Vanderbilt was Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Ole Miss, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Auburn, South Carolina and LSU.
Arkansas claimed the men's team title, with Razorback Eric Fernandez as the individual champion. The men's order of finish after Arkansas was Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Ole Miss, Auburn, Mississippi State, LSU and Vanderbilt.
"What we did really well was we went out with the leaders, and while Arkansas was trying to break everybody, we stayed right up there and really competed from start to finish," added assistant coach Meredith Crane about the women's race. "This is by far the toughest meet we've been in so far. Even when we were further back, we kept moving up, moving forward, and really drove it home the last 800 meters."
"Martin was right there with the leaders and finished really strong," Crane added of the men's race. "Max and Loren really stepped up with huge PR's on a very, very hilly course. It was a good race and a good finish for SEC's. We're all really proud."
Next up for Ole Miss is the NCAA South Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Nov. 12. The NCAA Championships will be held Nov. 21 in Terre Haute, Ind.
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