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Defending champs prevail in chilly SEC cross country meet at Kentucky Horse Park

No surprises atop the Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships scoreboard Friday.

Top-ranked Arkansas dominated the women’s competition on the Kentucky Horse Park steeplechase course, placing five runners in the top nine. The Razorbacks scored 21 points. Runner-up Ole Miss had 93.

Katie Izzo and Taylor Werner finished 1-2 to lead Arkansas to its seventh consecutive SEC title and 20th overall.

No. 11 Ole Miss put five runners in the men’s top 13, successfully defending its team title with 35 points. Alabama, behind a 1-2 finish by Vincent Kiprop and Gilbert Kigen, placed second with 90 points.

Brennan Fields, a senior out of Madison Central, placed fifth to lead Kentucky to fourth place. The Wildcats scored 124, three more than third-place Arkansas.

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Alabama’s Vincent Kiprop closed in on the finish line on his way to victory in the 8,000-meter men’s race. Ryan C. Hermens rhermens@herald-leader.com

Kentucky’s women took seventh with 179 points, just nine more than fourth-place Tennessee. Perri Bockrath paced the Cats in 27th.

“That’s five years in a row now where we’ve been in the top four,” UK Coach Hakon DeVries said of his men. “I think we’re solidifying ourselves there. I know the team is still hungry to get better than that, but it was definitely a good day.”

With temperatures near freezing and soft footing due to Thursday’s rain, it was left to two Kenyans to settle individual honors.

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Brennan Fields, a senior out of Madison Central, placed fifth to lead Kentucky’s men to fourth place. Ryan C. Hermens rhermens@herald-leader.com

Kiprop, a graduate student and SEC Cross Country Scholar-Athlete of the Year, covered 8,000 meters in 22 minutes, 51.6 seconds. Kigen clocked in at 22:55.4. Another tenth of a second back came Waleed Suliman of Ole Miss, then teammate Farah Abdulkarim.

Fields cut about 41 seconds off his personal best, finishing in 23:04.3.

“Just to sit in the top-10 group,” Fields said of his strategy. “I think I did that really well the first three laps. Then, going into the last lap, I felt pretty good. I made a little bit of a move to kind of get the rest of the pack broken up.

“I was still there, and it was just me and the two Ole Miss guys running for the last 80 percent of that lap. Then they got in front of me toward the end, but I held my position and got fifth.”

UK’s other scorers consisted of three sophomores and a freshman.

Kiprop, who has a 4.0 grade-point average in health education and promotion, said he aimed to run hard.

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Perri Bockrath, right, finished 27th to lead Kentucky’s women to a seventh-place finish Friday morning. Ryan C. Hermens rhermens@herald-leader.com

“We knew that the course was going to be challenging … and the weather,” he said. “But everyone was running under the same conditions. So we were ready for this, and this is my last cross country in the SEC. It’s been great, and I had to end on a high note.”

Ole Miss Coach Ryan Vanhoy saw his Rebels execute as asked.

“We had a race plan coming in for our top three guys to go with the front of the race and for the rest of our guys to sit back and try to execute a strong last two laps,” he said. “I thought we did that really well, and (we’re) really happy to walk out of here with our second straight championship.”

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Members of the Ole Miss cross country team celebrated their championship at the Kentucky Horse Park on Friday. Ryan C. Hermens rhermens@herald-leader.com

Arkansas’ women, with four seniors leading the charge, lived up to its No. 1 rank.

“Any time you can win an SEC title in any sport, that’s a treasured memory,” Coach Lance Harter said. “The kids have looked forward to this all season, and we’re on the national stage as well. I think that we can use this as an indicator, as far as the coaching staff goes; I think we’re right on cue. Now, we’ve just got to stay healthy and, obviously, pay our dues at the regional meet, and then cash in at the nationals.”

Nationals, Nov. 23 at Terre Haute, Ind., also could be chilly.

“It couldn’t have been more perfect to have a dress rehearsal, so to speak, to get ready for Terre Haute,” Harter said. “And the University of Kentucky and the Horse Park people did a fantastic job. … They brought a steamroller out and packed the course down. They just went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure this was a first-class event.”

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Abby Gray, of Arkansas, center, braved the cold to help the Razorbacks to their seventh consecutive SEC title and 20th overall. Ryan C. Hermens rhermens@herald-leader.com

Izzo took the women’s 6,000 meters in 19:38.3. Werner, women’s SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year, ran 19:42.8. Auburn’s Joyce Kimeli was third, followed by Arkansas’ Carina Viljoen and Devin Clark. Defending champ Jessica Pascoe of Florida was seventh.

“The plan, really, was just to ‘pack up’ and get as many of us in the top 10, top 12, as possible,” said Izzo, a graduate student who transferred from Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo. “From the gun, Taylor, Carina, Devin, Lauren (Gregory) — we were all right there.”

As for UK, DeVries was upbeat.

“We’ve got a really young group,” he said. “Our five scorers were four sophomores and a freshman. I think we have a really bright future. We’ll be getting better.”

Results

Results from Friday’s Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships at The Kentucky Horse Park.

WOMEN

Teams — Arkansas 21; Ole Miss 93; Missouri 159; Tennessee 170; Alabama 171; Vanderbilt 176; Kentucky 179; Georgia 184; Texas A&M 189; Auburn 229; Florida 243; Mississippi State 336l LSU 349; South Carolina 367.

Top individuals (6,000 meters) — 1. Katie Izzo, Ark., 19:38.3; 2. Taylor Werner, Ark., 19:42.8; 3. Joyce Kimeli, Aub., 19:51.3; 4. Carina Viljoen, Ark., 19:55.5; 5. Devin Clark, Ark., 20:07.7; 6. Jessica Drop, Ga., 20:12.0; 7. Jessica Passcoe, Fla., 20:14.5; 8. Samantha Drop, Ga., 20:24.9; 9. Lauren Gregory, Ark., 20:34.8; 10. Mercy Chelangat, Ala., 20:38.1; 11. Kelsie Warren, A&M, 20:40.5; 12. Ashley Driscoll, A&M, 20:44.1; 13. Maddy Reed, Ark., 20:45.5; 14. Victoria Simmons, Ole Miss, 20:46.3; 15. Anna Elkin, Ole Miss, 20:46.5; 16. Grace Jensen, Vandy, 20:47.9; 17. Katy-Ann McDonald, LSU, 20:48.6; 18. Sarah Chapman, Mo., 20:49.1; 19. Skylar Boogerd, Ole Miss, 20:49.4; 20. Sydney Seymour, Tenn., 20:49.5; 21. Chelsea Drum, Ole Miss, 20:51.3; 22. Rebecca Buteau, Ala., 20:52.9; 23. Ana Wallace, Vandy, 20:54.1; 24. Lisa Vogelgesang, Ole Miss, 20:54.2; 25. Megan Murray, Tenn., 20:54.6.

Kentucky finishers — 27. Perri Bockrath, 20:55.0; 35. Kaylie Kenne, 21:13.7; 37. Rachel Boice, 21:16.6; 41. Kaitlyn Lacy, 21:20.3; 47. Sophie Carrier, 21:24.7; 64. Caitlin Shepard, 21:43.5; 83. Madisyn Peeples, 22:10.3; 104. Kelli Walsh, 22:36.1; 108. Sarah Michels, 22:40.9.

MEN

Teams — Ole Miss 35; Alabama 90; Arkansas 121; Kentucky 124; Texas A&M 141; Florida 160; Missouri 162; LSU 220; Tennessee 221; Vanderbilt 239; Georgia 261; Auburn 269.

Top individuals (8,000 meters) — 1. Vincent Kiprop, Ala., 22:51.6; 2. Gilbert Kigen, Ala., 22:55.4; 3. Waleed Suliman, Ole Miss, 22.55.5; 4. Farah Abdulkarim, Ole Miss, 22:59.3; 5. Brennan Fields, UK, 23:04.3; 6. Cade Bethmann, Ole Miss, 23:07.8; 7. Matt Young, Ark., 23:09.3; 8. Thomas George, Mo., 23:14.8; 9. Cole Bullock, Ole Miss, 23:20.1; 10. Noel Rotich, Ala., 23:21.3; 11. Trevor Warren, UK, 23:21.4; 12. Nick Laning, Vandy, 23:21.8; 13. Michael Coccia, Ole Miss, 23:22.7; 14. Jon Bishop, A&M, 23:23.7; 15. Eric Casarez, A&M, 23:24.5; 16. Zephyr Seagraves, A&M, 23:25.0; 17. Jack Guyton, Fla., 23:26.3; 18. Myles Richter, Ark., 23:27.9; 19. Nicholas Yanek, Ga., 23:28.0; 20. Eric Coston, LSU, 23:29.9; 21. Mario Garcia Romo, Ole Miss, 23:32.8; 22. Alex Crigger, Tenn., 23:35.4; 23. Davis Bove, LSU, 23:35.6; 24. Parker Scott, Ole Miss, 23:36.4; 25. Dalton Hengst, Ole Miss., 23:40.2.

Other Kentucky finishers — 30. Dylan Allen, 23:52.1; 34. Aaron Withrow, 24:01.9; 50. Patrick Schaefer, 24:22.8; 63. Gabe Szalay, 24:38.7; 72. Shane Williams, 24:47.8; 74. McLean Griffin, 24:49.9; 81. Matthew Thomas, 25:01.9; 97. Tanner Dowdy, 25:34.0.

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