Oct. 26, 2012
NASHVILLE - Sophomore Peter Okwera posted his best 8,000-meter time at Tennessee and guided the Vol cross country team to a seventh place team finish at the 2012 Southeastern Conference Championship meet on Friday at Percy Warner Park in Nashville. The Lady Vols finished 12th in the morning race.
Okwera, who has led the Big Orange in all five meets this season, crossed the finish line in 24 minutes, 4.97 seconds to take sixth place in his first SEC title race. A transfer from Western Kentucky, Okwera bested his previous personal record by nearly eight seconds to earn All-SEC honors and lead the Vols to a seventh place team finish. His sixth-place finish at the league championships is the best individual Vol finish since Zach Sabatino finished sixth in 2005.
"The team has had an up and down season, but Peter was obviously a massive bright spot today," said Tennessee Director of Track & Field and Cross Country J.J. Clark. "He ran outstanding and had our best individual finish since 2005."
Defending champion No. 9 Arkansas had three runners finish in the top five to guide the Razorbacks to their 20th team title in the last 22 years. The Hogs had an impressive point total of 35. Texas A&M's Henry Lelei won the event in a quick time of 23:29.95.
Picked to finish eight in the preseason coaches' poll, the Vols combined for 217 points and had three runners place in the top 54 in a field of 117 student-athletes. Following Okwera were juniors Jake Rainey and Jordan Chaney in 53rd and 54th, respectively. The duo both posted their best performances of the season as Rainey came in at 25:29.03 and Chaney navigated the course in a personal-best 25:29.05.
"Another bright spot was the performances from Jake - who has not run much this season - Jordan, Stephen and Daniel," said Clark. "We unfortunately didn't score with Austin Whitelaw - who's been injured - and Kyle Walter. They have both been in our top five all season. The good news is, we return all of them and I believe we'll have a breakthrough season next year."
Georgia placed second in the men's race with 73 points, while SEC newcomers Missouri and Texas A&M tied for third with 80 points. Florida (121 points) and Kentucky (161 points) finished just ahead of the Big Orange in fifth and six place, respectively.
The Lady Vols totaled 285 points and had two student-athletes finish in the top 50 in a field of 124 runners to finish in 12th place. Junior Amber Zimmerman led Tennessee for the first time this season with personal-best mark of 21:30.68 to finish in 28th place. Senior Kelsey Kane continued her stellar campaign by besting her 6,000-meter personal record, navigating the course in 21:48.51 to round out the top 50.
Freshman Alexis Panisse - who had led the Lady Vols in every race this season entering the meet - finished in 59th place in a time of 22:00.39. She earned SEC All-Freshmen Team honors for placing in the top seven of all freshmen.
"On the women's side, Amber had her best race of the season by far and Kelsey continued to step it up," Clark said. "Obviously, we have to increase our depth to make sure we're moving forward. Alexis did not have her best performance, but she still made the all-freshman team. There's work to be done on both sides, but I'm confident we'll get it done."
Following the rookie was sophomore Kacey Nobert, who scored for UT at last season's league championships. The Memphis, Tenn., native was just off her personal-record time with a time of 22:24.26 to finish in 80th place. Finishing directly behind Nobert, freshman Chelsea Blaase scored for the fourth straight race with in a time of 22:24.73 to round out the Lady Vol scoring.
The 30th-ranked Florida Gators upset No. 12 Arkansas and No. 28 Vanderbilt to win their third women's title in the last four years. The Gators totaled 61 points and the Razorbacks followed in second place with 70 total points. Meet host Vanderbilt rounded out the top three with 119 points. Pacing the field in 20:23.29, Kentucky's Cally Macumber became the first Wildcat to win the women's individual race since 1989.
Competing but not factoring into the scoring for the Lady Vols were sophomore Amirah Johnson (112th, 23:29.52), freshman Caroline Duer (120th, 23:54.31) and juniors Nijgia Snapp (113th, 23:30.72) and Patavia Lowery (121st, 24:36.27).
The Big Orange harriers will have a two-week break before returning to competition at the NCAA South Regionals in Tallahassee, Fla., on Friday, Nov. 9.
MEN'S TEAM RESULTS: 1. Arkansas, 35; 2. Georgia, 73; T-3. Missouri, 80; T-3. Texas A&M, 80; 5. Florida, 121; 6. Kentucky, 161; 7. Tennessee, 217; 8. Mississippi State, 237; 9. Auburn, 237; 10. Ole Miss, 305; 11. Alabama, 309; 12. Vanderbilt, 358; 13. LSU, 378
WOMEN'S TEAM RESULTS: 1. Florida, 61; 2. Arkansas, 70; 3. Vanderbilt, 119; 4. Ole Miss, 122; 5. Kentucky, 130; 6. Georgia, 132; 7. LSU, 199; 8. Texas A&M, 224; 9. South Carolina, 256; 10. Mississippi State, 264; 11. Alabama, 268; 12. Tennessee, 285; 13. Missouri, 296; 14. Auburn, 378
MEN'S INDIVIDUAL RESULTS: Peter Okwera (6th, 24:04.97), Jake Rainey (53rd, 25:29.03), Jordan Chaney (54th, 25:29.05), Stephen Derlath (59th, 25:31.93), Daniel Tobin (66th, 25:38.74), Kyle Walter (84th, 26:11.63), Jeremy Dickie (85th, 26:12.62), J.R. Creekmore (94th, 26:27.85), Alex McCandless (106th, 27:04.45)
WOMEN'S INDIVIDUAL RESULTS: Amber Zimmerman (28th, 21:30.68), Kelsey Kane (50th, 21:48.51), Alexis Panisse (59th, 22:00.39), Kacey Nobert (80th, 22:24.26), Chelsea Blaase (81st, 22:24.73), Amirah Johnson (112th, 23:29.52), Nijgia Snapp (113th, 23:30.72), Caroline Duer (120th, 23:54.31), Patavia Lowery (121st, 24:36.27)