MARYVILLE, Tenn. — No. 3 Vanderbilt won its first SEC title on Monday, placing five runners in the top 10.
The Commodores finished with 30 team points, 31 points better than second-place Arkansas (61 points).
Placing in the top 10 were Alexa Rogers (2nd), Liz Anderson (4th), Jordan White (7th), Louise Hannallah (8th) and Kristen Smith (9th).
“Super race, fell right into our game plans,” head coach Steve Keith said after the race. “The ladies have always run strong the second half of the race. This is a really challenging course. We knew that there would be some natural attrition between the teams on the course about halfway and that if we stayed together the longest, that would give us the best shot.”
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After a restart on the course, the ladies came barreling out of the box in a close group that held for the race. At the halfway mark of the 6K event, the team was in first place, a position that it held for the last half.
Like it did at Wisconsin, the women outpaced even their coaches’ expectations.
“I was thinking five in the top 15, not five in the top nine,” Keith said.
The team was led by Rogers, who finished second overall in the meet after what has already been her breakout season.
“Alexa has been such a sweet leader,” Keith said. “She has been fantastic and she actually fell at the start and they had to have a restart. But [they all] knew what they needed to do today and sometimes they’re calmer than the coaches. They knew the job at hand and quietly just went about it.”
Rogers, after the race, said her teammates picked her up and it gave her the rush to run her best.
“I have never finished so hard in my life,” said Smith, who joined the team this year as a transfer from Big Ten champion Michigan State.
To top off the race, freshmen Grace Orders, Rebecca Chandler, and Amira Joseph finished in the top 30, earning places on the SEC all-freshmen team.
“Amazing. They were up there mixing it up, hanging in there as long as they could,” Keith said.
Smith and Hannallah were named to the All-SEC Second Team, while Rogers, Anderson, and White were named to the All-SEC first team.
“I told the girls after Wisconsin that I’d trade a top ten national for an SEC title,” Keith said. “Then I told them that they can do both if they wanted to. This SEC title is really special, especially building it with coach Riley for the last five years and what we’re able to quietly put together with recruiting classes. There’s something really special about that.”