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Cross-country team prepares to host Hall County's first NCAA postseason event

Cross-country hosting NCAA regional
UNG's women's cross-country team is hosting the NCAA Southeast Regional on the Gainesville Campus on Nov. 17.

The women's cross-country team at the University of North Georgia (UNG) will have home-field advantage for the NCAA Southeast Regional meet Nov. 17. UNG's Gainesville Campus is hosting the race, marking the first NCAA postseason event in Hall County.

It will also be the first NCAA postseason event UNG has hosted thanks to a successful bid. It has previously hosted 19 events on the Dahlonega Campus based on seeding.

"North Georgia is honored to receive the hosting bid, as it allows us to showcase our Gainesville Campus and the collaborative effort that our team will put forward to give the student-athletes the best possible championship experience," UNG Director of Athletics Lindsay Reeves said.

The women's NCAA regional race will include three loops of the 2,000-meter UNG course starting at 10:15 a.m., and the men's NCAA regional will feature five loops of the course starting at 9 a.m.

UNG women's cross-country head coach Tom Williams is grateful for UNG's support of this event.

"It's pretty special for the university to be all-in on supporting this endeavor of having the NCAA Southeast Regional cross-country meet here. This is another opportunity to show off our cross-country program on a big level here in a local venue," Williams said. "I'm hoping that a lot of the high school coaches will be encouraged to come out themselves and bring some of their high school athletes to show them the next level that they could aspire to."

UNG took first place out of 14 teams at the Sept. 29 UNG Invitational, which served as a dress rehearsal for the NCAA event.

The Nighthawks finished second out of 10 teams at the Nov. 3 Peach Belt Conference championship race in Beech Island, South Carolina. Aleah Johnson took fourth place individually with a 5K time of 18:40, while Bree Hammond (sixth, 18:51) and Kaylee Haake (15th, 19:09) joined Johnson as all-conference performers.

Johnson, a junior from Canton, Georgia, had a season-best finish of third place at the Augusta University Jaguar Invitational on Sept. 22, which marked UNG's other team win this season. After coming up short in a quest to win back-to-back PBC titles on Nov. 3, the Nighthawks look to turn the page.

"We're looking forward to another opportunity to compete," Johnson said.

As NCAA Southeast Regional host, this will mark UNG's 10th regional appearance. It will look to advance to the NCAA championship for the second time, after Williams' group reached that level in 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Haake, a sophomore from McDonough, Georgia, said her team is prepared to be successful.

"We're definitely physically fit to do it," Haake said. "We just have to have the right mindset."

Hammond, a junior from Cumming, Georgia, said the PBC meet result will keep her team from being complacent at the regional race.

"We've been working really hard," Hammond said. "We all want it really badly."

Johnson hopes UNG's experience with the course will pay off.

"We've been working hard there. We've practiced there every off Saturday we've had," Johnson said. "We know the course pretty well, and we're excited to see how we can compete on it versus other teams."

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