Sept. 30, 2009
By Eric Trainer, Associate Director of Media Relations
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Running with its full lineup for the first time this season, the Tennessee men's cross country team will try to see how well that equation adds up Saturday morning in the Greater Louisville Classic at E.P. "Tom Sawyer" State Park.
The 8,000-meter race, which is hosted by the University of Louisville, is slated to commence at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time on Saturday. The Big Orange will be making is fifth straight appearance in the meet and is coming off a fifth-place showing out of 33 teams a year ago. The field typically includes 30-35 squads from SEC, BIG EAST, MAC, OVC, Missouri Valley and Sun Belt schools.
Tennessee enters the fray with a great deal of momentum, having defeated ranked opponents in its first two meets of the season. The Vols placed second at the Crimson Classic on Sept. 18, finishing ahead of No. 13 Auburn, and won the Colonial Inter-Regional Challenge last weekend, defeating No. 15 William & Mary. Neither ranked foe was running with its full complement, but neither was UT, which will do so this weekend with meet one and two team leaders Peter Sigilai and Michael Spooner racing together for the initial time.
"We look forward to running this weekend at the Greater Louisville Classic," UT Men's Cross Country Coach George Watts said. "This has become one of our favorite meets on the schedule, and this will mark our fifth year in a row attending.
"This is the first meet we will run our full team. I look forward to seeing how well Spooner and Sigilai race together and to see whether or not the rest of the pack can close the gap on those two."
Spooner, an All-SEC and All-South Region selection a year ago, paced Tennessee at the Colonial last Saturday. He covered the 8K course in 25:37.8 to finish as the runner-up by eight seconds. Sigilai, meanwhile, was held out last weekend after he led the Vols at the Crimson Classic on Sept. 18, finishing eighth at that meet in 25:22.80 in his Big Orange debut. He ran in the Louisville meet last season for Rend Lake Community College, finishing 18th overall as RLCC placed third as a team.
In its first two meets, Tennessee has had two-through-five scoring help from the same four runners. That group includes senior Mike Brodsky, junior Steve Fassino, sophomore Chris Bodary and freshman Leoule Degfae. That quartet has enabled the Vols to chart impressive one-through-five time spreads of 29 seconds at the Crimson Classic and 38 seconds at the Colonial Inter-Regional Challenge. Watts hopes to continue that consistency and also use this meet as a measuring stick.
"Our first two meets have been on tough, rugged courses," Watts said. "Although it's more important who you beat than how fast you run, the Louisville course should produce our best times of the season. The importance of running in this meet is that we can compare times from previous years and get an inclination of our individual and team progress.
"We have done an excellent job of keeping our top five scorers' spread under the season goal of one minute. That becomes more important as the season progresses."