Oct. 25, 2012
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee men's and women's cross country squads will head to Nashville for a meet they've trained for all season, the annual Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships. The league championships, which will be hosted by Vanderbilt University, will take place on Friday at Percy Warner Park.
The women's 6,000-meter race is scheduled for a 10 a.m. CT start, while the men's 8K race will commence at 11 a.m. CT. An awards ceremony will follow the races and admission to the championships is free.
This will be the Big Orange's third trip to the state capital this season and the third time the squads will navigate the Percy Warner Park course in 2012.
The 14-team field consists of six ranked teams - three on the men's side and three on the women's side - in the latest poll from the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Arkansas is the highest-ranked men's team, checking in at No. 9, while Georgia and Texas A&M follow at No. 28 and No. 29, respectively. On the women's side, Arkansas ranks 12th, while Vanderbilt and Florida come in at No. 28 and No. 30, respectively.
Tennessee has been led by sophomore transfer Peter Okwera on the men's side in all four meets. In his two races at the championship course, Okwera posted two top-three finishes. UT has had consistent performances from freshman Kyle Walter, sophomore Austin Whitelaw and junior Stephen Derlath all season entering the championship meet.
The Vols, which were slated to finish eighth in the preseason coaches' poll, have won a league-best 25 cross country titles, but have not taken home the hardware since 1990. Tennessee finished fifth at last season's SEC Championship.
The Lady Vols enter the championship portion of the season riding a second place finish at the Alabama Crimson Classic two weeks ago. Freshman Alexis Panisse, who has led the Orange and White in every race, shattered her personal 5K record and led the Lady Vols to a second-place finish at the meet.
Senior Kelsey Kane has been consistent all season as the Lady Vols' No. 2 runner and is also coming off a career performance at the Crimson Classic. In addition, returning scorers from last season's SEC Championship Amber Zimmerman, Kacey Nobert and Amirah Johnson will all look to lead the Lady Vols this Friday.
The Lady Vols, which were predicted to finish ninth in the preseason poll, have won five league titles - all under Director of Track & Field and Cross Country J.J. Clark - and are looking to improve on a seventh-place finish last season.
The defending SEC men's cross country champion is Arkansas, which has claimed 19 of the last 21 conference team titles. Meet host Vanderbilt is the defending women's champion. It was the Commodores first-ever league title last season.
Following the league championships, 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.