Jan. 14, 2010
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- In his first meet since being named the University of Tennessee's director of track & field for both the men's and women's programs last June, J.J. Clark will lead the Vols and Lady Vols in their 2010 indoor season opener this weekend.
The Big Orange will travel to Lexington, Ky., to take part in the Kentucky Invitational at Nutter Field House on Friday and Saturday. Competition begins Friday at 6 p.m. EST with select field events. Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m., field events resume with running events beginning at 12:30 p.m.
Four men's teams and three women's teams competing in the meet are ranked in the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Preseason Poll. Ranked women's programs include No. 6 Florida, No. 12 Tennessee and No. 18 Louisville, while the four ranked teams on the men's side are No. 2 Florida, No. 15 Auburn, No. 17 Kentucky and No. 19 Georgia.
"I've talked to our staff about both the men's and women's teams, and we have been training well," Clark said. "Our outdoor track is being renovated, and we've had some cold days here of late, but we've been able to make it through this tough spot.
"We're excited to go to the Kentucky meet as a group and continue our development process for the NCAA and SEC type meets. This is just a weekend where we get the season going. Most people won't even run their actual events. We're just looking to get started and see where everyone stands at this point in the year."
The Lady Vols return eight All-Americans from a squad that claimed the 2009 NCAA and SEC Indoor Championships. Among them are senior Phoebe Wright and junior Annie Alexander, who placed second in the 800 meters and third in the shot put, respectively, at last year's indoor national championship meet. Also back are sophomore 800m standout Chanelle Price, junior sprinter Brittany Jones and sophomore middle distance runner Brittany Sheffey, all of whom have played a role on UT's NCAA champion distance medley relay units the past two seasons.
The Big Orange men enter the year with three returning All-Americans from a squad that finished third in the SEC and 38th at the NCAA meet during the 2009 slate. Among the top returnees are eight-time All-American sprinter Evander Wells, who was fourth in the 200m at last year's NCAA Indoor meet, and junior Joe Berry, who has won the past three SEC pole vault titles. Also back for the indoor season are senior All-America sprinter Kyle Stevenson and SEC 800m runner-up Joe Franklin.
"I'm looking for us to be a cohesive unit this weekend and for us to go out there and cheer and support each other," Clark said. "I'm also anxious to have our coaching staff working together in a competitive setting for the first time. It's really an exciting time at UT and for our program."