Oct. 15, 2009
By Eric Trainer, Associate Director of Media Relations
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- J.J. Clark, who is in his first season as the director of track & field for men and women at Tennessee after spending the previous seven years leading the Lady Vols to a pair of NCAA Championships and three SEC titles, released his squads' 2010 schedule on Thursday. The grueling six-month itinerary stretches from the indoor season-opening Kentucky Invitational in Lexington on Jan. 15-16 to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Ore., on June 9-12.
The schedule, which features a handful of new events sprinkled in with some tried-and-true meets, was constructed with input from the entire coaching staff and offers multiple meets on several weekends to help the various event groups try to accomplish their goals against good competition throughout the season.
"We came together as a staff and decided for some of the schedule to do what is best for the individual event groups," Clark said. "Some meets don't offer quality competition across the board in all events, or they don't offer an ideal setting to qualify someone for NCAA Indoors in the distances, so we picked the best meets that would allow us to do that. That results in us splitting up for some of the weekends, especially indoors."
With the newly-formed coaching staff and teams under the same leadership for the initial time, the first two meets of the campaign, the Kentucky Invitational and the Virginia Tech Hokie Invitational, will offer back-to-back weekends of team-staff bonding on Jan. 15-16 and Jan. 22-23. The third weekend, though, will allow event-specific opportunities on Jan. 29-30 at the Rod McCravy Memorial in Lexington, Ky., the Penn State National in University Park, Pa., and the J.D. Martin Invitational in Norman, Okla.
"It's nice to travel together, get to know each other and become one unit," Clark said of the early season weekends where UT has only one destination. "It will help us forge a united front as we prepare for the rest of our indoor schedule. Even though we are in the middle of cross country right now, I believe people are really getting excited about the upcoming indoor season."
Included in the February sector of the schedule are three weekends of preparation prior to the SEC Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., on Feb. 26-28. The first is the New Balance Collegiate Invitational at New York City's famed Armory Track, Feb. 5-6, where the Lady Vols' distance medley relay set the indoor world record in that event last season. Feb. 12-13, Tennessee splits up again for the Texas A&M Challenge in College Station and the Husky Classic in Seattle, where only a handful of distance runners will make the trek.
The UT women, it should be noted, helped the Aggies open the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium last Jan. 24 in front of 3,000 fans at the Texas A&M Dual and later won the NCAA Indoor title in that venue. This year's A&M Challenge, in which the Big Orange men also will participate, features three schools each from the Big 12 (A&M, Baylor and Texas), SEC (Alabama, Ole Miss and UT) and Conference USA (Houston, Rice and TCU). Rounding out the February slate is the Virginia Tech Challenge on Feb. 19-20.
"The Texas A&M Challenge is an opportunity to run on a good track, see some good competition and continue to become familiar with that venue," Clark said. "We won the NCAA Indoor National Championship there last March, and even though the NCAA meet will be in Fayetteville, Ark., this year, it will no doubt be back in College Station in the near future.
"The New Balance meet has been around for quite some time. We went there last year for the second time, broke an American record in the distance medley relay and had some other good performances. It's just good to go back up there, get our student-athletes in shape and showcase our team in front of a lot of fans in a great venue and city."
After the SEC Championships take place in Fayetteville the last weekend in February, affording UT a preview of the NCAA facility, the squads head back to Northwest Arkansas March 12-13 to compete in the NCAA Indoor Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center. The UT tracksters have created some lasting memories in that building, with the men winning their fourth overall NCAA team title there back in 2002 and the women capturing the 2005 indoor crown.
Outdoors, the slate begins on March 26-27, as the squad splits up coast to coast for the FSU Relays in Tallahassee, Fla., and the Stanford Invitational out in California. Five big meets follow, including the Pepsi Florida Relays (April 2-3), the Sea Ray Relays (April 7-10), the Volunteer Track Classic (April 16-17), the Penn Relays (April 22-24) and UCSD Triton Invitational (April 23-24).
The Sea Ray Relays and Volunteer Track Classic are the first two of four home events to be held at soon-to-be-renovated Tom Black Track at LaPorte Stadium in 2010. While teams will compete in the 44th edition of the Sea Ray Relays, college teams will be a part of the VTC for only the second time. A year ago, women's squads from Tennessee, Alabama, Carson-Newman and Ohio State took part in the long-time high school meet. This season, men's teams are slated to join the field, with the competing schools still to be finalized.
"I would like to get more people out to watch our home meets," Clark said. "It's always important for us to do well in front of our home crowd. With Sea Rays and the VTC, those are the first opportunities all season to run at home and have some support from our fans, because we don't have the facility to host indoor meets. We're looking forward to competing at Tom Black Track at LaPorte Stadium and doing well."
As for the Penn Relays, Tennessee has a long-standing tradition of excellence at the grand old meet in Philadelphia. A year ago, the Big Orange put on a show, winning a title in the men's sprint medley relay and capturing women's relay victories in the distance medley, 4x1500m and 4x800m events. The 4x15m unit set world, American and collegiate records, while the 4x8 tandem claimed American and collegiate marks. Both toppled meet, stadium and school marks as well.
"On any given day, you could have 30,000 to 50,000 people at the Penn Relays," Clark said. "It is such a marquee event. Going there last year and having the women break world and American records and win three relay events and the men win the sprint medley was just a banner year for Tennessee.
"We're looking forward to going back in 2010, staying consistent and maintaining our great performances, as we have throughout the years on both our men's and women's teams. This year, it will even be more of a ground-breaking weekend for Tennessee, as we take our teams there together, stand strong as one unified group and hope to get some great things done."
In May, the Lady Vols and Vols will tune up at home for the league meet with the Tennessee Invitational on May 8 and then invite the rest of the conference back on May 13-16 for the SEC Outdoor Championships. It will mark the first time since 2003 and the fifth time since 1981 that Knoxville has played host to arguably the finest assemblage of college track & field talent in the nation.
"It is always an honor to host the SEC meet," Clark said. "It also is nice to have a meet like that at home because we are familiar with the surroundings and don't have to travel anywhere to compete. It should be a great event for us.
"Our stadium is undergoing renovations, so the facility, the surface and landscaping will look great. We are excited to host and will strive to come out and perform at our best, as that meet signifies the start of the outdoor championship season."
Qualifying for the outdoor national championship meet will be a little different in 2010, as the NCAA has tweaked its postseason format. Instead of athletes qualifying for one of the four regionals, they will now try to earn entry marks for two large regional-type meets, designated as East and West Preliminary Rounds. Tennessee will compete in the East Preliminary Round on May 27-29 in Greensboro, N.C. The object there, as with the former four-region format, will be to qualify for the season's collegiate grand finale, the NCAA Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., June 9-12.
2010 TENNESSEE TRACK & FIELD SCHEDULE
Jan. 15-16 * Kentucky Invitational * Lexington, Ky. * All Day
Jan. 22-23 * Virginia Tech Hokie Invitational * Blacksburg, Va. * All Day
Jan. 29-30 * Penn State National Invitational * University Park, Pa. * All Day
Jan. 29-30 * Rod McCravy Memorial * Lexington, Ky. * All Day
Jan. 30 * J.D. Martin Invitational * Norman, Okla. * All Day
Feb. 5-6 * New Balance Collegiate Invitational * New York, N.Y. * All Day
Feb. 12-13 * Husky Classic * Seattle, Wash. * All Day
Feb. 13 Sat. * Texas A&M Challenge * College Station, Texas * All Day
Feb. 19-20 * Virginia Tech Challenge * Blacksburg, Va. * All Day
Feb. 26-Feb. 28 * SEC Indoor Championships * Fayetteville, Ark. * All Day
March 12-13 * NCAA Indoor Championships * Fayetteville, Ark. * All Day
March 26-27 * FSU Relays * Tallahassee, Fla. * All Day
March 26-27 * Stanford Invitational * Stanford, Calif. * All Day
April 2-3 * Pepsi Florida Relays * Gainesville, Fla. * All Day
APRIL 7-10 * SEA RAY RELAYS * KNOXVILLE * ALL DAY
APRIL 16-17 * VOLUNTEER TRACK CLASSIC * KNOXVILLE * ALL DAY
April 22-24 * Penn Relays * Philadelphia, Pa. * All Day
April 23-24 * UCSD Triton Invitational * LaJolla, Calif. * All Day
MAY 8 * TENNESSEE INVITATIONAL * KNOXVILLE * ALL DAY
MAY 13-16 * SEC OUTDOOR CHAMPIONSHIPS * KNOXVILLE * ALL DAY
May 27-29 * NCAA East Preliminary Round * Greensboro, N.C. * All Day
June 9-12 * NCAA Outdoor Championships * Eugene, Ore. * All Day
All Dates & Times Are Subject To Change