Nov. 4, 2002
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Tennessee's cross country team pieced together a fourth-place finish in a 10-team field with 105 points Monday at the 8K Southeastern Conference Championships. Running through the pine and live oak-lined fairways of the University of Florida's Golf Course, co-captain Scott DeFilippis and Patrick Gildea posted All-SEC efforts in their final SEC Cross Country Championship to lead the Tennessee contingent bedecked in white tops and orange shorts.
While the Vols ran past six conference foes and finished behind three, the fourth-place finish ended the meet on a disappointing note for the Tennesseans. On a balmy day in Gainesville, the course ran relatively flat and fast, which made it hard for the Vols to make up ground on good runners after a bit of a slow start, according to head coach George Watts. As a result, the tight pack Tennessee achieved in most races this season and listed as a key in the SEC race didn't materialize like the Vols wanted. The scoring spread between Tennessee's top-five runners was 1:14, the widest margin of the season.
"As a team, we failed to live up to the expectations we had going into the meet," head coach George Watts said. "We did have two guys run extremely well. I'm very proud of Scott (DeFilippis) and Patrick (Gildea) making All-SEC. The rest of the guys need to learn how to rise to the occasion and handle the pressure of SEC Championships."
Arkansas won the title with a 31-point effort, 21 points ahead of runner-up Alabama. Florida proved tough on its home course and took third with 76 points. Alabama's David Kimani took first-place honors individually with a 24:05.18, a whopping 15 seconds ahead of runner-up Alistair Cragg of Arkansas. Four runners in the top six earned the Razorbacks the team title.
As mentioned, seniors DeFilippis and Gildea provided the biggest Tennessee highlights of the day with a pair of All-SEC performances. DeFilippis trimmed seven seconds off his lifetime-best time to earn eighth place and lead the Tennesseans. The Colonia, N.J., native completed the course in 25:20.19. In a season where different Vols have come to the forefront at different races, DeFilippis became the fourth Vol to lead the orange and white pack in this season's five races. DeFilippis improved from 29th at the 2001 SEC meet.
"My career has been up and down," DeFilippis said. "It feels great to come here and run well and make All-SEC. I kept thinking about how Doug Ellington ran so tough his senior year when I was a freshman. I wanted to mimic him."
Gildea added another chapter to his steady senior campaign with a 12th-place, 25:40.87 effort. Gildea has finished no lower than third in the Tennessee pack in any of the Vols' five races. The Holbrook, N.Y., native improved from 19th at the 2001 SEC meet. "All-SEC is quite an accomplishment," Gildea said. "Almost all the thanks goes to Coach Watts and my teammates for being there every step of the way. Things could always work out a little better in your mind. We have two more big races I hope. I'd like to make All-America my senior year and forget about 12th place at SEC."
Finishing 26th, Rob Cloutier hit the finish line in 26:22.90, up from 55th place at last year's conference classic. Cloutier has finished in Tennessee's top three in four of five races this year. Steve Klein took 28th in 26:27.67, an improvement from 41st last year. Klein joins Gildea as the only Vol to score in all five races this year. Senior co-captain Eric Bell took 31st in 26:34.30 to wrap up Tennessee's scoring five.
Keith Kimmons finished 34th in 26:44.58, up from 46th last year. Ed Davis finished his first SEC Championship in 38th with a 27:01.32 clocking. Tim Kelly pulled out of the race after about four miles.
The SEC Championships set the stage for what should be a fierce competition for the two NCAA Championships berths at stake Nov. 16 at the NCAA South Regionals at Lambert Acres Golf Club in Maryville, Tenn. While Alabama looks to be the early favorite, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, Florida State and Belmont hope to secure one of the two spots to finish their seasons at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., Nov. 25.