Nov. 13, 2004
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.--Tennessee put the wraps on the 2004 season with a sixth-place, 160-point finish Saturday at the NCAA South Regional Championship in Tuscaloosa, Ala. While the finish didn't suit the Volunteers, team leaders Zach Sabatino and Andy Baksa earned all-region acclaim on Alabama's 10K Harry Pritchett Golf Course.
"We went out too hard," head coach George Watts said. "After the first mile we had seven guys in the top 25. We probably got a little too excited early and it cost us. On the positive side, we had two guys make all-region in Zach and Andy. Zach ran a tough race and just missed qualifying for nationals [an an individual]. Andy had his best regional finish in three races [Baksa ran in two regional championships at Belmont].
Florida State's 59-point effort won the team title. Florida followed with 71 points to earn silver. The Seminoles and Gators secured the two NCAA championship team berths awarded the South Region. Georgia took third with 89 points. Auburn's 96 points landed the Tigers fourth. Tennessee-Chattanooga placed fifth with 118 points. The Volunteers followed in sixth with 160 points.
Florida's Steve Zieminski won the race with a 29-minute, 35.86-second clocking. Fellow Gator Henok Lechebo crossed the line next with a 29:36.38 time to secure second. South Alabama's Tonny Okello bookended a tight top three with a 29:37.50 finish.
Sabatino led the Tennessee contingent again, as he has done in four of the
five races in which he has raced this season. Sabatino, a junior transfer
from West Virginia, finished 10th in 30:07.98 to earn all-region honors in the
142-man field. Baksa also authored an all-region caliber race as the Farragut
alum crossed 21st in 30:33.46. Models of consistency, Sabatino and Baksa
finished first or second in the Vols' pack in each of their five races.
Jeff Day finished 42nd, third among Vols, in 31:27.83. Day landed in the Vols' top four runners in each of his three races this season. Chris Platt arrived fourth for the Vols and 46th overall in 31:37.36. Platt finished in Tennessee's scoring five in four of five races in 2004. Ed Davis rounded out Tennessee's scoring five with his 49th-place, 31:44.86 effort.
In a telltale sign, Tennessee's spread between its top-five runners stood at 1:36.88, the widest gap of the season.
Brian Mills finished his first regional race in 58th with a 32:09.99 time. Ben Lukowski followed close behind in 59th with a 32:11.43 time. Dusty Miller traveled as the alternate but was not activated.
"It's a disappointing end to a disappointing season," Watts said. "We clearly missed the leadership of captain Matthew Lapp [lost before the season because of a traffic accident]. We also missed not having Tyler DeVault because of injury. Plus, Dusty Miller struggled this fall and didn't run at the level he did last fall. We need to reevaluate our training and competitiveness and learn from a pretty tough season. We have the entire team back next season. We have high hopes of improving and having a more successful fall next year.
Despite the fact that the postseason didn't end on the note the Volunteers sought, Tennessee won two races in 2004 with dominating performances at the Old Timers Classic and the Virginia Tech Invitational. The Vols also finished a close second on the home course at the Tennessee Invitational. Tennessee finished in the top six in five of its six races in 2004 without a senior on the roster.