Oct. 14, 2004
Tennessee's cross country team travels to Terre Haute, Ind., for a Saturday 8K Pre-NCAA Meet unlike anything the Volunteers have faced this season. Tennessee, victors in two of its three races to date in 2004, lines up in the white race with 36 other teams on Terre Haute's LaVern Gibson Championship Course, including 10 ranked in the top 25.
Because the race is held on the NCAA championship course, there is a great demand to race the course. In addition to the 12:50 p.m. Pre-NCAA white race including the Volunteers, an additional 37 teams, including several highly ranked squads, run in the Pre-NCAA blue race at 12:10 p.m. Finally, an open race gives another 13 teams the opportunity to run on the NCAA course. While the NCAA championships will be a 10K race, the 8K Pre-NCAA course still gives teams the chance to get the lay of the land.
"This is our biggest meet to date," head coach George Watts said. "We will have 10 of the top-25 teams in the country in our section. Obviously, this will give us a gauge as to where we stand nationally. One big difference between this race and our previous competitions is the field size. With more than 250 runners in the field we will need to be in control of our surroundings and concentrate on our race plan. This race is the culmination of the `regular season' meets and is a great lead-in to the championship portion of the season."
In the starting box assignments, Tennessee lines up beside No. 2 Stanford to begin the race. No. 5 Michigan, No. 8 N.C. State, No. 9 Notre Dame, No. 12 Villanova, No. 14 BYU, No. 18 Florida State, No. 21 Colorado State, No. 24 Oregon and No. 25 Ohio State round out the remaining ranked teams in the talented 37-team field.
Tentatively, Watts plans on bringing 10 Volunteers to scout out the LaVern Gibson Championship Course. Dusty Miller, the Oct. 11 SEC Cross Country Athlete of the Week, is scheduled to race. In addition, Tennessee's top-four finishers in the first two races of the season -- Zach Sabatino, Andy Baksa, Chris Platt and Ben Lukowski -- will don the orange and white for the Vols. Jeff Day, Nate Jansen and Matt Piccarello, the second, third and fourth runners in the Vol pack behind Miller in Tennessee's winning effort last Saturday, will also make the trip. Ed Davis and Brian Mills, who have also made strides this season and may figure into the Vols' postseason plans, will race Saturday.
The Pre-NCAA Meet gives the Vols one last competitive opportunity to make their case before Watts makes his decision about the travel squad for the SEC championship meet. The Tennesseans then spend two weeks training before joining their conference brethren Oct. 30 in Fayetteville, Ark., for the SEC meet, kicking off the championship portion of the schedule.