Nov. 9, 2001
Tennessee's cross country squad runs in hopes of extending its season at the NCAA South Region Championships Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Volunteers face their first 10K race of the season at the Harry Pritchett Golf Course with an eye toward finishing in the top two and earning a spot in the NCAA Championships Nov. 19.
"This is the second of three races of the championship season," cross country coach George Watts said. "We are coming off our best race of the season at the SECs, and I believe we are well prepared for this weekend's regional championship. This team has pointed toward this particular race from the first day of practice, and I know they are looking forward to getting to the line. For the first time this season we will race 10,000 meters. We have closed well all season long and I believe the extra mile will benefit us, as we get stronger in the latter stages of our races."
All signs point to a race with tighter competition within the top four teams than any outing of the year thus far for Tennessee. The Vols remain a steady fourth in the most recent U.S. Cross Country Coaches Association rankings for the South Region, trailing Alabama, Florida State and Florida. When perusing results from Tennessee's last three meets, the competition for a trip to the NCAAs could produce a titanic clash. In the Vols' only meeting with Florida State this year, Tennessee finished fifth to the Seminoles' fourth at the Sept. 29 Auburn Invitational. Most recently, third-place Tennessee ran closer than expected to runner-up Alabama and unexpectedly slipped by fourth-place Florida at the Oct. 29 SEC Championships.
Rob Cloutier, Scott DeFilippis, Ryan Demers, Pat Gildea, Tim Kelly, Keith Kimmons (alternate), Steve Klein and Matthew Lapp comprise the Tennessee travel squad. In NCAA regional competition, each squad travels eight and runs seven. Look for Demers to lead the Tennessee harriers, as he has in each of the four races he has run this season. Additionally, Kelly has been a solid second man for the orange-clads the majority of the season.
"As a coach, I simply ask them to get better from day to day and meet to meet," Watts said. "Without a doubt, they have done exactly that. As a team, this group has done everything I have asked of them and has been a pleasure to coach. It's time once again to go out and have some fun, compete hard and give ourselves a chance to run one more race."
Last season, Tennessee rallied
to take fifth in the 19-team South Region field to close the season, as Marcus
Tanner barely missed qualifying for the NCAA finals as an individual. Tennessee
sent Anthony Famiglietti to the finals as an individual in 1999, and Tennessee's
last team trip to the NCAA finals came in 1998.