Nov. 10, 2001
overachieving cross country squad continued its resurgence by qualifying for the
NCAA Championship finals as a team for the first time since 1998 courtesy of a
season-best, second-place finish Saturday afternoon at the NCAA South Regionals
in Tuscaloosa, Ala. In the clash for the final qualifying slot, the Vols summed
84 points to slide past favored Florida State by one point with a strong close
despite running in their first 10K race, the longest distance of the season, at
Harry Pritchett Golf Course.
Alabama, ranked first in the South Region by the U.S. Cross Country Coaches Association, proved as good as their ranking in taking medalist honors with 55 points over the 17-team field. The regionally fourth-ranked Vols (84 points) bested second-ranked Florida State (85 points), Georgia Tech (90 points) and third-ranked Florida (154 points) for the elusive last NCAA finals spot. Alabama's David Kimani broke the tape first with his impressive 30:06.43 clocking to capture gold. Junior captain Ryan Demers remained rock solid for the Tennessee harriers with a season-best, fourth-place, 30:55.31 effort.
"We are elated," cross country coach George Watts said. "I couldn't be happier for these guys. They believed from day one they were going to qualify for the national championships even when no one else gave them a chance. They battled the entire race. We qualified by running the last mile as well as we have all season. I'd say we were 10-15 points down (in competition for the final qualifying slot) with a mile to go. They've done everything I've asked of them all year long."
Tennessee's newcomers fared well, as the Vol top three (Demers, Tim Kelly and Pat Gildea) remain in their first cross country season for the Vols. Additionally, the Tennessee spread (the amount of time elapsed between the first Vol finisher and the fifth Vol finisher--the scorers) remained tight at 1:17.16, nearly the same as the Vols' best 8K spread but really more impressive because the South Region race is 2K longer. Tennessee's top five all easily occupied the top quarter of the 128-runner field.
As previously mentioned, Demers keyed the Tennessee charge, as he has in each of the five races in which he has competed, with his season-best, fourth-place, 30:55.31 finish. Sophomore Kelly likewise continued his strong first season for the Vols with a 10th-place, 31:34.58 effort. Junior Pat Gildea tied his season-best finish with a 19th-place, 31:57.50 in just his third race donning the orange. Junior Rob Cloutier chimed in at a season-best 27th place in 32:11.47. As the fifth Vol to cross the finish line, sophomore Steve Klein clocked in a second later in 32:12.47 and 28th place to claim the last crucial points and close out the Tennessee scoring.
Junior Scott DeFilippis ran on the Vol pack's heels to tie his season-best effort in 29th place in 32:13.33. Matthew Lapp bookended the Tennessee effort with a 46th-place, 32:55.97 offering in his rookie campaign.
Tennessee will take a team to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1998 when the Vols suit up for nationals. In 1999, Anthony Famiglietti made the NCAA finals field as an individual. Last season, the Vols narrowly missed sending Marcus Tanner to the NCAAs as an individual. The Tennessee harriers close their season with the nation's elite at the 10K NCAA Championships Monday, Nov. 19 at the Furman University Golf Course in Greenville, S.C. The Vol contingent earlier tackled the NCAA course Oct. 13 at the 8K Furman Invitational with a 21st-place finish the result, the only lackluster outing of the season for Tennessee.
1. Alabama 55, 2. TENNESSEE 84, 3. Florida State 85, 4. Georgia Tech 90, 5. Florida 154, 6. Georgia 168, 7. Belmont 211, 8. UT-Chattanooga 213, 9. Georgia State 229, 10. Samford 243, 11. Florida International 272, 12. Auburn 290, 13. South Florida 335, 14. Vanderbilt 367, 15. Mississippi 422, 16. Tennessee Tech 512, 17. Tennessee-Martin 516.
INDIVIDUAL VOL FINISHES
(EACH SQUAD'S TOP FIVE SCORES COUNT FOR TEAM TOTAL)
1. David Kimani, Ala. 30:06.43, 4. Ryan Demers, Tenn. 30:55.31, 10. Tim Kelly, Tenn. 31:34.58, 19. Pat Gildea, Tenn. 31:57.50, 27. Rob Cloutier, Tenn. 32:11.47, 28. Steve Klein, Tenn. 32:12.47, 29. Scott DeFilippis, Tenn. 32:13.33, 46. Matthew Lapp, Tenn. 32:55.97, 128. Andrew Wisniewski, Tenn. Tech 39:59.49.