Nov. 19, 2005
Tennessee's cross country squad puts the wraps on its 2005 season Monday at the NCAA championship, the culmination of a preseason goal for every Division I team. The 10K race will be held on the LaVern Gibson Championship Course at the Wabash Family Sports Center in Terre Haute, Ind.
The NCAA championship field consists of 31 of the nation's best teams and 40 top individuals whose teams did not qualify for the meet. The Volunteers were a surprise qualifier after finishing fourth in the South Region last Saturday. The performance vaulted Tennessee into the Nov. 15 Mondo national rankings, administered by the U.S. Cross Country Coaches Association. Tennessee stands 30th. The Vols had been receiving votes the last few weeks, but had not been previously nationally ranked this season.
"We are prepared and excited about the opportunity to compete in the NCAA championship Monday," head coach George Watts said. "I feel like we have a strong race in us and hope the NCAA championship will bring out the best in the guys."
Watts decided to bring the same seven runners who competed in the Mideast Regional last Saturday. All-Region performers Zach Sabatino, Andy Baksa and Ben Lukowski made the travel squad. Matt Piccarello and Chris Platt, scorers in the regional championship, also will suit up in the NCAA meet. Dusty Miller and Tyler DeVault, both valued contributors during the season, will race for the Vols. Watts tabbed Jeff Day the alternate should pre-race misfortune befall one of the above seven Vols.
The last time Tennessee qualified for the NCAA championship as a team was in 2002. The Volunteers have been represented in the NCAA championship by a team or individual in all but three seasons since 1971.
Tennessee's best finish at the meet came in 1972, when the Vols won the track and field/cross country program's first NCAA title. With Doug Brown leading the way, Roberto Lenarduzzi, Dan Zoeller, John Angel and Ron Addison tallied 134 points to lead Tennessee past ETSU's 148 points on Nov. 20, 1972 in Houston, Texas.
Tennessee's best individual finish at the NCAA championships came courtesy of Alf Holmberg and Brown. Both men earned runner-up honors in 1951 and 1972, respectively.