KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- University of Tennessee Women’s Head Coach J.J. Clark was named South Region Indoor Women’s Coach of the Year and Lady Vol junior middle distance ace Sarah Bowman was named South Region Indoor Women’s Athlete of the Year by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), the organization announced Tuesday.
Clark, in his fifth season at the helm of the UT program, received that distinction for the third time in the past four seasons (2005, 2007, 2008) after leading his Lady Vols to a runner-up finish at the SEC Indoor Championships two weekends ago. With this award, his total of career coach of the year awards reached 17, including 14 in his first 5 1/2 seasons in Knoxville.
Among Clark’s accomplishments in 2008 are coaching Bowman to a pair of SEC Indoor titles as well as getting victorious efforts from the distance medley relay quartet, sprinter Courtney Champion in the 200m and Annie Alexander in the shot put at the recent conference meet. Those performances enabled his squad to extend a program-best five-year streak of top-three team finishes at the SEC Indoor Championships.
“I believe it (getting this award) shows the consistency that we’ve had,” Clark said. “It’s real, because there are coaches recognizing that. Our team is performing at a very high level, and, obviously, you can’t do that without the support of your staff and the people around you. We’ve been fortunate to consistently perform at a high level and receive this award the past few years, and that’s definitely the direction I want to continue to take this program.”
Clark’s tally of personal accomplishments as UT’s skipper includes one national coach of the year award (2005), four regional kudos (indoors in 2005, 2007 & 2008; outdoors in 2005) and two conference honors (2005, 2007) in track & field and four regional citations (2002-05) and three conference nods (2003-05) in cross country. During that time, he has directed his troops to one NCAA Indoor title and four top-five national finishes, two conference indoor championships and a regional outdoor victory in track & field, and four regional crowns and three SEC trophies in cross country. He also had two SEC honors (1996-97) and one regional award (1997) as cross country coach at Florida from 1992 to 2001 while leading the Gators to victory twice in league (1996, 1997) and regional (1997, 1998) action.
Bowman, meanwhile, received her first regional accolade from the USTFCCCA. The native of Warrenton, Va., earned the vote of the region’s coaches by turning in a dominating performance at the 2008 SEC Indoor Championships two weekends ago and enjoying a sparkling junior indoor campaign thus far. For the second straight season, the three-time All-American won three events and scored 22 1/2 points to aid the Big Orange cause at the SEC meet. Those contributions enabled No. 3 Tennessee to post a runner-up finish at that event.
Her SEC victories included a 4:37.16 count in the mile, a 9:28.29 readout in the 3000 meters and a collaborative effort as the anchor leg of UT’s distance medley relay team (11:26.26). The Lady Vol DMR triumph was the school’s fourth in the past five seasons. She now has seven SEC titles to her credit in her first 2 1/2 seasons in Knoxville.
Bowman, who underwent an appendectomy on Jan. 10, just prior to UT’s season opener, ranks number three in the nation in the mile at 4:36.51. The DMR she anchors stands third in the NCAA this season, posting a time of 11:07.89. The mile mark, one of three she has carded below the NCAA auto plateau this season, puts her second on the school’s all-time performances list, while the relay clocking stands fourth all-time at Rocky Top.
“It’s a great honor for her, because there are a lot of excellent athletes in our region,” Clark said. “Sarah getting that award puts her in a position where she is recognized as being the best. It’s nice to see the hard work pay off, and after the bumpy start (surgery) with her, to see her get the award at that level is very rewarding for me as a coach and exciting for her, I’m sure.”
Picking up the other women’s South Region indoor awards were Brittney Reese of Mississippi, the Women’s Field Athlete of the Year, and her coach, Brian O’Neal, the Women’s Assistant Coach of the Year. All of the honorees will receive their awards and be recognized at the USTFCCCA Banquet in Fayetteville, Ark., prior to this weekend’s NCAA Indoor Championship meet.