Sept. 2, 2005
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- With junior Felicia Guliford and senior Megan Cauble staying at home as part of their training cycles, University of Tennessee Head Women's Cross Country Coach J.J. Clark wasn't sure what to expect from his squad in the season-opening meet Friday evening. What his team got was a huge shot in the arm from a pair of freshmen, boosting the Lady Vols to second place at the Belmont Opener at Percy Warner Park.
Running on the 4,000-meter Vaughn's Creek Course, rookies Sarah Bowman and Leah Soro reported in with finishes of first and third, respectively, in their first meet in orange. Those impressive debut efforts helped the Big Orange tally 54 points and grab runner-up honors behind victorious Vanderbilt, which claimed the title with 45. Mississippi State was third with 79, Alabama took fourth at 99 and UAB was fifth at 128. Rounding out scoring for the 14-team event were Memphis (171), Lipscomb (180), Belmont (197), Murray State (268), Middle Tennessee (279), UT-Martin (336), Austin Peay (337), Christian Brothers (370) and Alabama A&M (418).
Bowman, from Warrenton, Va., became the first Lady Vol freshman since Brooke Novak in 2001 to triumph in her first collegiate cross country race. Noted more for a prep track career that has seen her win both the 2005 USA Junior and Pan Am Junior 1500 meters and collect All-USA Today honors and Gatorade Athlete of the Year kudos in Virginia on three occasions, Bowman demonstrated that her talent on the oval translates nicely to the trails. Her readout of 14 minutes, 9.82 seconds was good enough to secure victory over second-place Julia Hicks of Alabama (14:14.43) by nearly five seconds.
Soro, the 2004 Prep Xtra Cross Country Runner of the Year in Knoxville, Tenn., also began her UT days in fine fashion. The West High School product, whose late-blooming career as a distance runner didn't begin in earnest until her senior season, crossed the line third overall and as the Lady Vols' second scorer in 14:28.92.
Junior Katie Flaute, a 2004 All-SEC and NCAA All-South Region performer for Tennessee, also notched a top-10 outing in Music City. The Dayton, Ohio, product crossed the line eighth in 14:40.70. Filling out the scoring five for Team Orange were senior Carly Matthews (Winston-Salem, N.C.), who was 13th in 14:55.82, and senior Mindy Sullivan (Lubbock, Texas), who crossed the line 30th in 15:36.09 Running but not scoring were freshmen Rolanda Bell (Laurelton, N.Y.) and Kimarra McDonald (Lumberton, N.J.), who completed the race in 45th and 74th, respectively, in times of 15:57.56 and 17:00.14.
"It was a promising start for our team, but we have a long way to go," said Clark, a four-time SEC and NCAA South Region Coach of the Year. "I usually don't like to open up this early, but this allows me to have the cycles I wanted later in the year. I know everyone will come around when it counts."
"I'm ecstatic to have two freshmen as our top two scorers in their first collegiate meet and Katie being in a good spot. It's very exciting that Sarah came in and was able to transfer her success on the track to cross country. In addition to Leah, Rolanda Bell had a promising start, too. The future of our team is bright."
The Lady Vols will return home and train until they host their only home meet of the season on Sept. 16. The UT women and men will play host to the Tennessee Invitational at the Lambert Acres Golf Club in Maryville, Tenn. Race time for the women will be 5:15 p.m. ET.