Sept. 4, 2009
NASHVILLE -- University of Tennessee senior Jackie Areson began her final collegiate season with a bang, collecting the first cross country victory of her career Friday evening at the Belmont-VU Opener at Percy Warner Park.
Areson, from Delray Beach, Fla., seized her initial win and led the Big Orange to the finish line for the first time in 18 races as a Lady Vol, logging a career-best time of 14 minutes, 4.18 seconds on the 4,000-meter Vaughn's Creek Course. An NCAA Championship meet qualifier and All-South Region performer a year ago, Areson took the lead a little over half way through the race and held off Middle Tennessee's Zamzam Sangau for first-place honors. The Blue Raider senior was second in 14:17.00.
"It was good to see Jackie have a good start," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "She is very good, so I am not surprised that she was able to go out and win the race this evening. I look forward to seeing the progress she makes as the season goes on."
While Areson followed in the footsteps of 2005 and 2007 Belmont-VU Opener winner Sarah Bowman and gave UT its third triumph in five trips to the meet, she was not able to help her team compensate for the absence of several runners due to illness. Tennessee tallied 129 points to wind up fifth in the nine-team competition.
Co-host Vanderbilt captured the team title, scoring a low total of 42 points, followed by Alabama in second with 57. UAB and Middle Tennessee grabbed third and fourth with 109 and 124, respectively, followed by UT, Belmont (142), Murray State (164), Lipscomb (170) and UT Martin (271).
In addition to Areson's effort, Tennessee received a top-20 finish from Brittany Sheffey. The junior covered the distance in 15:02.12 to fill the No. 2 team slot for the second time in her career after doing so at the 2008 SEC Championships. Filling out the scoring five for Tennessee were first-time point-getters in senior Michele Levy (29th, 15:24.47) and sophomore Elizabeth Tiller (42nd, 15:59.86) in addition to sophomore Elizabeth Altizer (49th, 16:16.25).
Non-scoring competitors for the Lady Vols included redshirt freshmen Ramzee Fondren (62nd, 16:45.71), Kelsey Kane (66th, 16:52.92) and Chelsea Knotts (71st, 17:18.01), and junior Kim White (83rd, 18:51.43).
"I was proud of the team today for coming out and performing well," Clark said. "Our team has been hit hard, and we were without a couple of runners who scored for us at this meet last season. We will be happy to have them back with us as we prepare for the next step in our season.
Tennessee will be idle next weekend before returning to action on Sept. 19 at the Tennessee Invitational. The Lady Vols are slated to run at 9:15 a.m. at Lambert Acres Golf Club in Maryville.
TEAM RESULTS: 1. Vanderbilt 42, 2. Alabama 57, 3. UAB 109, 4. Middle Tennessee State 124, 5. Tennessee 129, 6. Belmont 142, 7. Murray State 164, 8. Lipscomb 170, 9. UT Martin 271.
UT INDIVIDUAL RESULTS: 1. Jackie Areson 14:04.18, 19. Brittany Sheffey 15:02.12, 29. Michele Levy 15:24.47, 42. Elizabeth Tiller 15:59.86, 49. Elizabeth Altizer 16:16.25, 62. Ramzee Fondren 16:45.71, 66. Kelsey Kane 16:52.92, 71. Chelsea Knotts 17:18.01, 83. Kim White 18:51.43.