Sept. 13, 2002

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The University of Tennessee women's cross country team made a strong statement Friday evening, as its first five runners placed among the top 12 finishers, and the Lady Vols opened the 2002 campaign with a resounding victory at the Tennessee Invitational at Lambert Acres Golf Club.

Paced by senior Sharon Dickie, who claimed her second-consecutive Tennessee Invite individual title, the Lady Vols turned in a low score of 31 to comfortably defeat second-place Vanderbilt (60) and third-place UT-Chattanooga (64). Samford took fourth at 119, followed by Georgia State (136), Belmont (144), East Tennessee State (191) and Lipscomb (195).

"It's always good to open with a win," said first-year Tennessee Head Coach J.J. Clark. "It's too early to draw too many conclusions, but clearly we can be a very good team. We have a ways to go, but if we continue to get in better shape and keep everyone healthy, we have the capability to compete when the time comes."

Dickie, a product of Grand Blanc, Mich., won the 2000 title at Lambert Acres but had to wait an extra year to defend it after last year's meet was cancelled because of the 9-11 terrorist attacks. She did so in fine fashion, charting a time of 17:56.60 to notch the fourth-best clocking on the 5000-meter course by a Lady Vol and hold off UT-Chattanooga's Shannon Womack, who crossed the line in 18:08.42. Eerily enough on this Friday the 13th, Dickie also extended her streak of finishing as UT's top runner to 13 consecutive meets, dating back to Nov. 23, 1998. Not bad for an athlete whom Clark considered holding out for the opening weekend.



"We decided mid-week to run Sharon with this being her senior year and final Tennessee Invitational," Clark said. "She really stepped up to the plate today and had a good race. She's trained hard, and this was a nice tempo run for her."

Sophomore Brooke Novak (Kaukauna, Wis.) was Tennessee's next finisher, crossing the line in third position at 18:17.02 after a strong charge down the stretch. Also contributing to the scoring total were freshman Felicia Guliford (Gallup, N.M.), who debuted impressively with a fifth-place effort of 18:33.53; junior Erin Anderson (Kent, Ohio), who was 10th at 18:52.74 and sophomore Elizabeth McCalley (Knoxville, Tenn.), who completed the course 12th in 19:00.53.

Other orange-clad racers and their outcomes included junior Jessica Southers (Ashland, Ky.) in 13th at 19:02.11, freshman Megan Cauble (Knoxville, Tenn.) in 16th at 19:26.18, sophomore Nicole Cook (Petersburg, Va.) in 23rd at 20:05.76, freshman Katie Flaute (Dayton, Ohio) in 28th at 20:14.89 and senior Amber Ayub (Knoxville, Tenn.) in 49th at 21:45.56.

Mindy Sullivan (Lubbock, Texas), one of the nation's top 800m runners on the track as a prep, used the race as a training run and did not complete the full 5K. Clark is gradually working her into longer distance shape and did not want to push it this early in the season.

"I was really pleased to see everyone being aggressive out there," Clark said. "The freshmen came in and competed strongly, and Felicia ran really well for her first collegiate race. "Brooke displayed some toughness today, and Erin Anderson stepped up big for us, which I was really happy about."

The UT women are back in action on Sept. 21, as they travel to Raleigh, N.C., to take part in the Wolfpack Invitational at 9:10 a.m.



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