Oct. 31, 2009
By Eric Trainer, Associate Director of Media Relations
OXFORD, Miss. -- Fueled by Jackie Areson's third-place individual performance, the Lady Vol cross country team pulled off a second-place finish Saturday morning at the SEC Championships on a soggy, but sun-drenched, Ole Miss Golf Course.
The Lady Vols tallied 80 points to grit out a runner-up outcome behind No. 5 Florida, which put all five scoring runners in the top 10 to claim victory with 24. Tennessee, which posted its fifth top-two effort of the eight-year J.J. Clark era and ninth-straight top-three league finish by the program, came in ahead of No. 29 Arkansas' 87-point tally. Georgia (118) and Alabama (141) rounded out the top five.
Areson led the Lady Vols for the fifth time this season, covering the 6,000-meter course in 21 minutes, 12.13 seconds to match Sarah Bowman's bronze-medal effort of a year ago. Only Florida's Rebecca Lowe (20:57.34) and Charlotte Browning (21:02.48) were faster today on a course that was saturated by a wet fall and a full day of additional rain on Friday.
It marked the first time the UT senior earned All-SEC accolades during her career, after she just missed out during her freshman season with a 15th-place outcome. She now has scored for UT in all 21 races of her career.
"Jackie Areson dug in and really ran tough against a highly-ranked team," Clark said. "She really stuck it and gave her whole heart today. It was a great effort by her to take third."
Areson didn't do the job alone on this very pleasant Halloween morning. Two other Lady Vols joined her on the All-SEC squad, including second-team performers junior Brittany Sheffey and senior Katie Van Horn. Sheffey covered the course in 21:49.62 to match her 12th-place effort of a year ago and garner her second-straight all-league award. Van Horn, meanwhile, completed her comeback from an injured-caused 2008 redshirt season to check in 13th in 21:50.75. She also earned All-SEC kudos in 2007.
While not collecting all-conference honors for their efforts, sophomore Chanelle Price and senior Phoebe Wright were just as valuable. The Lady Vols' world-class 800-meter runners stepped up to the cross country distance and delivered what it took for their team. Price, running in her first SEC meet, covered the layout in 22:14.42 to place 18th, while Wright finished 34th in 22:39.57.
"The middle pack was very tight, running 12, 13 and 18, and then Phoebe brought it home," Clark said. "We just had to run tough in order to take second here, and we did. I'm very proud of our effort. We came in here ranked third in the conference and scratched out a hard-earned second-place finish."
Even though Price and Wright were held out of the lineup until two weekends ago, due to their lengthy 2009 track & field seasons, Clark said he never worried that things wouldn't fall into place for this squad.
"It's been coming all year," Clark said. "Each race, we've gotten better and better. It was just a matter of them continuing to move forward, and they all did that with big efforts today. We really clogged the middle up good."
Tennessee will be off next weekend before returning to action on Nov. 14 at the NCAA South Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The women's race is slated to begin at 11 a.m. Central time.
WOMEN'S TEAM SCORES: 1. Florida 24, 2. Tennessee 80, 3. Arkansas 87, 4. Georgia 118, 5. Alabama 141, 6. Vanderbilt 142, 7. Auburn 151, 8. Kentucky 175, 9. South Carolina 246, 10. Mississippi State 276, 11. LSU 335, 12. Ole Miss 338.
LADY VOL INDIVIDUAL FINISHES: 1. Rebecca Lowe, Fla., 20:57.34, 3. Jackie Areson 21:12.13, 12. Brittany Sheffey 21:49.62, 13. Katie Van Horn 21:50.75, 18. Chanelle Price 22:14.42, 34. Phoebe Wright 22:39.57, 46. Michele Levy 23:10.74, 78. Elizabeth Tiller 24:20.56, 83. Ramzee Fondren 24:42.04.