Nov. 3, 2003
The No. 26 University of Tennessee women's cross country squad proved the pollsters right. As the league's only nationally-ranked program, the Lady Vols backed that up emphatically on Monday morning by cruising to the team title at the Southeastern Conference Championships at a very warm and humid University of Georgia Golf Course.
Tennessee accumulated 57 points to hold off second-place Georgia (95) and claim the third SEC women's cross country title in UT history, following triumphs in 1983 and 1990. Second-year Head Coach J.J. Clark's squad also ended a five-year run of titles by Arkansas, which was stymied in its attempt to bag an 11th trophy in 13 years as a league participant. Clark, who came to Knoxville after 10 years as cross country coach at the University of Florida, is the only conference women's coach to solve UA (UF, 1996 & 1997/UT, 2003) on the course since that school joined the SEC in 1991-92.
"It's a great thing for our program to be able to win the SEC championship in our second year together," Clark said. "I am extremely pleased with the way our team executed today, and we are excited because we believe we can be even stronger next year. Athletics Director Joan Cronan hired me and asked me to win with integrity, and that's what we are striving to do."
Arkansas, the preseason favorite, ran near the front as usual and managed to place third with 103 points. Kentucky, picked third in the
SEC Coaches Poll prior to the campaign, wound up fourth with 106, followed by Vanderbilt (107), Auburn (111), Mississippi State (162),
Florida (206), Alabama (230), South Carolina (254), LSU (319) and Mississippi (345).
Setting the pace for Tennessee for the third time in 2003 was junior Brooke Novak (Kaukauna, Wis.), who ran confidently to a third-place finish in a time of 21:58.45. That result earned her All-SEC accolades once more and gained her admission into an exclusive club of only seven Lady Vols who have made the all-conference squad three times or more. Novak now has finishes of 10th (2001), eighth (2002) and third (2003) in SEC action. Auburn"s Angela Homan took the individual title in a time of 21:49.76, while Brooke Patterson of Kentucky was second at 21:55.58.
"When I came to UT, I really wasn"t confident that we would win a conference championship in my four years here," Novak said. "The hiring of Coach Clark has been such a blessing, and we are fortunate to have some great girls on this team. We all worked really hard together and had a confident, but humble, attitude coming in. Today, we just took care of business, and now we get to go home with the trophy."
Joining Novak in the All-SEC club were sophomore Megan Cauble (Knoxville, Tenn.), who finished fifth in 22:09.20 and showed remarkable improvement over last year's 20th-place performance, and sophomore Mindy Sullivan (Lubbock, Texas), who placed 11th in 22:44.54 in the most brilliant outing of her young career. Finishing out the scoring for Tennessee were senior Lindsay Hyatt (Auburn, Calif.) and junior Elizabeth McCalley (Knoxville, Tenn.), who crossed the line in 17th and 20th, respectively, in 22:53.47 and 23:03.71. Hyatt, a transfer from Stanford, was running in her first conference cross country meet as a collegian, while McCalley posted her best SEC result to date following a 25th-place finish in 2001 and a injury-shortened race a year ago.
Also running but not scoring were redshirt freshman Katie Flaute (Dayton, Ohio) in 22nd at 23:09.73, sophomore Carly Matthews (Winston-Salem, N.C.) in 30th at 23:33.85 and senior Jessica Southers (Ashland, Ky.) in 61st at 24:48.49. Flaute's effort was her best-ever in a big meet, while Matthews' outcome was the initial time in 2003 that the Georgia Tech transfer's finish did not factor into the team's point total.
"It was definitely challenging without Felicia Guliford running today and without a big race from Carly, but Mindy Sullivan showed up big today," Clark said. "We knew it was in her, and she has trained very well, so it was good to see her in form. Brooke and Megan were consistent as always and set the pace for us. Lindsay was with them for a while and probably went out too fast, but she was tough and really surged at the end of the race.
"Elizabeth McCalley was patient and moved into contention late in the race, and Katie Flaute was very gutsy and was a pusher for us in keeping space between us and other teams. Overall, it was a solid performance by everyone"
Tennessee will now have two weeks in which to prepare for the NCAA South Regional in Auburn, Ala., on Nov. 15. As the Lady Vols enter that 6K competition at Indian Pines Golf Club, they will attempt to defend the 2002 region title they won on their home course at Lambert Acres Golf Club in Maryville, Tenn. At stake will be a trip to the NCAA Championships meet in Waterloo, Iowa, on Nov. 24.
Women's Team Finishes: 1. Tennessee (57), 2. Georgia (95), 3. Arkansas (103), 4. Kentucky (106), 5. Vanderbilt (107), 6. Auburn (111), 7. Mississippi State (162), 8. Florida (206), 9. Alabama (230), 10. South Carolina (254), 11. LSU (319), 12. Mississippi (345).
Lady Vol Finishers: 3. Brooke Novak (21:58.45), 6. Megan Cauble (22:09.20), 11. Mindy Sullivan (22:44.54), 17. Lindsay Hyatt (22:53.47), 20. Elizabeth McCalley (23:03.71), 22. Katie Flaute (23:09.73), 30. Carly Matthews (23:33.85), 61. Jessica Southers (24:48.49).