Nov. 15, 2003
"Lady Vols Rock!" So said the sign displayed by senior Lindsay Hyatt's parents as she and her University of Tennessee teammates arrived at the course for the 2003 NCAA South Regional Cross Country Championships. So said the scoreboard afterward, as well, as Head Coach J.J. Clark's 24th-ranked squad rolled to its second-straight region title at Indian Pines Golf Club on Saturday morning.
The Big Orange packed three runners among the top 10 and placed all five scorers within the first 26 finishers to accumulate 71 points and easily defend its 2002 title over No. 28 Florida State, which once again posted a second-place outcome with 93. Georgia, which finished second to UT at the recent SEC Championships, took third with 109, while host Auburn was fourth at 127 and Vanderbilt tallied 132 points to grab fifth out of a women's field of 25 teams as the squad from Rocky Top padded its display case with a new trophy to go along with last year's NCAA South title, an NCAA District III win in 1983 and an AIAW Region 2 victory in 1977.
The repeat regional triumph, the first accomplished in the 30-year history of the Tennessee program, automatically qualifies Clark's club for the NCAA Championships meet on Nov. 24 in Waterloo, Iowa. The appearance will be UT's 10th in a national meet, including seven since becoming an NCAA member in 1981, and will mark the fourth time the Lady Vols have made nationals in back-to-back seasons.
"I knew we had a good team, and that if everyone ran the way they were capable of running, we'd be the significantly better team," said Clark, the first Lady Vol cross country skipper to produce multiple region titles and also qualify teams for national meets in his first two seasons at the helm. "We did that today, but I still think there is more in the tank. I'm looking for a couple of others to move into scoring positions at the NCAA meet."
Leading the Big Orange pack for the third-straight race and the fourth time in 2003 was junior Brooke Novak, who posted her second-consecutive top-five regional performance. The Kaukauna, Wis., native, who was fourth a year ago, claimed fifth this time around in a season-best 20:54.80 on the 6,000-meter course and earned All-South status for the second time in as many seasons.
Right on Novak's heels with career-best races and providing Tennessee with its first top-10 trio at regionals since 1983 were sophomore Megan Cauble (Knoxville, Tenn./West) and Hyatt (Auburn, Calif.), who crossed the line in 20:59.21 and 21:02.73, respectively. With those fine displays, Cauble managed to bag her second All-South certificate in as many seasons, while Hyatt, a transfer from Stanford, picked up her first regional citation and her initial individual cross country award during a collegiate career that has been geared more toward middle distance running on the oval.
Making the moment that much more special for Hyatt was the fact that her parents were on hand to see it. Ron and Jan Hyatt took a red-eye flight out of Sacramento, Calif., on Friday at 11 p.m., flew all night and landed in Atlanta around 5:30 a.m. Saturday. After making the 100-mile drive down to Auburn, the Hyatts were already at the course, cheerfully waving signs as the team bus pulled into the parking lot at Indian Pines around 8:20 a.m.
"You look at those first three times - we've never had three that close together, up so high," Clark said. "There were only eight seconds separating Brooke, Megan and Lindsay. That's a great start to have quality people up that high."
Joining Novak, Cauble and Hyatt on the All-South squad was junior Elizabeth McCalley (Knoxville, Tenn./Karns), who cranked out a reading of 21:44.16 to wind up 24th and score in the No. 4 slot for Tennessee for the fourth time in five races this year. Finishing just over a second behind her in 21:45.21 was redshirt freshman Katie Flaute (Dayton, Ohio), who claimed 26th and just missed making it a quintet of orange-clad All-South selectees for the Orange and White.
Rounding out the finishers for Team Rocky Top were sophomore Carly Matthews (Winston-Salem, N.C.) in 35th at 22:02.56 and sophomore Mindy Sullivan (Lubbock, Texas) in a career-topping 22:06.82 to place 38th out of a group of 176 runners. Though not counting toward the victorious score, their efforts contributed to the best NCAA regional or district team day ever for Tennessee, as the program had never placed all seven of its competitors within the top 38. That masterpiece supplanted UT's inaugural NCAA District III squad in 1981, which placed all of its runners within the top 40 en route to a fourth-place finish that season in a race that featured only 49 athletes.
"In addition to Brooke, Megan and Lindsay running well, Little Bit (Elizabeth McCalley) ran another consistent race," said Clark, who won his second regional title at UT to go along with a pair at his former school, Florida (1997 and 1998). "Katie Flaute had the race of her life today, and that really helped us. We put it all together and had a good meet and a good score. We're pleased to win the SEC, take the regional again and go to NCAAs back to back. It indicates we are moving in the right direction."
Tennessee, now 92-8 on the campaign and 151-42-1 in two seasons under the leadership of Clark, will turn its attention to the NCAA Championships meet, which will be hosted by the University of Northern Iowa and contested a week from Monday on the Irv Warren Golf Course in nearby Waterloo. At 12:15 p.m. CT., the Lady Vols will attempt to improve on last season's tie for 28th and post the first top-20 finish since Missy Kane's squad grabbed 12th in 1990.
"Our goal is to be in the top 20, the closer to top 15, the better," Clark said. "That is very realistic if we compete the way we did today."
Lady Vol Finishers: 5. Brooke Novak, 20:54.80; 7. Megan Cauble, 20:59.21; 9. Lindsay Hyatt, 21:02.73; 24. Elizabeth McCalley, 21:44.16; 26. Katie Flaute, 21:45.21; 35. Carly Matthews, 22:02.56; 38. Mindy Sullivan, 22:06.82.
Team Finishes: 1. Tennessee 71; 2. Florida State 93; 3. Georgia 109; 4. Auburn 127; 5. Vanderbilt 132; 6. Mississippi State 186; 7. Florida 206; 8. South Florida 228; 9. Belmont 274; 10. Georgia Tech 302; 11. Samford 303, UAB 303; 13. Georgia State 368; 14. Alabama 370; 15. Central Florida 388; 16. Miami 396; 17. Southern Miss 416; 18. Florida Atlantic 429; 19. Mississippi 547; 20. Florida International 553; 21. Birmingham Southern 640; 22. Memphis 641; 23. Georgia Southern 646; 24. Lipscomb 647; 25. UT-Martin 691.