Nov. 24, 2003
It wasn't the result Head Coach J.J. Clark was hoping for, but the No. 26 University of Tennessee women's cross country team was two spots better than its national ranking and four notches above last year's result, finishing 24th Monday afternoon at the NCAA Cross Country Championships at bitterly cold Irv Warren Golf Course.
Under the direction of the second-year skipper, the Lady Volunteers braved temperatures in the low 20s, 25-mile-per-hour winds and sub-zero wind chills to tally 513 points and garner the program's first top-25 national finish since 1990. Top-ranked Stanford wrestled away the team title from defending champion Brigham Young, edging the Cougars, 120 to 128, while North Carolina's Shalane Flanagan repeated her 2002 individual title and topped her year-old meet record with a victorious time of 19:30.4.
As for Tennessee, the squad's performance was a tangible improvement over last year's 657-point tie for 28th and would very easily have been the top-20 outcome Clark was looking for if not for an unfortunate fall suffered by sophomore Megan Cauble.
The Knoxville, Tenn., native, who has been UT's number-two runner most of the season, tumbled to the ground less than a minute into the tightly-packed 6,000-meter race. By the time the All-South Region and All-SEC performer got back on her feet, she found herself looking at the tail-end of a 252-runner field. Rather than collapsing to the weight of the traumatic turn of events, Cauble rose and delivered one of the team's greatest displays of courage all season long, passing 86 runners over the remainder of the race to finish as UT's fourth scorer in 166th place with a time of 21:41.8.
"It all happened so fast," said the West High School graduate. "I felt someon's hand on my back and my feet got tangled up with someone else's, and the next
thing I knew I was lying flat on my face on the ground. When I looked up, there was nobody to my left or right, and I saw the pack about 10 meters ahead of me.
"After I got up, I just ran as hard as I could and tried to catch as many runners as possible. From that point, it was probably the best race I've ever run, but it really
doesn't show up that way. It's very disappointing."
"Even in such a difficult moment, we learned something today," Clark said. "I have never seen Megan run with such tenacity. She ran as if her life depended on it and ripped the course up after she fell. We learned how big her heart is, and I tip my hat to her for that display.
"She showed that she's capable of being a big contender if she runs like that all of the time. We'll take this and turn it into a positive before everything is said and done."
Aware that Cauble had gone down but unsure of her status, the rest of the team members dug in and mustered all they could to pick up the slack for their fallen comrade and salvage a solid showing. For the fifth time this season and for the fourth-consecutive meet, junior Brooke Novak was the first Tennessee runner to cross the finish line. Remarkably, considering the frigid conditions, she clocked in two seconds off her season best to finish 58th in 20:56.7. The Kaukauna, Wis., product was dramatically better than her 21:19.8, 103rd-place outcome of a year ago.
Falling into line in Cauble's typical number-two slot was senior Lindsay Hyatt, who covered the frosty course in a 21:15.9 reading to ink a 100th-place finish in her first career appearance at the NCAA cross country meet. That performance was nothing short of amazing for the Stanford transfer, who is known more for her prowess as an 800-meter standout on the oval. Her crucial contribution marked the fifth time in as many races that the Auburn, Calif., native scored for the Orange and White, including four times in UT's top three.
Equally as impressive in her first appearance as the Big Orange's number-three finisher this season was junior Elizabeth McCalley. The Knoxville, Tenn., product rolled to a campaign-best time of 21:34.9 to place 155th and upgrade her status nearly 100 positions from last year's 250th-place NCAA finish. The No. 3 team scoring role was the first by McCalley since the former Karns High School standout filled that spot at the Furman Invitational on Oct. 13, 2001, in her rookie season.
Redshirt freshman Katie Flaute, participating in her first NCAA meet, was five seconds off her career best with an output of 21:50.0 to place 178th and score in fifth position for Clark's club. It marked the third occasion in 2003 that the Dayton, Ohio, native had scored for the Lady Vols, all three of them in the No. 5 slot. Rounding out the entrants for Tennessee, which finished the season at 99-31-0 and notched the highest victory total in school history, were sophomore Mindy Sullivan (Lubbock, Texas) in 200th in a career-best 22:03.0 and junior Nicole Cook (Petersburg, Va.) in 249th at 23:24.1. Senior Jessica Southers (Ashland, Ky.) traveled but was the team's alternate and did not run.
"We had a good season and improved at this meet over last year, even with the mishap," said Clark, whose career record now stands at 158-65-1. "Our goal was to be in the top 20. We fell short of that, but it definitely wasn't because they didn't try hard. I can live with the effort the team gave today.
"We weren't expected to win this race, and we were ranked 26th, so in reality we did a little better than we were supposed to today. When you consider we lost Sharon Dickie from last year's team and didn't have Felicia Guliford and Carly Matthews in our lineup, it's really pretty impressive and very promising for next year."
Lady Vol Competitors: 58. Brooke Novak (20:56.7), 100. Lindsay Hyatt (21:15.9), 155. Elizabeth McCalley (21:34.9), 166. Megan Cauble (21:41.8), 178. Katie Flaute (21:50.0), 200. Mindy Sullivan (22:03.0), 249. Nicole Cook (23:24.1).
Team Finishes: 1. Stanford (120), 2. Brigham Young (128), 3. Providence (222), 4. Michigan (232), 5.Colorado (269), 6. North Carolina State (290), 7. UCLA (293), 8. North Carolina (294), 9. Princeton (348), 10. Notre Dame (352), 11. Villanova (380), 12. Missouri (383), 13. Columbia (401), 14. Arizona State (406), 15. Northern Arizona (407), 16. Georgetown (427), 17. Michigan State (435), 18. Florida State (455), 19. Washington (486), 20. Duke (492), 21. Wake Forest (496), 22. Marquette (509), 23. Penn State (510), 24. Tennessee (513), 25. Baylor (516), 26. Wisconsin (528), 27. Indiana (571). 28. Colorado State (574), 29. UC-Santa Barbara (586), 30. Nebraska (593), 31. Texas (644).