Nov. 25, 2002
TERRE HAUTE, Ind.
The University of Tennessee women were unable to accomplish their goal of a top-20 national finish, but first-year Head Coach J.J. Clark's squad did state its case for a spot in the FinishLynx Top 30 and a nod as one of the United States' up-and-coming distance programs. The Lady Vols tallied 657 points to finish tied for 28th at the NCAA Cross Country Championships Monday afternoon at the 6000-meter LaVern Gibson Cross Country Course.
Dependable senior Sharon Dickie once again paced the Big Orange pack, finishing 50th in a time of 20:48.8 in her final cross country race as a Lady Vol. It marked the 19th-consecutive time the Grand Blanc, Mich., native has crossed the line first for Tennessee, dating back to Nov. 23, 1998. Incidentally, that was the last time the Lady Vols made an NCAA team appearance.
Dickie closes out her career as the only four-time NCAA cross country qualifier in school history as well as the only Lady Vol to reap all-region and all-conference honors on four occasions. With her health intact, she now turns her focus to track and field and hopes to duplicate her spectacular efforts this fall on the oval.
Also scoring for Clark's squad at the national meet and their overall finishes: sophomore Brooke Novak (Kaukauna, Wis.) in 103rd at
21:19.8; freshman Megan Cauble (Knoxville, Tenn.) in 164th at 21:48.3; junior Jessica Southers (Ashland, Ky.) in 238th at 22:39.7; and
freshman Felicia Guliford (Gallup, N.M.) in 246th at 23:00.4. Also running for Tennessee were sophomore Elizabeth McCalley (Knoxville,
Tenn.) in 250th at 23:27.9 and junior Erin Anderson (Kent, Ohio) in 253rd at 23:51.3. Junior Christy Baird of Knoxville made the trip as an
Guliford, who has scored mainly in the two and three positions for the Lady Vols all season long, gave a valiant effort, but was not able to be herself on this day. The talented rookie suffered a hip injury in Tennessee's regional victory and spent the early part of the week on crutches with severe pain. After rehabing the injury all week, consulting with physicians and running for the first time on Sunday, Guliford and Clark made the decision for her to compete. Unfortunately, she wasn't able to supply her usual performance.
"I felt it was obvious we could have had a top-20 finish without Felicia being hurt," Clark said. "She did the best she could today with the injury. Injuries are part of the sport. We just have to figure out what caused the problem so we can avoid it happening again. "It was borderline on whether she would run. We discussed it with the doctors, and they assured us that it was not a career-threatening injury. They cleared her to go, and she did all she could do. We'll just chalk this up as a learning experience for our team and shoot for a top-15 placing next year."
UT, which won the NCAA South Region at Lambert Acres Golf Club in Maryville, Tenn., on Nov. 16, tied in the No. 28 slot with region runner-up Florida State on a sunny, but windy, Indiana day with temperatures in the low 30s. BYU claimed the team title with 85 points. Stanford, which was unofficially declared the meet winner right after the race, had to settle for runner-up status when the official, NCAA-verified results were announced, tallying 113 points. Notre Dame (170), Georgetown (214) and Colorado (220) rounded out the top five. SEC foe Arkansas was seventh at 251.
Taking the individual crown was North Carolina's Shalane Flanagan in 19:36.0, while Katie O'Neill of Yale was second in 19:45.9. South Region victor Vicky Gill of Florida State was 15th in 20:07.4.
The Lady Vols wrapped up the initial season of the J.J. Clark era with a 59-34-1 record, taking part in their first NCAA meet since 1998 and only their sixth in school history. Throw in the region title and a top-three SEC finish, and Clark agrees that his first year was a good place to start.
"It was a good first year," Clark said. "I have very high expectations, and Rome wasn't built in a day. The bar has definitely been raised. We have to adjust and respond to the level of competition -- and we will."