KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- University of Tennessee Head Coach J.J. Clark released his 2008 cross country schedule Thursday, and the seventh-year skipper will use a tried and true formula as he attempts to lead his Lady Vols back into contention for league and regional titles and an NCAA Championship berth.
“The schedule is very similar to years past, in that it starts with small, low key meets and just gets better as the season goes on,” Clark said. “There won’t be any surprises. I don’t want to get into a big, heavy meet early where we are not ready for that.
“Some schools come back (to campus in the fall) early to train. We don’t do that. We’ll just follow our schedule and be ready for the competition as it develops throughout the season.”
For the fourth straight year, Tennessee will open its campaign in Nashville at the Belmont Opener. The 4,000-meter race will take place at Percy Warner Park on Sept. 5, and UT is coming off a victorious team finish in 2007 and runner-up efforts in 2005 and 2006. Senior Sarah Bowman (Warrenton, Va.) has won the event in her two previous appearances in Music City, taking the individual crown in 2005 and 2007.
After last year’s Tennessee Invitational was scaled back to a time trial because not enough full teams entered the race, the meet is back in full force in 2008. The Lady Vols, who have won the 5K event six times, will try to extend their run of luck to four years straight at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 19 at Lambert Acres Golf Club. Bowman won the event in 2005 as a rookie and hopes to close her career with another title at home.
A couple of old stand-by meets provide Tennessee’s first big tests of the season, and they also offer the first 6,000-meter courses of the campaign. Beckoning from the Northeast are the Brooks Paul Short Run in Bethlehem, Pa., on Oct. 3 and the Penn State National Invitational in University Park, Pa., at 11 a.m. on Oct. 17. The Lady Vols finished eighth at each of those meets in 2007, and Clark is looking for better things from his club in ‘08.
For the first time since 1995, Mississippi State will serve as host of the Southeastern Conference Championships. The event this season will take place on Nov. 3, exchanging the typical Saturday race for a Monday showdown. UT is coming off a runner-up finish last season in Lexington, Ky., and would like to return to the league winner’s circle that the program occupied from 2003-05.
As it did in 2006 and 2002, Lambert Acres will serve as the site for the NCAA South Regional on Nov. 15. The Lady Vols won the regional meet on their home course in 2002 and placed third in 2006, advancing to the NCAA Championship meet each time. Last season saw a five-year NCAA streak halted for Clark’s crew, so the Lady Vol mentor would like nothing better than to resume UT’s national participation by earning a berth on the Big Orange’s own turf.
“We’re very happy to be hosting the regional meet this season on our home course at Lambert Acres,” Clark said. “It gives us an opportunity to train there and get familiar with the course and have the best chance to run well.
“I always believe the best team is going to win (no matter where you race), but it is just nice to have that feather in your cap. We’ll take that and make the best of the opportunity.”
If things go well, Tennessee will make a return trip to the NCAA meet in Terre Haute, Ind., for the sixth time during Clark’s seven seasons in Knoxville. Indiana State will once again play host to the event at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course on Nov. 24. Race time has been confirmed for 12:05 p.m. Eastern Time for the women.
|2008 Tennessee Lady Vol Cross Country Schedule|
|Sept. 5||Fri.||Belmont Opener||4K||Nashville, Tenn.||TBA|
|Sept. 19||Fri.||Tennessee Invitational||5K||Maryville, Tenn.||5:30 p.m. ET|
|Oct. 3||Fri.||Brooks Paul Short Run||6K||Bethlehem, Pa.||TBA|
|Oct. 17||Fri.||Penn State National Invitational||6K||University Park, Pa.||11 a.m. ET|
|Nov. 3||Mon.||SEC Championships||6K||Starkville, Miss.||TBA|
|Nov. 15||Sat.||NCAA South Regional||6K||Maryville, Tenn.||TBA|
|Nov. 24||Mon.||NCAA Championships||6K||Terre Haute, Ind.||12:05 p.m. ET|
|* All Dates & Times Subject To Change/Home Events In Bold|