Aug. 6, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- For the fifth straight season, the Tennessee women's cross country team will stage its opening act in Music City. J.J. Clark's Lady Vols, who return three all-region caliber runners, will kick off their 2009 season at the Belmont Opener in Nashville on Sept. 4.
UT, which won on Percy Warner Park's 4,000-meter Vaughn's Creek Course in 2007 and posted runner-up efforts in 2005, 2006 and 2008, will toe the line at 5:30 p.m. Central Time in the debut event of Clark's eighth season at Rocky Top.
Meet number two will feature a joint venture by the Big Orange women and men, as the 10th edition of the Tennessee Invitational is contested on Sept. 19 at Lambert Acres Golf Club in Maryville. The ladies' 5K affair is scheduled to go off at approximately 9:15 a.m., with the UT women aiming for their eighth team victory at the meet. The Lady Vols will run for the first time in four years without Sarah Bowman, who graduated after winning Tennessee Invitational titles in 2005 and 2008, and earning All-America (2008), All-South Region (2006-08) and All-SEC acclaim (2005-08) during her career.
For the sixth straight year, Clark will take his troops to Bethlehem, Pa., to compete in the Brooks Paul Short Run at Lehigh University's Goodman Campus Course. Tennessee finished sixth out of 43 schools a year ago at the 6K race and will attempt to improve upon that outcome in 2009 in the 11 a.m. competition.
After alternating between the Penn State National Invitational and the NCAA Pre-Meet the past several years, Clark opted to join the UT men in traveling to Charlottesville, Va., for the Panorama Farms Invitational on Oct. 2. The 6K race, hosted by the University of Virginia, is expected to have a late afternoon start, but no official time has been announced.
The final three races are of the championship variety, and all are at the 6K distance. First, there's the SEC Championships in Oxford, Miss., on Oct. 31, followed by the NCAA South Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Nov. 14. If UT can card a top-two outcome at the regional meet or earn an at-large bid, the squad will head to Terre Haute, Ind., to compete in the program's 11th NCAA Championship meet on Nov. 23.
Tennessee is coming off third-place finishes at the SEC and regional meets and came up just short a year ago in earning the squad's sixth NCAA Championship invitation during the Clark era. UT will head into the 11 a.m. Central Time SEC meet at the Ole Miss Golf Course with a pair of previous all-league honorees in senior Katie Van Horn (2007) and junior Brittany Sheffey (2008). Team Orange is chasing its first league crown since Clark's club won three straight from 2003 to 2005.
As for the regional meet, a trio of prior all-region runners in senior Jackie Areson (2008), Sheffey (2008) and Van Horn (2006-07) will look to pace UT in the 11 a.m. CT festivities at the Harry Pritchett Running Park. The Lady Vols hope to rediscover the formula that enabled them to win four consecutive region titles from 2002 to 2005. Areson also will try to lead Tennessee back to the NCAA meet for the first time since a five-year spree of appearances from 2002-06. She made the field individually as a junior, finishing in 104th place.
"We have basically kept the same schedule since I've been here, but this year we added a little something new into the mix," said Clark, the Director of Track & Field and Women's Cross Country Coach. "We're going to go along with our men's team to the Panorama Farms Invitational at Virginia and try something different. I believe it will help us get to our destination of running well during the championship part of the year.
"The idea is that we'll see some different faces, some different teams. We look forward to getting into the schedule, keeping people healthy and moving toward the meat of the season, which is the final three meets of the year."
|2009 Tennessee Lady Vols Cross Country Schedule|
|Sept. 4||Fri.||Belmont Opener||4K||Nashville, Tenn.||5:30 p.m. CT|
|Sept. 19||Sat.||Tennessee Invitational||5K||Maryville, Tenn.||9:15 a.m. ET|
|Oct. 2||Fri.||Brooks Paul Short Run||6K||Bethlehem, Pa.||11 a.m. ET|
|Oct. 16||Fri.||Panorama Farms Invitational||6K||Charlottesville, Va.||TBA ET|
|Oct. 31||Sat.||SEC Championships||6K||Oxford, Miss.||11 a.m. CT|
|Nov. 14||Sat.||NCAA South Regional||6K||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||11 a.m. CT|
|Nov. 23||Mon.||NCAA Championships||6K||Terre Haute, Ind.||12:58 p.m. ET|
|* All Dates & Times Subject To Change/Home Events In Bold|