BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- The University of Tennessee women, who placed third at the 2006 Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships after winning the three previous league meets, have been picked to finish second this season in the SEC Preseason Coaches Poll, released on Monday afternoon.
Arkansas, which captured the title a year ago, garnered 11 first-place votes and tallied 121 points to earn the title of favorite. Right behind the 11-time SEC champion Lady Razorbacks is Tennessee, which received the other first-place vote and accumulated 105 points. UT’s J.J. Clark is the only SEC coach to keep UA from winning the league’s cross country trophy since the Lady’Backs joined the conference in 1991. The sixth-year UT skipper directed the Lady Vols to crowns from 2003 to 2005, giving them five all-time, and also guided Florida to victories in 1996 and 1997 during his 10-year stint as Gators’ cross country coach.
Florida and Georgia, who each joined Arkansas and Tennessee as NCAA Championship meet qualifiers a year ago, held down the third and fourth poll spots with totals of 102 and 95 points, respectively. Next was Kentucky, with 72, followed by Vanderbilt (67), Mississippi State (66), Alabama (47), Auburn (42), LSU (37), South Carolina (25) and Ole Miss (13).
“When you are picked first or second in these polls, it means people think you have a shot of doing well at the conference meet,” Clark said. “Preseason polls are more for the people who follow the sport. As far as the teams, they believe they can settle it at race time. I’m in that group.
“It’s no surprise Arkansas is picked to win, because they return pretty much everyone. We believe we have a good team, and we know Florida and Georgia ran well in our conference and region meets a year ago and made the NCAA field. Bottom line, it’s going to be a matter of who gets it done at the right time.”
The Lady Vols, who begin their season on Aug. 31 at the Belmont Opener in Nashville, return two athletes who previously earned All-SEC acclaim. Junior Sarah Bowman (Warrenton, Va.) is a two-time all-league honoree, having finished seventh at the conference meet a year ago and sixth in 2005. Junior Leah Soro (Knoxville, Tenn.), who earned All-SEC kudos as a rookie in 2005, also returns.
In addition, Clark has back a pair of all-region runners from last season and welcomes a two-time all-region and all-conference harrier to the program from BYU. Junior Katie Van Horn (Glendora, N.J.) and sophomore Jackie Areson (Delray Beach, Fla.) were NCAA All-South Region performers in 2006 and just missed garnering all-league recognition as well. They will be joined by junior Heidi Magill-Dahl (Orem, Utah), who finished 39th at the 2005 NCAA Championship meet and was a two-time All-Mountain Region and All-Mountain West Conference honoree at BYU before redshirting in 2006 and transferring to Tennessee this fall.
SEC Women’s Cross Country
2007 Preseason Coaches’ Poll