Aug. 22, 2002
First-year University of Tennessee Women's Cross Country Coach J.J. Clark announced the team's 2002 schedule Thursday. The slate features a pair of meets at the Lady Vols' beautiful home course, Lambert Acres Golf Club in Maryville, Tenn., marking the first time since 1998 that the squad has hosted more than one event.
Clark, who arrived at UT in May after 10 years as the cross country coach and assistant track and field coach at the University of Florida, will debut his first Big Orange product on Sept. 13, as the women's and men's programs host the Tennessee Invitational at Lambert Acres. The women's race, which will cover 5000 meters, gets underway at 5:45 p.m.
At this point, Clark hasn't made a decision about who will run for the home team in the first meet, but if senior Sharon Dickie (Grand Blanc, Mich.) lines up, she will be attempting to extend an 11-race personal streak of being UT's top finisher. That marks dates back to the 1998 NCAA Championships, where as a freshman she was the first orange-clad runner to cross the finish line in 74th position. Dickie would also be aiming for her second-consecutive title on the Blount County course after claiming the 2000 Tennessee Invitational crown in 17:54.59. The 2001 edition, which had been scheduled for Sept. 14, was cancelled after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America.
A week after their home opener, the Lady Volunteers will hit the road to Raleigh, N.C., where they will compete in the Wolfpack Classic on Sept. 21. The 5K meet, hosted by North Carolina State University, begins at 9:10 a.m. and should feature a very competitive field.
On Oct. 12, Tennessee visits Penn State University to compete in its first 6000-meter race of the season. That challenge will come at the PSU National Invitational in University Park, Pa., at 10 a.m. The trek to Nittany Lion country will be the first in the history of the Lady Vol cross country program.
After tuning up with the 3K UTC Invitational in Chattanooga at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 19, UT will train its focus on the Southeastern Conference Championships and prepare to run the 6K distance the rest of the season. Interestingly enough, the 2002 SEC gathering will be in Gainesville, Fla., Clark's home for the past 11 years. Gainesville is also the last place Tennessee claimed a league team title in cross country, doing so in 1990 behind the efforts of All-SEC performers Patty Wiegand, Megan Thompson, Jasmin Jones and Celeste Susnis.
The Lady Vols return three all-league honorees from a 2001 club that took second to nine-time SEC victor Arkansas. Dickie, junior Jessica Southers (Ashland, Ky.) and sophomore Brooke Novak (Kaukauna, Wis.) comprise that trio. They are joined by conference scorers junior Christy Baird (Knoxville, Tenn.) and sophomore Elizabeth McCalley (Knoxville, Tenn.).
While that quintet is intact as the new year dawns, there is no guarantee the same five will lead the way in 2002. Junior Erin Anderson (Kent, Ohio) was in the UT top five at every race except SECs as a sophomore, and the presence of gifted 800m standouts sophomore Nicole Cook (Petersburg, Va.) and junior Kameisha Bennett (Dayton, Ohio), and seniors Amber Ayub (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Rebecca Collins (Loveland, Ohio) offers experienced depth and options for Clark.
That compilation of talent enabled Tennessee to place sixth at last year's NCAA South Regional, but the finish was not high enough to earn the team a spot at the NCAA Championships. With UT hosting the 2002 South Regional at Lambert Acres at 10 a.m. on Nov. 16, it will take something extra to get the squad over the hump and forge the first team appearance at nationals since 1998.
The impetus for that breakthrough could be a crop of four freshmen. Joining the fold with strong capabilities are Megan Cauble (Knoxville, Tenn.), Katie Flaute (Dayton, Ohio), Felicia Guliford (Gallup, N.M.) and Mindy Sullivan (Lubbock, Texas). The latter two come with the highest credentials, as Guliford is a three-time top-six finisher at the Foot Locker National Championships and Sullivan was a finalist at that event and the meet record-setting 5A state champ in Texas in 2001. Flaute, meanwhile, was an All-Midwest selection in the 2001 Foot Locker Regional, and Cauble was the AAA state title holder in Tennessee as a senior.
If that group makes its mark in 2002, then the Lady Vols could very well conclude their season in Terre Haute, Ind., at noon on Nov. 25 at the NCAA Championships. If the Big Orange accomplishes that goal, it would be a fitting end to a fine career for Dickie, putting bookend national team appearances on her resume to go along with an All-America showing in 2000 and another individual appearance in 2001.
"The schedule is ideal, and I really couldn't ask for anything better," said Clark. "Waiting until Sept. 13 to open up, and doing so at home, allows us to get some extra training in together before we hit the road. After that, the meets are spread out enough and tailored to prepare us for the SEC Championships and NCAA South Regional. We just have to go out, piece them together and build upon our performances each step of the way."
2002 TENNESSEE LADY VOL CROSS COUNTRY SCHEDULE
|Sept. 13||Fri.||Tennessee Invitational||5K||Maryville, Tenn.||5:45 p.m.|
|Sept. 21||Sat.||Wolfpack Invitational||5K||Raleigh, N.C.||9:10 a.m.|
|Oct. 12||Sat.||PSU National Invitational||6K||University Park, Pa.||10 a.m.|
|Oct. 19||Sat.||UTC Invitational||3K||Chattanooga, Tenn.||2:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 4||Mon.||SEC Championships||6K||Gainesville, Fla.||9 a.m.|
|Nov. 16||Sat.||NCAA South Regional||6K||Maryville, Tenn.||10 a.m.|
|Nov. 25||Mon.||NCAA Championships||6K||Terre Haute, Ind.||Noon|
* All Dates & Times Are Subject To Change/All Times Eastern