Aug. 29, 2005
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Corralling six of 12 first-place votes, the University of Tennessee women were picked by the league's coaches to record a championship three-repeat when the 2005 Southeastern Conference Cross Country Preseason Poll was released Monday afternoon.
The Lady Volunteers, directed by fourth-year Head Coach J.J. Clark, tallied 115 poll points to edge second-place Arkansas, which collected four first-place nods and accumulated 113 points. Georgia, with two first-place votes, was third at 101, followed by Vanderbilt (80) and Florida (77) in fourth and fifth. The remaining schools included Auburn (70), Kentucky (59), Mississippi State (56), Alabama (51), LSU (32), South Carolina (22), and Ole Miss (13). Points for the women's poll were awarded on a 11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.
"It's always nice for our program to receive this kind of positive attention from the SEC, but it won't help us win any races this season," Clark said. "We look forward to working hard and attempting to defend our conference titles on the course. That's where our success will be measured."
Tennessee returns eight letterwinners, including 2004 All-SEC and NCAA All-South Region performers in juniors Felicia Guliford (Gallup, N.M.) and Katie Flaute (Dayton, Ohio) and a 2003 all-league honoree in senior Mindy Sullivan (Lubbock, Texas). Clark, the conference coach of the year the past two campaigns, also welcomes back senior Carly Matthews (Winston-Salem, N.C.) and a talented group of four newcomers, led by three-time All-USA Today Track & Field Team selection Sarah Bowman (Warrenton, Va.).
Clark has posted a 279-90-1 record during his tenure in Knoxville and is on the verge of becoming the all-time winningest coach in program history in just his fourth year at the helm. It took UT Hall of Famer Terry Crawford 10 years (1974-83) to amass the Lady Vol cross country career-best record of 303-76-1.
UT's current skipper, a four-time SEC Coach of the Year, will try to guide his troops to their fifth league crown ever and his fifth as a head coach. In addition to his 2003 and 2004 conference titles at Tennessee, Clark guided Florida, his former school, to SEC cross country trophies in 1996 and 1997.
The Lady Vols open the 2005 campaign on Friday, as they run in the Belmont Opener in Nashville. The 2005 Southeastern Conference Cross Country Championships, hosted by LSU, will be held Oct. 29 in Baton Rouge.
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