Sheffey Returns For Lady Vols
Chanelle Price

Aug. 29, 2011

The Tennessee cross country teams begin the 2011 campaign on Friday in Nashville at the Belmont-VU Opener. Race times are 5:30 p.m. Central time for the women's 4000-meter race and 6 p.m. CT for the men's 5000-meter competition. Here's a preview of the 2011 Lady Volunteers...

KNOXVILLE -- J.J. Clark is the most successful head coach the Lady Vol cross country team has ever had. The 10th-year skipper has four NCAA South Regional titles, three Southeastern Conference Championships and five NCAA appearances under his belt while leading the Big Orange, but even the best go through challenging times.

That was the case for Clark and the UT women in 2010, when they struggled to 12th place in the SEC and 18th in the South Region after eight-straight top-three league outings and the same string of top-four region showings. A youthful squad to begin with, injuries to two key runners in particular helped make for a long year for Tennessee.

The good news for Clark and company, though, is that the team lost only one runner from 2010 and eight letterwinners return. Included in that list of veterans is senior Brittany Sheffey, who redshirted the cross country slate due to injury a year ago, and senior Chanelle Price, who was working her way back from injury while running as a junior.

"We have everyone coming back, so we'll be in a better spot, and we'll insert Brittany Sheffey, which will help us tremendously," Clark said. "Last year, Chanelle came in at the end of the season to help out. She was not in the best of shape early on after being injured the previous outdoor track season. "

Sheffey is a two-time All-SEC and All-South Region performer who is coming off a strong track & field season in which she won the SEC Outdoor 1500m title last spring. She also placed third in the 3000m indoors and the 5000m outdoors at the conference meets and was part of UT's SEC-record-setting distance medley relay unit in 2011.

She was the 12th-place finisher at both the 2008 and 2009 SEC Cross Country Championships and has been in Tennessee's scoring five in all 18 races she's run in orange. Clark hopes to see her among the top finishers as UT hosts the league meet in 2011.

"Brittany is a fifth-year senior and our top returning cross country athlete," Clark said. "She is going to be a leader for this team, and we hope she can set a good tone as we try to bounce back from last season. Without question, it is great to have her back."

The UT head man also is happy to have Price returning for her senior campaign, this time coming off a healthy season of track. Her 2011 campaign on the oval included a sweep of the SEC 800-meter indoor and outdoor titles and All-America finishes of sixth indoors and third outdoors at the NCAA Championships. Price also ran on UT's SEC-record-setting distance medley relay tandem.

A year ago, after working her way back from injury, Price led the squad at the two-mile Front Runner Invitational in Chattanooga and scored in second position for Tennessee at the SEC and NCAA South competitions, though she was well back in the field. Price was 18th overall at the 2009 SEC Championships, indicating what she is capable of doing when she is injury-free.

Price, though, will be utilized strategically during the cross country season to maintain her health and allow her to benefit the team when it matters most.

"Chanelle will be trained intelligently and used rather sparingly during the cross country season," Clark said. "I'd like to get her in shape for her track season, especially this year, but we'll wait to get down the road in our season to call on her abilities once or twice to help us out."

While Sheffey was busy convalescing and Price was working her way into shape, Amber Zimmerman assumed a leadership role for Tennessee as a rookie last year. The product of Knoxville paced the Lady Vols in five of her six races in 2010, just missing Freshman All-SEC honors at the conference meet and running personal-best times from two miles to 6K in her last five meets a year ago.

"The key for Amber is to stay healthy," Clark said. "She had a little injury at the end of the season last year, but she has bounced back. If she stays healthy, she'll be a solid runner in our top five throughout the year."

Joining that trio in the returning letterwinners club are seniors Elizabeth Tiller and Elizabeth Altizer and juniors Andrea Ferri, Ramzee Fondren and Kelsey Kane.

Tiller scored in Tennessee's top three on four occasions and factored into the team scoring in all six meets. Altizer became a consistent point-contributor, Ferri and Fondren began to show signs of developing, and Kane resumed competition after injuries and resulting surgery sidelined her for two seasons.

Also back are juniors Charity Honeycutt, Chelsea Knotts and Nijgia Snapp, and redshirt freshmen Brittney Jackson, Ty-Vonna Johnson and Kianna Ruff. Honeycutt has three college cross country races to her credit, while Knotts has two. This group of runners, which is geared for the 800 on the track, most likely will be groomed the same as Price, seeing limited action on the trails and occasionally being pressed into duty.

Four newcomers, meanwhile, enter the Big Orange program, and Clark looks for at least two of them to have an impact on the 2011 team's fortunes.

Freshmen Amirah Johnson, a four-time all-county selection from Greenbelt, Md., and Lizzie Cornell, a 2010 all-stater from Virginia Beach, Va., enter the fray, as do local products Julia Petree (Maryville H.S.) and Patavia Lowery (Knoxville West H.S.), a transfer from South Carolina State. Lowery made the All-MEAC Cross Country Team as a freshman as SCSU, placing 13th.

With the same schedule as the men's team, Clark's unit will get its first test on Sept. 2 at the 5K Belmont-VU Opener in Nashville, followed by a home meet, the 5K Tennessee Invitational, at Lambert Acres Golf Club in Maryville on Sept. 17. It will mark the Lady Vols' first time as a regular-season host since the 2008 campaign.

Following a 6K race at the Brooks Paul Short Run and a 5K affair at the Crimson Classic on Sept. 30 and Oct. 15, respectively, the Big Orange women will return home to host the SEC Championship meet for the first time since 1998. Lambert Acres will be the site for the 6K trophy battle on Oct. 31.

The UT women then will travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Nov. 12 for the NCAA South Regional. At that meet, the Lady Vols will be attempting to qualify for their first NCAA Championship meet since 2006. If they make it, they'll compete in Terre Haute, Ind., at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course on Nov. 21.

"We have some positive things to look forward to," Clark said. "We're also going to need some surprises from someone.

"Who? I'm not sure, but we have a couple of newcomers who can come in and step up and help out also. It will be a better year and a lot more successful as we move forward."





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