Belmont Opener Notes
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- For the third straight season, the University of Tennessee women’s cross country team will kick off its season at the Belmont Opener in Nashville. The Lady Vols, picked to finish second in the Southeastern Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, will be part of a field of 13 teams competing Friday in the 4,000-meter race at 5:30 p.m. Central Time at Percy Warner Park.
UT Head Coach J.J. Clark’s squad, which finished second by one point last year to UAB at the Belmont Opener, will head to Music City with a roster of seven runners. Included in the travel party are juniors Rolanda Bell (Laurelton, N.Y.), Sarah Bowman (Warrenton, Va.), Kimarra McDonald (Lumberton, N.J.) and Katie Van Horn (Glendora, N.J.), sophomores Jackie Areson (Delray Beach, Fla.) and Phoebe Wright (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) and freshman Brittany Sheffey (Bellport, N.Y.).
Among the schools slated to be on hand for the meet are SEC foes Alabama and Vanderbilt, host Belmont, Eastern Illinois, Lipscomb, Middle Tennessee State and Western Kentucky. Vanderbilt and Alabama were picked to finish sixth and eighth, respectively, in the SEC this season. Belmont has won five of the past six Atlantic Sun Conference trophies.
“We’re looking forward to getting the season started and trying to establish ourselves,” Clark said. “Our long-term goal is to get into the shape necessary to be competitive in our conference and nationally. We just want to get our rhythm going and move our cross country mindset in that direction.
“I am looking for them to come together as a team, and our first step in doing that is this meet. We simply want to get the ball rolling and keep everyone healthy as time goes on.”
The Big Orange women will be led by Bowman, a two-time All-SEC performer and 2006 NCAA All-South choice, as well as 2006 All-South honorees Van Horn and Areson. Bowman did not participate in the meet a year ago, while Areson and Van Horn wound up placing 12th and 29th, respectively, in their first meets as Lady Vols as Clark’s fourth and fifth scoring runners. Bell, Wright and McDonald placed 31st, 44th and 53rd, respectively, at the 2006 Belmont meet.
Clark will have two more NCAA All-Region performers staying behind in Knoxville to continue their training. Junior Leah Soro (Knoxville, Tenn.), a 2005 All-South and All-SEC performer, and junior transfer Heidi Magill-Dahl (Orem, Utah), a two-time All-Mountain Region and All-Mountain West Conference selection at BYU, are capable of providing a huge boost when they join the UT pack in competition.