Sept. 2, 2009
By Eric Trainer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. --The University of the Tennessee women's cross country team will pop the top on its campaign in Nashville for the fifth consecutive season, as the Lady Volunteers travel to Music City for the Belmont-VU Opener on Friday evening.
The Big Orange women will face off at 5:30 p.m. Central Time against athletes from 11 other schools on the 4,000-meter Vaughn's Creek Course at Percy Warner Park. Expected to join the Lady Vols and co-hosts Belmont and Vanderbilt are Alabama, Alabama A&M, Austin Peay, Cumberland (Tenn.), Lipscomb, Middle Tennessee State, Murray State, UAB, and Union (Tenn.).
"We are looking forward to getting our season started," eighth-year Lady Vol Cross Country Coach J.J. Clark said. "We don't typically run a full team at this meet, but we've been successful there in the past. The idea this week is to just get the ball rolling, have a good meet and come out of it healthy."
Top returning runners this season for the Tennessee women include seniors Jackie Areson and Katie Van Horn, and junior Brittany Sheffey. Areson is a two-time All-South Region honoree (2006, 2008) who qualified individually for the NCAA Championships last season, while Van Horn was All-SEC in 2006 and All-South Region in 2006 and 2007 before redshirting a year ago. Sheffey earned both All-SEC and All-South accolades in 2008 as a sophomore.
Senior Phoebe Wright has received no postseason accolades in cross country, but she dependably scored in all six races for UT last season. On the oval, she swept SEC Indoor and Outdoor titles in the 800 meters last year and was the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor runner-up in that event as well. Other returning letterwinners include sophomores Elizabeth Altizer, Ally Colvin, Chanelle Price and Elizabeth Tiller.
Price was Tennessee's top finisher last season at the Belmont-VU meet, leading the Lady Vols and placing eighth overall out of 103 runners. Wright (12th), Sheffey (15th) and Altizer (34th) also contributed to Team Orange's scoring cause, as UT placed second in the 12-school competition with 83 points behind only Vanderbilt (44).
Tennessee will face this season without graduated seniors Sarah Bowman and Rolanda Bell. Bowman became UT's first All-American since 2000, finishing 36th at the 2008 NCAA meet. She also concluded her career as a four-time All-SEC and three-time All-South Region honoree and was a two-time winner of the Belmont-VU meet (2005, 2007) in her only appearances there. Bell, meanwhile, scored in all six meets as a senior and in nine of her final 11 career starts, including a 14th-place outing in Nashville last season.