Sept. 12, 2002
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. KNOXVILLE, Tenn.
Under the direction of first-year head coach J.J. Clark, the University of Tennessee women's cross country team will make its 2002 debut on its home course Friday evening. The Lady Vols, picked second in the Southeastern Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, will join the UT men in hosting the Tennessee Invitational at the Lambert Acres Golf Club in Maryville, Tenn.
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The 5000-meter women's race, which is scheduled to get underway at 5:45 p.m., will feature four teams that finished in the top 10 at the 2001 NCAA South Regional. That quartet of squads, which includes Belmont, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and UT Chattanooga, wound up taking places four through seven, respectively, at last year's regional. Also entered in the eight-team women's collegiate field for Friday's event at Lambert Acres are East Tennessee State, Georgia State, Lipscomb and Samford.
"With four teams that finished among the top seven in the region in 2001 competing Friday, you can expect a pretty good opening meet, said Clark. "I feel very confident in our team, and I believe we will be prepared to open up well."
The Lady Volunteers, who sport a roster of 14, join the fray with the program's largest bunch of runners since 1990. Ironically, that total identically matches the squad's number of athletes that season as it claimed UT's last Southeastern Conference title.
Clark's pack is bolstered by the return of three All-SEC selections in senior Sharon Dickie (Grand Blanc, Mich.), junior Jessica Southers (Ashland, Ky.) and sophomore Brooke Novak (Kaukauna, Wis.). A three-time all-conference choice and 2000 All-American, Dickie took third at the SEC meet in 2001, while Novak was 10th and Southers was 13th.
Because the home meet was cancelled last year due to the 9-11 terrorists attacks, Dickie has been the reigning Tennessee Invitational champ since her victory on Sept. 15, 2000. Not only will she be defending that title, but she will additionally be attempting to continue a personal string of 12 consecutive meets where she has been the Lady Vols' first finisher. That streak dates back to the NCAA Championships on Nov. 23, 1998.
"Sharon will once again have a huge impact on this team," Clark said. "She is really coming into her own as this squad's leader and is excited about this first race of the year. We're anxious to watch her run and see how things turn out."
Clark also welcomes back returning NCAA South Regional scorers junior Erin Anderson (Kent, Ohio), junior Christy Baird (Knoxville, Tenn.) and sophomore Elizabeth McCalley (Knoxville, Tenn.). Baird was second on the team and 30th overall at the regional, while Anderson was third for UT and 42nd overall, and McCalley was Tennessee's fourth finisher and crossed right behind Anderson in 43rd. Pushing them will be seniors Amber Ayub (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Rebecca Collins (Loveland, Ohio), junior Kameisha Bennett (Dayton, Ohio) and sophomore Nicole Cook (Petersburg, Va.) as well as a talented quartet of four freshmen.
Joining the squad are rookies Megan Cauble (Knoxville), Katie Flaute (Dayton, Ohio), Felicia Guliford (Gallup, N.M.) and Mindy Sullivan (Lubbock, Texas). Guliford is a three-time Foot Locker National Championships finalist, while Sullivan was a finalist in 2001 and is one of the nation's best 800m runners. Flaute, meanwhile, was a Foot Locker All-Midwest Regional honoree in 2001, and Cauble was an AAA state champ in Tennessee.
"This is an important meet for all of the freshmen," said Clark. "All of them have a chance to earn a spot in the top seven and possibly the top five. Felicia, Katie and Megan have a chance to contribute immediately, and Mindy will become a factor as the season progresses."