Race NotesKNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- There’s nothing short about the Brooks Paul Short Run. In fact, the University of Tennessee women’s cross country team will encounter its longest race of the 2007 season on Friday afternoon, as it competes at Lehigh University’s 6,000-meter Goodman Campus Course in Bethlehem, Pa.
After previously running at distances of 4,000 and 5,000 meters this season, the 28th-ranked Lady Volunteers will move up to the official SEC and NCAA mileage when they compete in the Women’s Brown Championship Race at 1:40 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday. Fifth-ranked Wisconsin, No. 13 Princeton and No. 23 Texas Tech will be among the 46 schools expected to field teams in the meet’s elite women’s division.
The Big Orange women will be making their fifth straight appearance at the competition and running at Lehigh for the seventh time in school history. Tennessee claimed victory at the meet in 2004 and charted third-place finishes in 2003, 2005 and 2006 under head coach J.J. Clark’s direction. UT tallied 115 points a year ago to come in behind No. 13 Princeton (61) and No. 9 Wisconsin (62) in the team standings.
“We’ve gone up there the past few years,” Clark said. “It’s a good meet, and it’s a good, solid course. It has some nice rolling hills, but also it is a fair course that gives you some nice flats to get your rhythm. It’s a true 6K course that is only designed for cross country, and the mile markers are permanent, so you know what you are going to get and you have some perspective when you see everyone’s times.”
Clark welcomes back five athletes who competed a year ago in a field of 237 runners. Among them are three who scored for Team Orange in 2006, including Jackie Areson (16th, 21:19), Katie Van Horn (21st, 21:24) and Sarah Bowman (34th, 21:37). While they didn’t run in the elite race with their teammates, Rolanda Bell (16th, 22:26) and Phoebe Wright (39th, 23:03) showed well in the open division race last season.
Thus far in 2007, Bowman has emerged as Tennessee’s bona fide leader with personal-record times each event she has run. The junior from Warrenton, Va., has participated in three races this season and has been the top collegiate finisher on all three occasions.
After winning the 4K Belmont Opener on Aug. 31 and finishing as the top collegian at the 5K Bulldog Stampede last weekend with a league-leading time of 17:37.45, Bowman collected a pair of SEC Female Cross Country Athlete of the Week nods this season and ran her career total to three. Former stars Sharon Dickie and Brooke Novak are the only Lady Vols who have been honored as many times during their careers, and only Dickie has been chosen as many times in a single season.
“Sarah has an abundance of talent; that’s not really a secret,” Clark said. “It is just good to see that she is attacking the courses now and running with confidence and a rhythm that allows her to be successful. We just look for her to continue to improve upon that as the year goes on and get even faster, stronger and more confident.”
While not currently earning a great deal of recognition from anyone outside the program, junior Katie Van Horn (Glendora, N.J.) has made a case for her place in the team’s pecking order. The 2006 All-South Region honoree has been Tennessee’s second finisher in both of her races this season, placing third overall at the Belmont Opener and crossing the line 11th at the Bulldog Stampede.
Though she was held out last weekend, sophomore Jackie Areson (Delray Beach, Fla.) looked sharp in running third for UT and fifth overall at the Belmont meet. Freshman Brittany Sheffey (Bellport, N.Y.), who ran fourth in the Big Orange pack in the opener, moved up to third last weekend in Areson’s absence. Junior Rolanda Bell (Laurelton, N.Y.) held down the four spot at the Stampede, while sophomore Phoebe Wright (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) has been the fifth Tennessee contributor on each occasion.
Clark has two “X” factors who have yet to appear in 2007. Juniors Heidi Magill-Dahl (Orem, Utah) and Leah Soro (Knoxville, Tenn.) have been outstanding in the past, but the Lady Vol skipper is waiting for the right moment to add those two into the mix. Magill-Dahl, a transfer from BYU, was a two-time all-conference and all-region performer at her previous school, while Soro was All-SEC and All-South Region for the Lady Vols in 2005.
“As far as our team is concerned, I think we are moving along very well,” Clark said. “From meet to meet we are getting in better shape, and we just look to continue that. Hopefully, by the Penn State meet, we’ll be able to put a full squad out there and really have some fun. Until then, we are going to keep moving forward and developing as a team.”