Oct. 1, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- From here on out, the races will be 6,000 meters long for the University of Tennessee women's cross country team. The Lady Vols, who moved into the national rankings this week at No. 29, will face their first test at the championship race distance on Friday, when they compete in the Brooks Paul Short Run at Lehigh University's Goodman Campus Course in Bethlehem, Pa.
The Big Orange women, who also rose from third to second in the NCAA South Region Rankings that are administered by the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, will run in the Brown Division race at 11:45 a.m. on Friday. The Lady Vols, who finished eighth out of 47 teams at last year's meet, are making their sixth consecutive appearance at the Brooks Paul Short Run. UT was victorious in 2004 and placed third in 2003, 2005 and 2006.
Expected to join Tennessee in the 45-team Brown race are ranked schools West Virginia (No. 9), Wisconsin (No. 12) and Baylor (No. 16). Other notables include Army, Brown, Charlotte, Colgate, Cornell, Lehigh, Navy, Penn, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse, UMass and Villanova.
Tennessee enters the fray with a 12-1 overall won-lost record this season, having won the 5K Tennessee Invitational on Sept. 19 and finished second at the 4K Belmont Opener on Sept. 5. Big Orange Head Coach J.J. Clark would like to see his troops run in a tighter pack then they have in their first two outings this season and put themselves in the hunt.
"I'd like to see us go up there and run a competitive team race, being as close to our number-one runner as possible," Clark said. "Obviously, staying healthy is a nice thing to do, but going there, continuing to get in shape for the championship season and running a competitive race is our objective. We want to really get ourselves sharpened up for the next couple of meets."
Having grown up in nearby New Jersey and attended college at Villanova, Clark ran on the Lehigh trail in his days as a competitor. He always has had high regard for the course, which has served as the site of the NCAA Championship meet on more than one occasion. The meet, itself, also has become a proving ground against ranked teams and some of the stronger programs from the Northeast.
"Since we've been going to this meet, the quality of the competition has consistently risen," Clark said. "It's also a great course - I think one of the best courses in the country. They should be trying to get the NCAA meet back up there - that's how great of a course I think it is.
"It's very viewer friendly, and it was designed specifically for cross country. That's why I like going there. It is a great measuring stick, because the mile markers are permanently in the ground, so the course is the same every year and you know when someone runs the course how well they are doing."
Without question, Lady Vol senior Sarah Bowman (Warrenton, Va.) has demonstrated that she is running well and up to the task of being a team leader. In her season debut two weekends ago, the three-time All-SEC selection paced UT to victory at the Tennessee Invitational with an individual triumph of her own. She covered the rolling hill 5K Lambert Acres trail in a career-best 17:21, charting the second-fastest mark ever run by a Lady Vol on that course and the No. 2 readout in the SEC at that distance this season.
"We know Sarah is very talented," Clark said. "We're just happy to see her get out there and get off to a good start. We look forward to her continuing in her progress and leading our team to some solid races as our year continues and we come to the championship season. It's just been fun watching her mature over the years and seeing her interact with our close-knit team. She's definitely in a good place."
Others expected to be in the mix include junior Jackie Areson (Delray Beach, Fla.), senior Rolanda Bell (Laurelton, N.Y.), sophomore Brittany Sheffey (Bellport, N.Y.), junior Phoebe Wright (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) and freshman Chanelle Price (Easton, Pa.). Price, who will be returning to her old stomping grounds this weekend to compete, led the Lady Vols in her first collegiate race on Sept. 5, taking eighth overall at the 4K Belmont Opener.
Also potentially in the mix will be freshman Elizabeth Altizer (Bartlett, Tenn.), who ran fifth for the Lady Vols at Belmont, and senior Katie Van Horn (Glendora, N.J.), who might be making her season debut on Friday.