Oct. 10, 2002
The University of Tennessee women's cross country team will be attempting to win its third-straight competition in 2002, but accomplishing that feat will be no small task. The Lady Volunteers are among a field of 19 that includes four ranked teams as they compete in the 34th-annual PSU National Invitational on Saturday morning in University Park, Pa.
UT, which opened the campaign with victories at the Tennessee Invitational and adidas Wolfpack Classic, will face No. 8 Providence, No. 21 Villanova, No. 22 William & Mary, No. 25 host Penn State and 14 other programs in the first 6000-meter race of the season for the Big Orange. PSU's Blue and White Golf Courses will be the site for the 10 a.m. meet and will offer the Lady Vols an opportunity to gauge their progress after training exclusively the past three weeks.
"It will be fun to return to racing after taking the past two weekends off," said UT Head Coach J.J. Clark. "After three weeks of additional training, we are in much better shape and people are starting to come along. Being rusty is not a worry, because I am concerned more with making sure we don't overdo it by running too many races. We pick and choose where and when we want to run so we can keep everyone relaxed and healthy.
"This will be the best competition by far that we have had to run against. It's an excellent opportunity to get a good race in before showtime (championship season) and see where we stack up. We'll find out who's going to stand up and be counted."
Tennessee enters the PSU National Invitational with a 13-0 overall record in 2002 and a 1-0 mark against Southeastern Conference foes after winning its first two meets. Clark likes the course at Penn State and doesn't seem overly concerned about his squad adjusting to the 6K distance after running 5000 meters the first two races this season.
"The course at Penn State is a good one," Clark said. "It's most difficult between miles two and three, and has a gradual uphill finish similar to North Carolina State's course. Our training regimen has prepared us to run a 10K, so I'm not worried about the course or the adjustment from 5000 to 6000 meters. We should be in shape to handle it."
Whether his squad is up to the task of knocking off some top 25 schools is another matter. Clark, however, will have nearly the full complement of runners available, so he is anxious to see what transpires.
"There will be a couple of teams there ranked in the lower part of the poll that we are capable of competing with," Clark shared. "It will be interesting to see what we are going to bring to the table."
It is a virtual guarantee that senior Sharon Dickie will be up to the challenge. The Grand Blanc, Mich., native has claimed individual titles in her first two meets this season and has been Tennessee's top scorer in each of the past 14 meets she's started. After earning SEC Female Cross Country Athlete of the Week and twice being named Lady Vol Athlete of the Week, Dickie was chosen as the edsouth/Lady Vol Athlete of the Month for September.
She will have help from nine others, most notably sophomore Brooke Novak (Kaukauna, Wis.), who was third at the Tennessee Invitational; and freshman Felicia Guliford (Gallup, N.M.), who was second at the adidas Wolfpack Classic and fifth at the Tennessee Invite.
Also slated to run are Erin Anderson (Kent, Ohio), Megan Cauble (Knoxville, Tenn.), Nicole Cook (Petersburg, Va.), Elizabeth McCalley (Knoxville, Tenn.), Jessica Southers (Ashland, Ky.) and Mindy Sullivan (Lubbock, Texas).