Oct. 12, 2006
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- In what appears to be a "dry run" for the NCAA Championship meet in November, as well as a final tune-up prior to the Oct. 29 Southeastern Conference Championship, the University of Tennessee women's cross country team will compete on Saturday in the ISU Pre-Nationals Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind.
The Lady Vols, who rank 24th this week in the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Poll, will be among a group of 24 women's teams out of the country's top 30 who will line up at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course for a 6,000-meter race at the same venue that will host the NCAA meet on Nov. 20. Race time for the women is 11 a.m. Eastern.
Fifth-year UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said he is not focusing on this meet as UT's opportunity to show where it stacks up nationally, but rather as a preparatory step toward the SEC meet in two weeks.
"I really don't look at it in those terms," Clark said. "I am just looking forward to getting us sharp before our conference meet. You have very few opportunities to run where there is a high amount of quality besides the NCAA Championships, so I see this as a chance for our athletes to get used to running with top notch people around them.
"When it's time to run, we'll do that. For now, we're going there (Terre Haute) to put a solid race together and perhaps have our best outing of the season."
Tennessee, which enters the fray with a 52-3 overall record on the campaign, is making its first appearance at the meet since 2004, when the Big Orange fashioned a sixth-place finish in the "White Race" at the ISU Pre-Nationals Meet. Leading the way for Clark's pack that day was then-sophomore Felicia Guliford (Gallup, N.M.), who covered the rolling hill course in 20 minutes, 55.3 seconds. Katie Flaute (Dayton, Ohio) who, along with Guliford, is now one of only two seniors on UT's 2006 squad, was 51st in 21:36.3 two seasons ago.
One of those young ladies has led UT to the finish line in the squad's past eight races. Flaute paced UT to second this season at the Belmont Opener and headed a third-place finish at the Paul Short Run two weekends ago, while Guliford set the tone for a Lady Vol victory at the Tennessee Invitational. Last season, Guliford was the squad's first finisher at the SEC, NCAA South Regional and NCAA Championships, while Flaute hit the tape first among orange-clads at the Paul Short Run and Penn State National Invitational.
Guliford returns to action this week after spraining her right ankle and not finishing the race at the Paul Short Run on Sept. 29. She is expected to be joined by Flaute, sophomores Rolanda Bell (Laurelton, N.Y.), Sarah Bowman (Warrenton, Va.), Leah Soro (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Katie Van Horn (Glendora, N.J.) and freshmen Jackie Areson (Delray Beach, Fla.), Rose-Anne Galligan (County Kildare, Ireland), Kelly Parrish (Ocala, Fla.) and Phoebe Wright (Chattanooga, Tenn.). Soro, an All-South Region and All-SEC performer as a freshman in 2005, will be making her season debut on Saturday.
Team Orange is making its fifth cross country trip all-time to Terre Haute. In addition to the 2004 Pre-Nationals meet, the Lady Vols also made appearances at the NCAA Championships there in 2002, 2004 and 2005, finishing 28th, 21st and 28th, respectively.