Oct. 17, 2002
University of Tennessee Head Women's Cross Country Coach J.J. Clark will put his squad through its final tune-up race Saturday, as the Lady Volunteers take part in the nine-team UTC Invitational in Chattanooga at 2:30 p.m.
The event, which will be UT's last opportunity to compete before the Southeastern Conference Championships on Nov. 4, will be held on the 2-mile Moccasin Bend course. In addition to the Lady Vols and host Chattanooga, registered teams include Fisk, Middle Tennessee, Mississippi College, Tennessee State, Tennessee Tech, University of the South and Vanderbilt.
Tennessee enters the meet with a 26-5 overall record, including home victories earlier this season over Chattanooga and Vandy, and has claimed both the team and individual titles at two of the three races it has entered thus far. The UT women, who received four votes this week and are on the cusp of being ranked in the FinishLynx/NCAA Division I Women's Cross Country Poll, will use the meet as yet another stepping stone toward acheiving their goals during the 2002 campaign.
"This is our final opportunity to sharpen ourselves before we head into the championship season," said Clark. "Our goal is to go out aggressively, run a good race and come out healthy. Of course, we always want to win, but my focus is going to be on us being aggressive, setting a quick tempo and getting in a good workout."
As usual, Clark will count on Sharon Dickie to set the tone. The senior from Grand Blanc, Mich., has been her team's top scorer the past 15 races she's run dating back to 1998. In her first two outings this season, Dickie claimed individual titles and helped UT win the Tennessee Invitational and adidas Wolfpack Classic. Last Saturday, she placed seventh and paced the Big Orange to a sixth-place team effort at the 34th-annual PSU National Invitational.
Attempting to shadow Dickie will be sophomore Brooke Novak (Kaukauna, Wis.) and freshman Felicia Guliford (Gallup, N.M.), who have taken turns in the second and third slots on the team. Novak was UT's number-two runner in the season opener, but Guliford rose to the challenge and has held that position the past two races.
Perhaps the key to how well Tennessee will fair in the postseason will come from the fourth and fifth runners and how close they can stay to the top three. You can bet that Clark will be keeping an eye on that this weekend. Thus far, juniors Erin Anderson (Kent, Ohio) and Jessica Southers (Ashland, Ky.), sophomore Elizabeth McCalley (Knoxville, Tenn.) and freshman Megan Cauble (Knoxville, Tenn.) have scored for UT in those positions.
That foursome, and the quartet of senior Rebecca Collins (Loveland, Ohio), junior Christy Baird (Knoxville, Tenn.), sophomore Nicole Cook (Petersburg, Va.) and freshman Mindy Sullivan (Lubbock, Texas), rounds out a Lady Vol travel party of 11 that hopes to improve upon an 18-2 Big Orange record in races held in Chattanooga.