Nov. 17, 2005
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Fourth-year University of Tennessee women's cross country/track & field coach J.J. Clark is going to need a bigger office. The one he occupies in Stokely Athletics Center is filled with numerous championship trophies and coach of the year plaques from his first few years in Knoxville. The Lady Vol coach will now have to make room for another award, as he was named by his peers Thursday as the Southeastern Conference Women's Cross Country Coach of the Year for the third straight season.
The honor is the fifth of his 14-year career, with his latest three coming after directing the Big Orange women to victory at the SEC Championships the past three seasons. His first two honors came in 1996 and 1997 after piloting the University of Florida women to conference titles in the midst of a 10-year stay in Gainesville from 1992 to 2001.
Clark's 2005 unit, which was picked to repeat as champions in the league's preseason poll, did just that. Although Arkansas and Georgia appeared to be primed to unseat the Lady Vols at the championship meet, every member of Clark's squad turned in a personal-record time at that race and helped UT become only the second women's team in conference history to pull off a three-peat. The Big Orange's 48 points held off Arkansas (51) by three and easily outdistanced the rest of the 12-team field in Columbia, S.C., on Oct. 29.
Four of Clark's pupils earned All-SEC recognition for their efforts that day, bringing his total of honorees to 10 and their tally of certificates to 12 in his first four years at the helm of the Lady Vols.
In addition to his three SEC coaching awards as UT's leader, Clark is also a three-time USTCA South Region Cross Country Coach of the Year and appears to be in line for that distinction for the fourth time in as many seasons after directing 15th-ranked Tennessee to its fourth straight NCAA South Region crown last Saturday in Gainesville. Add in 2005 USTCA National Indoor, 2005 South Region Indoor, 2005 SEC Indoor and 2005 USTCA Mideast Region Outdoor Women's Coach of the Year accolades on the track & field circuit last spring, and the Tennessee skipper has already hauled in an amazing 10 coach of the year awards in his initial 3 1/2 seasons in Knoxville.
In addition to winning SEC and NCAA South Region titles in cross country this season, Clark has produced a school-best won-lost record of 122-5 in six meets. He also surpassed the 400-victory mark at UT last weekend and earlier this season became the program's all-time winningest cross country coach. His worksheet stands at 401-95-1 (.808 ) as he prepares to lead the Lady Vols into their fourth straight NCAA Championship appearance on Monday.
Tennessee, which will compete in Terre Haute, Ind., at 1:15 p.m. Eastern Time, will seek to continue its trend of improvement at the national meet. UT rose from 28th to 24th to 21st in Clark's first three trips to the national meet, and he is hopeful that his squad will take another step forward in 2005.
Other honorees announced by the SEC Office on Thursday included SEC Men's Cross Country Coach of the Year John McDonnell of Arkansas, who won his 11th straight award and 14th overall. Also drawing kudos were SEC Female and Male Cross Country Athletes of the Year Angela Homan (Auburn) and Josphat Boit (Arkansas), and SEC Female and Male Freshmen of the Year Christine Kalmer (Arkansas) and Augustus Maiyo (Alabama).