Nov. 20, 2009
By Eric Trainer, Associate Director of Media Relations
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Their team came up just short of a national bid, so Tennessee seniors Jackie Areson and Katie Van Horn will carry the Lady Vol banner into the fray Monday, as they compete in the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.
Areson and Van Horn will run in the 6,000-meter women's race at 12:58 p.m. Eastern time at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center. Versus Network will televise the event live, while NCAA.com will provide live video streaming.
"They both arrived here via different paths; nonetheless, they are in the NCAA meet," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "Jackie has led the team the entire year, has run very tough and consistent, and received an automatic bid. Katie is getting stronger every race and running better and better. She had a little cold at the conference meet, didn't complain about it at all, and really pulled it together and got an at-large bid at the South Regional.
"I am just looking for both of these student-athletes to do their best at the NCAA meet. They have done a great job of that up to this point."
Areson, who hails from Delray Beach, Fla., will be making her third overall trip to the NCAA meet and second consecutive visit. She made the 2009 field as an automatic individual qualifier by finishing third at the NCAA South Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala., last Saturday. She finished 104th in Terre Haute a year ago in a time of 21:14.7 and also qualified during UT's team appearance in her rookie season of 2006, logging a 161st-place result in 22:35.6.
A three-time All-South Region honoree and a first-time All-SEC recipient in 2009, Areson paced the Lady Vols in all six of their races this season, posting five top-five finishes along the way. In addition to taking third at the regional meet, Areson also crossed the line third at the SEC Championships. Though her cross country career will conclude following this race, Areson still has a full track & field season ahead of her.
A native of Glendora, N.J., Van Horn is anticipating her second NCAA appearance. Like Areson, she also made the trip to Terre Haute in 2006 with the entire squad, running second for UT and finishing 113th overall in 22:14.6. After redshirting cross country in 2008 and completing her track & field eligibility last season, the NCAA race will be the final time she dons a Tennessee uniform in competition.
During her career, Van Horn has collected All-South Region kudos three times and is a two-time All-SEC honoree. After sitting out Tennessee's first race in 2009, she has competed the last five meets, running second on the team behind Areson twice and third on three occasions. It was her 10th-place regional effort, where she ran second on the squad, that earned her the trip to Terre Haute.
Clark believes Areson's and Van Horn's previous experience running in the NCAA meet will prove helpful to them as they prepare to run on Monday.
"I think it's good (to have experience running at the NCAA meet)," Clark said. "There is no other place you can get this kind of competition except the NCAA meet. It's a fast and fury type of pace there, and everyone is just `go, go, go' right from the gun.
"The competition is very stiff. Once you go through it, you understand what you have to prepare yourself for, and you do a better job of mentality readying yourself for the task that is about to come, which is to get to the finish line as fast as you can."
While Clark is disappointed that his entire squad, which finished second in the SEC and third in the South Region, didn't get the at-large bid it was hoping for, he is pleased to see his veteran runners make it back to the national meet in their final season.
"It is very rewarding to see these two end their careers at the NCAA Championship meet," Clark said. "We have two seniors who love cross country, and they are going out racing in the national championship meet. I do feel our team was worthy of an NCAA bid, so I am disappointed for our group, but I am very happy for Jackie and Katie for their successes and for what they have done and meant to our program."