The Tennessee cross country teams struggled against tough SEC competition in the conference championships on Monday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The Vols finished third, scoring 163 points in the 8K race at the Harry Pritchett Golf Course. Arkansas took the team title with 27 points. Alabama's David Kimani won the individual title by running the course in 24:19.03.
Our inexperience and youth made for a difficult day, head coach George Watts said. Marcus (Tanner) did a great job by making All-SEC for the first time. He ran right in there with some pretty good runners. It will help with his confidence in track.
Tanner led the Tennessee contingent with a 12th-place, 25:40.47 finish. The effort was good enough for inclusion on the All-SEC team. Tanner's time stands 34 seconds faster than his previous season-best mark.
Farragut native Eric Bell placed 25th in 26:39.32. Keith Kimmons finished 41st by covering the course in 27:17.54. Vince Dressel broke the tape in 27:24.37 to stand 44th. Clay Wiggins rounded out the Vol scorers by finishing 45th in 27:29.54. The spread between Tennessee's top five finishers was 1:49.07, the Vols' widest spread of the year.
Tennessee's non-scorers were led by Rob Cloutier at 51st. Cloutier sustained an injury during the race, but finished in 27:56.32. Paul Hallman clocked in at 28:40.91 to earn 60th. Scott Defilippis was injured during the race and could not finish.
Sophomore Sharon Dickie's third-place overall finish led the Lady Vols to an eighth-place team finish.
Dickie, a 1998 All-SEC selection, took the second all-conference honors of her career with a third-place mark with a time of 20:47.15 in the 6K race.
The second Lady Vol to cross the finish line was freshman Jessica Southers in 17th at her first SEC competition. Southers ran the course with a time of 22:17.01 and narrowly missed All-SEC honors that are presented to the top 15 finishers. Another freshman, Erin Anderson, also had a strong race in her SEC debut as she took 34th with a clocking of 22:58.59.
Rounding out the UT contingent was sophomore Amber Ayub in 70th with a mark of 24:51.29. Freshman Kameisha Bennett, running in only her second career cross country race, finished 82nd with a time of 26:03.10.
The final Tennessee runner, sophomore Rebecca Collins, did not finish the race due to injury.
I am very pleased and excited with the way we competed as a team today, cross country coach Rodney Rothoff said. We functioned as one unit today and with a runner not finishing, it was crucial that everyone thought about the team today. It was our goal to improve on last year's finish and we did that.
Lili Kleimann of Arkansas won the overall title with a time of 20:11.08, establishing a SEC record with the conference's first 6K championship race. Arkansas also won the overall team title with a total of 43 points for the team's eighth SEC crown while Georgia finished second with 74 points and Auburn took third with 85 points.
The Vols and Lady Vols return to action at the NCAA South Regionals on Nov. 11 in Tuscaloosa. The race will be held on the same course as the SEC Championships.