The Tennessee women's cross country team will begin the critical championship portion of its schedule on Monday, Oct. 29, at the 2001 Southeastern Conference Championships.
The 6,000-meter women's race will be contested at the Indian Pines Golf Course in Auburn, Ala.
"We are very excited entering the SEC meet," Lady Vols cross country coach Rodney Rothoff said. "This time of year is so exciting for a team, and we look forward to the championship season.
"This is our opportunity to show everyone how hard we worked during the off-season and how far we have come since last year."
Tennessee is looking to improve on last season's eighth-place finish and will be aided in that effort by junior All-American Sharon Dickie. Dickie finished third at the 2000 SEC meet, and is the top returning finisher from last year.
Freshman Brooke Novak will be making her conference debut, offering Dickie a running mate through most of the race.
In the team race, Tennessee will have to contend with nine-time champion, No. 10 Arkansas and the home-standing Auburn Tigers.
Rothoff is looking for a much stronger finish from UT this year because of the depth of his team. A year ago, Tennessee had just five runners finish the race and only three go on to the NCAA South Regional.
"This year, we are a lot deeper, but we are not quite where we need to be," Rothoff said. "Having Brooke as another front-runner will help us, but this year we are trying to be not only a part of the meet, but also to be competitive.
"If we were to finish in the top three, it would be a huge boost to our program and our goals to win a championship. Anything can happen in these meets, and we go in with the attitude that we can win."
Following the SEC Championship on Oct. 29, the Lady Vols will return to action at the NCAA South Regional where they will vie for one of two automatic bids to the NCAA Championships.

MEN'S CROSS COUNTRY PREPARES FOR AUBURN
Tennessee's cross country squad joins its brethren for the Southeastern Conference Championships at Indian Pines Golf Course in Auburn, Ala., Monday. The Volunteers must prepare to run their last 8K race of the season with a slightly different strategy as
the field of 10 SEC teams (Mississippi State and South Carolina don't field cross country teams) will be considerably smaller than the 30-team fields of the last three races.
"We are excited about the opportunity to compete in the SEC Championship," cross country coach George Watts said. "I feel confident we will improve on last year's performance as a team and potential All-SEC performers.
"Although our SEC squad boasts no seniors, we are more experienced than last year's team. We are familiar with the championship course and we had a good run on it earlier in the season. We will only concern ourselves with executing our race plan and havin
g the best run possible."
Juniors Rob Cloutier, Scott DeFilippis, Ryan Demers and Pat Gildea and sophomores Tim Kelly, Keith Kimmons and Steve Klein join freshman Matthew Lapp to comprise the Tennessee travel squad. The top five Vol finishes count toward the team score.
"This team has done everything I have asked of them," Watts said. "They have remained focused on what their specific goals are as individuals and as a team. We have five guys representing Tennessee in their first SEC cross country championship, and that i
s a great position to be in."