Getting a record-setting day out of junior Brooke Novak wasn't enough for the Tennessee women's cross country team to overcome the presence of two top-25 powers.
At Friday's Tennessee/adidas Invitational at Lambert Acres Golf Club in Maryville, Novak ran to a second-place finish and charted a school course record. Cranking out a time of 17:39.20 on the hilly, 5000-meter course, the Wisconsin native posted the best 5K clocking by a UT woman at that venue since the team began competing on it in 1998.
Novak's effort, however, wasn't enough to spur the Lady Vols to victory. No. 14 North Carolina State (28 points) and No. 23 Wisconsin (39 points), two perennial NCAA distance powers, finished one-two, while unranked Tennessee took third with 60.
N.C. State, which bunched its five scoring runners into first, fifth, sixth, seventh and ninth places, was led by individual champion Kristin Price, the fourth-place finisher at the 2001 NCAA meet. Her 17:15.68 effort rated as the fourth-fastest pace ever run on the 5K trail at Lambert Acres.
"Overall, it was a good start for us," UT coach J.J. Clark said. "We knew going in what we were up against, so in that respect I thought we ran very competitively."
Novak received scoring assistance from sophomores Carly Matthews and Megan Cauble, who finished 11th and 12th, respectively.
"Brooke getting the school course record was obviously a plus," Clark said. "It is a great indicator of what she is capable of doing down the road. Carly definitely came in and made an impact in her first race as a Lady Vol, and Megan dropped about a minute-and-a-half off her time from a year ago at this meet, which is a really strong showing."
Clark opted to hold out seniors Christy Baird and Lindsay Hyatt, sophomore Felicia Guliford and redshirt freshman Katie Flaute in favor of continued training. Guliford was an All-South Region performer as a rookie, Baird was a 20th-place SEC finisher in 2001 and Hyatt is a transfer from Stanford who contributed to both the cross country and track and field programs for the Cardinal the past three seasons.
With that quartet expected to make its debut, the Lady Vols return to action Friday, as they travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to compete in the 5K Crimson Classic Invitational at Harry Pritchett Golf Course.