The 21st-ranked University of Tennessee women’s cross country team unleashed its best performance of the year, and coach J.J. Clark’s Lady Volunteers edged No. 17 Arkansas by three points to claim their third straight Southeastern Conference championship Saturday in Columbia, S.C.
Running on the 6,000-meter Hilton Field course at Fort Jackson Military Base in cool and sunny conditions, four Tennessee runners turned in All-SEC efforts as Tennessee tallied 48 points and finished just ahead of Arkansas (51) for the second year in a row. The three-peat of conference crowns by the Lady Vols was a program first and made UT only the second league school to accomplish that feat, joining the Lady Razorbacks, who carted off five trophies in a row from 1991 to 1995 and from 1998 to 2002.
“I’m very, very proud of this team for overcoming adversity,” Clark said. “There were people who we expected at the beginning of the year to be here today contributing. I’m pleased with the way everyone stuck together and displayed great chemistry and poise. This is a good win.
“We’ve had some close, tough wins at the SEC Championships, but we’ve been able to pull them out in the clutch. It’s good to see that. We’ve been consistent with it, and we’re at the top of the SEC at this point.”
It was Clark’s fifth personal SEC title and Tennessee’s fifth as well (1983, 1990, 2002, 2003, 2004). His first two came at Florida in 1996 and 1997. Clark also improved his UT coaching record to 378-95-1, including 42-2 in SEC Championships, as his 2005 team went 99-5.
Though Arkansas managed to get its fifth counting runner across the finish line before Tennessee’s, the Lady Vols prevailed by having each of their first four scorers finish in front of UA’s first four counters. The Lady Razorbacks’ No. 5 scorer came across the line 18th to the Lady Vols’ 21st, but that margin was not enough to overcome the Lady Vols advantage.
“Now that the race is over, you can tell it was very, very crucial for our first four to finish ahead of an Arkansas runner,” Clark said. “It was a factor. Even though their five were in before our five, we had enough up front to cover it.
“Arkansas ran great. We just ran a little better. I am not sure whether it was their best race of the year, but I know it was for us. It was just a dogfight all the way through, and both teams can hold their heads up.”
No. 28 Georgia once again held down third place, scoring 87 points. Rounding out the team scoring were Kentucky (116), Florida (137), Mississippi State (152), Vanderbilt (161), Alabama (190), Auburn (241), LSU (288), South Carolina (311) and Ole Miss (359). Auburn’s Angela Homan, meanwhile, won her third straight individual title, covering the fast and firm course in 19 minutes, 40 seconds, after going out quickly to establish a lead and then holding on over the last mile to claim victory over UT’s Felicia Guliford by six seconds.
Guliford led the Lady Vol charge and earned all-league distinction at the SEC meet for the second year in a row. The junior from Gallup, N.M., turned in the best race of her career, covering the distance in 19:46.23 to demolish her previous 6K personal best of 20:45.3. Her finish is the best by a Lady Vol at the conference championships since Patty Wiegand claimed victory back in 1990.
“I felt really good today,” Guliford said. “I’ve had a hard year, coming back from injury and sickness. I’m just happy to be out here running with my teammates and helping the team win.”
UT wins another SEC title
Published: Tue Nov 01, 2005