Junior Felicia Guliford, one of four Lady Vols to produce all-region performances, led the charge with a fifth-place individual finish as No. 15 Tennessee collected its fourth consecutive NCAA South Regional cross country championship Saturday morning at the University of Florida Golf Course in Gainesville, Fla.
As one of the top two team finishers, UT automatically advances to the NCAA Championships for the fourth straight season and for the ninth time in program history. This year’s national meet will be held Monday at the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute, Ind.
“It’s good to win,” Clark said. “One of our youngsters did not have a great race, but Carly Matthews really stepped it up. My hat is off to her.
“The rest of the group was solid as a rock. I am just happy to be able to get to the NCAA meet, and hopefully we’ll get into a good rhythm there.”
Tennessee, which improved its record in South Region meets under coach J.J. Clark’s watch to 84-0 over the past four years, tallied 76 points to easily defeat runner-up Georgia (98) and improve its season mark to 122-5. That win total marks the third year in a row UT has charted a record number of victories, including tallies of 121 in 2004 and 99 in 2003.
“All we were trying to do was get to the NCAA meet,” Clark said. “It’s good to win four years in a row, and it’s something that is very positive for our program.”
Guliford’s top-five outing at this year’s meet set the tone for Lady Vols. Her clocking of 20 minutes, 43.47 seconds was 53 seconds behind winner Shannon Wommack of Chattanooga (19:50.16), but it was good enough to give the Lady Vol the fifth-best result ever recorded on the course.
Wommack, the 2004 regional runner-up, outpaced last year’s victor, Angela Homan of Auburn, who was second this time around in 20:14.83.
“I am just very happy and feel fortunate that (Guliford) was able to contribute today, even though I think she is capable of winning the race,” Clark said.