Ethan Smartt
Staff Writer

Heading into a season where four freshman newcomers will face the challenge of filling the shoes of several departed seniors, the 2005 Tennessee women’s cross country team will have to rely on a quintet of returnees for leadership, namely last year’s team MVP, Felicia Guliford.
While Guliford has enjoyed success throughout her cross country career, the junior from Gallup, N.M., will be the first to admit that she was somewhat reluctant to get into the sport.
“My dad was a sprinter in college, and we trained together,” Guliford said. “I started cross country because it was the only sport I could play when I wasn’t running track, and I hated it at first because of the long-distance runs.”
Guliford’s mind changed quickly after an impressive performance in her first meet for the dominant Gallup High School team.
Going into the race, no one expected an eighth-grader in her first season of cross country to make any noise, but Guliford crossed the line in first place, beating all male and female participants.
“That race made me decide to focus more on cross country,” Guliford said.
Guliford made the right decision, running for five years at Gallup High School and collecting four state championships, five district titles, and three top-10 finishes at the prestigious Foot Locker National Championship.
As the awards piled up, so too did the recruitment letters from major cross country programs around the country, but once Guliford made her official visit to Tennessee, she knew this was where she belonged.
“I am very close with my family, so I wanted to feel at home wherever I went,” Guliford said. “Once I met Coach Clark and the team, I really felt comfortable and knew this is where I wanted to go.”
Upon her arrival on campus in 2002, Guliford wasted no time making an impact by placing fifth in her first meet and eventually earning NCAA All-South Region honors.
Guliford was forced to redshirt in 2003 after a strained hip flexor and muscle imbalances in her quads and hamstrings limited her to only one meet appearance.
Rehabbing from injury proved to be a difficult process, but according to teammate Carly Matthews, Guliford thrives off challenging situations.
“Alicia has faced a lot of adversity, but she stays positive and sets a good example. That motivation carries over to the rest of the team,” said Matthews.
After recovering from her injuries, Guliford returned to the team in 2004 and built on the potential she showed during her freshman campaign.
Her year was highlighted by crossing first for the Lady Vols on four occasions and obtaining a fourth-place finish at the SEC Championship.
Guliford’s performance in the 2004 season earned her another NCAA All-South Region nod as well as her first All-SEC recognition and an ESPN The Magazine All-District IV choice.
Heading into the 2005 season, Guliford is expected to be both a leader and a top performer, but the expectations only motivate her to set her goals higher.
“I hope to stay healthy throughout the 2005 season, and I wish to be an All-American at nationals,” Guliford said.