The No. 14 Tennessee women’s cross country team will put that ranking on the line Friday night when it joins the Tennessee men in playing host to the Tennessee Invitational at Lambert Acres Golf Club in Maryville.
The 5,000-meter women’s race, which begins at 5:30 p.m., will feature 11 teams.
Coach J.J. Clark expects to send out nearly his entire lineup this weekend, with the exception of sophomore Leah Soro, who will debut at the Paul Short Run on Sept. 29, and freshman Alyssa Bryant. The Lady Vols will run 11 in a field of more than 105 runners.
Defending meet individual champion and 2005 All-SEC honoree Sarah Bowman will be among the competitors. The sophomore will be making her 2006 debut since winning last year’s race in 17 minutes, 50 seconds. That mark was the fourth-fastest 5K time ever recorded on the course by a Lady Vol, and it helped Bowman become the first Lady Vol since 1976 to win her first two races as a collegian.
She will be joined by seniors Katie Flaute and Felicia Guliford, who are both two-time All-SEC recipients. Flaute was the runner-up at last year’s Tennessee Invitational in 18:09 and was sixth in 2004. Guliford, meanwhile, will be running in her first regular-season home meet since taking fifth in the event as a freshman in 2002. She was UT’s team MVP a year ago and is a three-time All-South Region performer.
A trio of rookies will bear watching during the course of the race, as they held down the two through four scoring slots for Tennessee at the Belmont Opener two weekends ago. Rose-Anne Galligan, Kelly Parrish and Jackie Areson turned in overall finishes of sixth, eighth and 12th in their collegiate debuts and provided evidence that they will be freshmen of impact for Clark’s squad.
Also in the mix will be sophomore Katie Van Horn, who was Tennessee’s fifth scorer and the 29th finisher overall at the Belmont Opener
The Lady Vols will be aiming for their sixth title in eight Tennessee Invitationals. They won this event three out of the last four years.