The Tennessee Lady Vols track and field team wrapped up the indoor season over spring break with a third place finish at the NCAA championships. Along the way, the team won the SEC championship, and head coach J.J. Clark was named SEC Women’s Indoor Coach of the Year and South Regional Women’s Indoor Coach of the Year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coach’s Association.
“It was very gratifying to come back and earn a trophy,” Clark said. “Many people wrote us off and didn’t think we could stay this consistent over the last couple of years. We’re just very happy that we were able to move through the rankings and stay focused on our goal, which was to make a run for a championship.”
The Lady Vols felt that they had something to prove after following up their 2005 national championship with an 18th place finish a year ago. They did their part to prove that last year was an aberration with their third top 3 finish in the past four years. Clark also felt that his team helped to prove doubters wrong by being in the running to win the meet the majority of the time.
“Really, for a good portion of the meet, we had a chance to win,” Clark said. “We were always hanging around and were in position to win. That’s a good statement for our program.”
Arizona State, who entered the meet ranked first, went on to claim its first ever championship by tallying 38 points. LSU was second with 33, followed by the Lady Vols with 30.
Tennessee was led in the meet by junior Courtney Champion. She finished second in the 60m and 200m sprints. Sophomore Sarah Bowman also played an important role for the Lady Vols, scoring points both in the mile and as part of the distance relay team. Freshman Nia Ali and sophomore Celriece Law also helped the Lady Vols put points on the scoreboard in the 60m hurdles.
“We’re extremely proud of ourselves,” Champion said. “We’re thankful we have the coaches we do, because they didn’t give up on us. They kept pushing us, and it obviously led to an SEC Championship and a third-place finish in the nation. We are very proud.”
The Lady Vols look to continue their success as they begin the outdoor season this weekend at the Wake Forest Open in Winston Salem, N.C.