TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — University of Tennessee senior Sarah Bowman became the first Lady Vol in eight seasons to earn All-American honors in cross country, racing to a 36th-place finish Monday at the NCAA Championships at the Wabash Valley Family Sports Center.
Bowman, a native of Warrenton, Va., covered the 6,000-meter LaVern Gibson Championship Course in 20 minutes, 39.5 seconds to become the program’s eighth NCAA All-American and 10th overall honoree, including AIAW competition. The last to earn acclaim had been Sharon Dickie with a 29th-place result at the 2000 NCAA meet.
Running in a field of 252 competitors on a cold, gray and blustery Indiana day, Bowman made her third NCAA cross country appearance her best by far. She had finished 97th (22:08.1) as a sophomore in 2006 and 231st (22:40.4) as a freshman in 2005.
Teammate Jackie Areson also turned in her finest NCAA outcome. Participating in her second national meet, the junior from Delray Beach, Fla., navigated the course in a time of 21:14.7 to wind up 104th. It was an improvement over her 161st-place readout of 22:35.6 in 2006.
“Our goal was for Sarah to become an All-American at this meet, and it was nice to see her accomplish that,” UT head coach J.J. Clark said. “We know we’ve had our difficulties in the past with achieving our goals at this meet, so it was good to see her stay focused and run tough today. Cross country has not always been her forte, but she showed great character out there today.”
Bowman, who had previously earned six All-America certificates for her prowess on the track, said she was pleased to finally add a national cross country accolade to her list of accomplishments. Her success at this point in the year seems to bode well for her final season on the oval.
“It means a lot to me to earn All-America honors,” Bowman said. “I never would have dreamed of being an All-American in cross country back when I was a freshman. I’ve come a long way in terms of my maturity and respect for this sport, and I am very excited to see where this takes me during the track & field season.”
A four-time All-SEC and three-time All-South Region honoree during her cross country career, Bowman had made the meet as an individual by finishing second in 20:50.29 at the NCAA South Regional in Maryville on Nov. 15. Areson, meanwhile, punched her ticket by finishing 11th at the regional meet in 21:15.52 and carding her second All-South Region nod.
“It was good to see Jackie run a competitive race,” Clark said. “She had a really good finish, passing 20 or so people down the stretch, but she definitely has more there. Our goal for her was to place in top 100. She came up a little short, but she beat a lot of people out there today who had beaten her in the past, so that was a good showing.”
The presence of Bowman and Areson marked the 15th time in the 28-year history of the NCAA women’s meet that UT had a presence. Of those appearances, the Lady Vols qualified as a team in 10 seasons, while the other five featured individual participants. This marks the sixth time in seven years under the direction of Clark that UT women have been counted among the competitors.
The University of Washington claimed the 2008 NCAA team title with 79 points, followed by Oregon in second with 131 and South Region champ Florida State in third with 163. SEC foes Arkansas, Florida and Kentucky wound up 15th, 17th and 31st, respectively, out of 31 teams.
Texas Tech’s Sally Kipyego returned to Terre Haute and won her third consecutive individual crown in 19:28.1, holding off a challenge from runner-up Susan Kuijken of Florida State (19:34.9). Auburn’s Hollie Knight, the SEC runner-up and NCAA South Region victor who finished just ahead of Bowman at those races, crossed the line 11th at the NCAA meet and joined Bowman as the SEC’s only female All-Americans at this meet.