Junior Felicia Guliford Paces Tennessee With 58th-Place Individual Finish
It was not the kind of day Lady Vol Head Coach J.J. Clark envisioned for his team at the 2005 NCAA Division I Women’s Cross Country Championships. His high hopes for the 15th-ranked Tennessee squad were dashed Monday afternoon when the UT women recorded a 28th-place finish out of 31 squads at chilly LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course.
Though paced by a solid individual effort from junior Felicia Guliford, Team Orange placed only one runner among the top 100 finishers and saw its score balloon to 641 points. It was a disappointing development for a four-time South Region championship squad that was looking to climb the ladder from national finishes of 28th, 24th and 21st over the past three seasons.
In the race for the NCAA trophy, second-ranked Stanford pulled off an upset for the team title, as the Cardinal tallied 146 points to easily defeat second-place Colorado (181) and third-place Duke (185), which had entered the meet as the favorite. Arizona State (191) and Illinois (212) rounded out the top five, while UT’s Southeastern Conference foes Arkansas and Georgia came away with outcomes of 19th and 31st, respectively.
Northern Arizona’s Johanna Nilsson, meanwhile, captured the individual crown out of a field of 253 runners, covering the rolling 6,000-meter layout in 19 minutes, 33.9 seconds, on an overcast day that featured temperatures in the low 40s with a brisk northwest wind that made it seem much colder.
Tennessee’s ninth NCAA appearance and 12th overall visit to a national meet was buoyed by Guliford, who improved from an 81st-place outing a year ago to 58th (41st scorer) this season in 20:46. The junior from Gallup, N.M., stayed on pace with a group of about 20 runners for the first 3,000 meters and fell back just a tad in leading the Lady Vols for the third time in the past three races.
Also contributing to the scoring cause for the Big Orange was junior Katie Flaute, who was the second Lady Vol to cross the line in a time of 21:15 that was good for 113th (85th) place. Rounding out the scoring five were senior Carly Matthews in 197th (160th) at 22:04, freshman Leah Soro in 199th (162nd) at 22:05 and freshman Sarah Bowman in 231st (193rd) at 22:41.
Running but not counting toward the scoring total were senior Mindy Sullivan, who was 235th in a time of 22:49, and freshman Rolanda Bell, who was 243rd in 23:10.
“The team had a good season,” Clark said. “We didn’t finish where we wanted to finish, but, luckily, we have a chance next year to come back and make it right.
“It’s definitely not what we wanted, but I am proud of our team for what it has done throughout the season. We have to find a way to validate these national rankings, and we’ll be in the right spot. We’re getting closer, team-wise; this is just one bad day in the entire season. We’ll be O.K.”
With the result at the NCAA meet, Tennessee’s season record falls to 125-32. For the third straight campaign, UT ends its year with a school-best total of victories. Clark, who in 2005 became the program’s all-time winningest coach in just his fourth season at the helm, saw his UT career mark move to 404-122-1.