Cross country team opens season Friday

The University of Tennessee women's cross country team, which returns seven letterwinners from a record-setting 2005 season, will pop the cork on its 2006 campaign Friday evening at the Belmont Opener in Nashville.

Running enthusiasts probably won't recognize the Lady Volunteers, though, as fifth-year Tennessee Head Coach J.J. Clark is sending a youthful lineup to Music City to compete in the 4,000-meter race at Percy Warner Park.

The projected travel group includes three sophomores and four freshmen, while UT's quartet of All-SEC returnees saves its debut for the Tennessee Invitational on Sept. 15.

Expected to make the trek to the mid-state are sophomores Rolanda Bell (Laurelton, N.Y.), Kimarra McDonald (Lumberton, N.J.) and Katie Van Horn (Glendora, N.J.); and freshmen Jackie Areson (Delray Beach, Fla.), Rose-Anne Galligan (County Kildare, Ireland), Kelly Parrish (Ocala, Fla.) and Phoebe Wright (Signal Mountain, Tenn.).

Seniors Katie Flaute (Dayton, Ohio) and Felicia Guliford (Gallup, N.M.) and sophomores Sarah Bowman (Warrenton, Va.) and Leah Soro (Knoxville, Tenn.) will sit this one out and are expected to run their first races at the home meet in two weeks.

"We just want to get the ball rolling this weekend," Clark said. "We're not going to race everyone, but we're going to go over there, open it up a little bit and see what happens."

The Belmont Opener, which Bowman won in her collegiate debut a year ago, will again take place on the Vaughn's Gap Course at Warner Park.

Among the teams entered for the 5:30 p.m. Central Time race are Alabama, Austin Peay, Belmont, Georgia Tech, Lipscomb, Middle Tennessee, Murray State, UAB, Vanderbilt and Western Kentucky. Vandy claimed the women's title a year ago, while the Big Orange settled for second with Guliford sitting out the first two races of the season with an illness.

"This is just a meet to get us going, and it is convenient to go to since it's so close," Clark said. "Last year we were beaten (at this event), but we ended up alright at the SEC and regional meets. We're just focusing on our own tasks, getting some training in and trying to move forward throughout the season."

The Lady Vols, three-time defending Southeastern Conference Champions, were picked by the league's coaches to finish second this season despite the return of four All-SEC performers. Arkansas, winner of 10 SEC crowns over the years, drew the top nod, while Georgia and Florida were predicted to wind up third and fourth.

For a link to meet results at the Belmont Opener, go to after 9:30 p.m. ET on Friday evening.

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