June 11, 2014
EUGENE, Ore. -- A leg injury kept sophomore Jake Blankenship out of the air for most of the spring competition, but it did not derail his performance at the end of the season.
Blankenship took third in the pole vault at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Wednesday, clearing a height of 18 feet, 2 1/2 inches (5.55 meters), to claim the bronze medal.
Sam Kendricks of Mississippi defended his pole vault title with a height of 18-8.25 (5.70m). Shawn Barber of Akron was second.
Blankenship competed in three meets in January -- collecting two victories along the way -- before an injury sidelined him for the rest of the indoor season. He missed the first month of the outdoor season before returning to action in late April at the Penn Relays. From there, he made up for lost time.
He defended his title at the Penn Relays, won the Tennessee Challenge at home and took silver at the SEC Championships with a career-best height of 18 feet, 6 inches (5.64m).
Wednesday marked Blankenship's best NCAA finish in three career meets. As a freshman in 2013, he was 15th at the outdoor meet and fourth at the indoor championship.
Tennessee senior Chase Brannon ended his All-American pole vault career with a 19th-place finish (16-8.75/5.10m).
Sophomore Alexis Panisse, in her first NCAA outdoor meet, edged her way into the finals of the 800-meter run. She finished second in the third heat to earn one of the automatic qualifying spots, beating out Oregon's own Annie Leblanc by 3 hundredths of a second.
Panisse crossed the line in 2 minutes, 5.26 seconds, good for a spot in the final eight and the 10th-fastest time overall in the semifinals. She will run in Friday's final, scheduled for Friday at 8:25 p.m.
By placing in the top eight, Panisse will earn first-team All-America honors for the first time in her career.
Freshman Felecia Majors also competed Wednesday, finishing seventh in the first heat and 19th overall in the 400 meters in 53.63.
Only one Lady Vol will be in action Thursday. Sophomore Felicia Brown will run the 200 dash semifinals at 7:15 p.m.