Feb. 13, 2010
By Eric Trainer, Associate Director of Media Relations
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The University of Tennessee men's and women's track & field teams helped the Southeastern Conference finish second in a scored meet Saturday that pitted the Big 12, SEC and Conference USA versus one another at Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium at the McFerrin Athletic Center.
The Big 12, bolstered by host Texas A&M's top-ranked men and women, won the battle of the leagues on both sides. The Big 12, which was stacked considerably with Texas and Texas Tech lending a hand to the Aggies, easily finished first in the men's meet with 309.5 points, followed by the SEC with 143.5 and C-USA at 116. On the women's side, the Big 12 tallied 290 points to hold off the SEC (163) and C-USA (130) without much trouble. UT was joined by SEC comrades Alabama and Ole Miss, while C-USA featured Houston, Rice and UTEP.
"This meet provided us our last big opportunity to sharpen up before the SEC meet in two weeks, and we accomplished that," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. "We had some victories, several personal bests and even had improvement on some of our NCAA auto and provisional qualifying marks. While we certainly would have liked for the SEC to have a better showing today, we accomplished our goals from a team standpoint."
In the men's competition, the Vols' best showings came in the 60-meter dash from seniors Kyle Stevenson and Evander Wells, the 800 meters from junior Peter Sigilai and friends, the 3000 meters from Michael Spooner and his colleagues, the long jump from sophomore Desmond Brown, and a pair of relays. Tennessee was good for 73.5 of the SEC's total of 143.5.
The Big Orange distance corps delivered a 15-point explosion in the 3000 meters, recording five career-best times in the process. Junior Michael Spooner led the way, concluding the race in eight minutes, 23.91 seconds to finish third. Redshirt freshman Chris Bodary was fourth in a career-best 8:24.30, junior Chris Rapp was fifth in a career-best 8:26.41, freshman Leoule Degfae was seventh in 8:29.23 and junior Chris Kane was eighth in a career-best 8:29.45. Because of a meet rule limiting the number of runners who could score for a conference, Degfae and Kane were not able to earn points, nor was sophomore Steve Fassino, who placed 11th in a personal-best 8:30.80.
The distance medley relay posted Tennessee's best men's running event finish of the day, legging out a runner-up effort in 10:05.07. Finishing second behind the 9:51.15 effort of Texas A&M were sophomore Emerson Peacock, senior Alan Bachman, sophomore Joe Franklin and Spooner.
Brown, meanwhile, added UT's top field event performance, stretching the tape to 24-4 1/2 on his second attempt in the long jump to finish second. Freshman Tyler Stepp just missed scoring, landing a career-best mark of 23-6 to wind up ninth.
Stevenson and Wells combined to tally 14 points for the SEC in the 60-meter dash, as Stevenson finished ahead of Wells for the first time this season. They placed second and third, respectively, with identical 6.81 clockings. Stevenson, however, got the nod for runner-up distinction when the times were broken down to 1/1000th of a second, 6.803 to 6.809.
Stevenson also topped Wells and scored in the 200 meters. He matched his career best of 21.38 to place ninth and contribute a point toward the league tally. Wells, meanwhile, was just out of the points at ninth place in 21.42.
A trio of Vols collaborated for an 11-point run in the 800. Sigilai, already the SEC leader in the mile at 4:05.64, raced to a career-best of 1:51.10 to place third in the shorter event, while Peacock was sixth in 1:51.70 and Franklin was seventh at 1:51.77.
Tennessee's final big-point event was the 4x400m relay, where the Vols crossed the line third in 3:13.38. Carrying the stick were seniors John Hewitt, Samdi Fraser, Nathan Grace and sophomore Varick Tucker. Fraser earlier had kicked in a point to the conference cause in the 400m, placing eighth in a season-best 47.70.
In the field events, redshirt freshman Drew Thomas contributed four points in the weight throw with a fifth-place toss of 53-4 1/4, freshmen Tyler Stepp kicked in 3.5 for a high jump mark of 6-7 that tied for fifth, and sophomore Julius Tate earned two more for a seventh-place result in the triple jump at 46-4 1/4. Sophomore Ben Bartholomew was just shy of scoring, placing ninth in the shot put with a heave of 50-4 1/2.
"Our guys had quite a few personal bests today," Clark said. "Peter Sigilai continues to come along and had one in the 800, and we had several in the 3K. I always stress the importance of personal bests, because those are signs of progress. You keep doing that consistently and eventually you are going to get where you want to be."
Sixth-ranked Tennessee picked up women's victories from sophomore Brittany Sheffey in the mile and senior Phoebe Wright in the 800 meters. Sophomores Chanelle Price (mile) and Ellen Wortham (long jump), and sophomore Laquoya Kelly (weight throw) added third-place outcomes as the Lady Vols contributed 46 points to the scoring.
Wright dropped a 10-spot in the 800-meter run, dominating the field en route to a five-second victory over the runner-up, 2009 third-place SEC Indoor finisher Sofie Persson of Ole Miss. Already automatically qualified for the NCAA meet in that event, Wright lowered her nation-leading time to 2:02.84. That mark was just off her career best of 2:02.39 and rates as the fourth-best indoor mark ever by a Lady Vol.
"Phoebe looked very good," Clark said. "Obviously, she is showing that she's at a higher level than she was last season. I'm very proud of what she's done and look forward to what's in store."
Tennessee generated 16 points for the SEC in the mile run. Sheffey and Price produced career-best and NCAA-provisional clockings to claim first- and third-place honors. Sheffey won in four minutes, 43.05 seconds with the No. 1 time in the SEC and No. 6 effort in the NCAA this season. She also moved to No. 9 on UT's all-time performers list. Price, meanwhile, posted the No. 5 mile time in the league in 2010. She already was qualified automatically for the NCAA meet in the 800.
"Brittany has done a great job getting back after sitting out last season," Clark said. "It's good to see that, because she is someone who can help us during the championship part of the season."
Wortham soared to a career-best mark of 19-3 1/2 in the long jump to place third and chip in six points. Additionally, Wortham and freshman Kia Jackson just missed scoring in the 60 meters, registering career-best readouts of 7.56 and 7.58, respectively, to finish ninth and 10th.
In the weight throw, Kelly had her finest hour as a collegiate performer. The sophomore uncorked a personal-record fling of 60-3 1/4 to take third-place honors. Freshman Jessie Harrison made it a total seven-point haul in that event, grabbing eighth with a measurement of 56-2 1/2.
The Lady Vol 4x400m relay unit had its best day of the season, cruising to an NCAA provisional clocking of 3:39.07 to finish fourth. Carrying the baton for the women from Rocky Top were Wortham, Wright, freshman Martinique Octave and Price.
Tennessee also managed to pick up two points in the distance medley relay despite not unleashing its top quartet. Running on Saturday's seventh-place finishing squad and recording a time of 12:27.95 was the lineup of Sheffey, junior Brittany Jones, junior Kim White and sophomore Elizabeth Tiller.
Triple Jump: 7. Julius Tate, 46-4.25/14.13m
Weight Throw: 5. Drew Thomas, 53-4.25/16.26m
High Jump: t5. Tyler Stepp, 6-7/2.01m
Shot Put: 9. Ben Bartholomew, 50-4.50/15.35m
60mH Prelims: 14. Chardae Hancock, 8.94p! (2nd, ht. 4); 27. Kirstyn Sweeney, 9.83p (7th, ht. 1)
60m Prelims: 9. Ellen Wortham, 7.56p! (3rd, ht. 5); 10. Kia Jackson, 7.58p! (2nd, ht. 3); 18. Ashley Harris, 7.70p (4th, ht. 3); 23. Martinique Octave, 7.86p! (4th, ht. 2); 30. Nyosha Bryant, 7.96p (6th, ht. 1); 32. Chardae Hancock, 8.03p (7th, ht. 3)
Mile: 1. Brittany Sheffey, 4:43.05bp!+; 3. Chanelle Price, 4:46.87bp!+
800m: 1. Phoebe Wright, 2:02.84b*; 15. Charity Honeycutt, 2:17.42b!; 21. Kim White, 2:18.89b!
400m: 28. Kirstyn Sweeney, 1:01.43b!; DQ - Martinique Octave
200m: 16. Ashley Harris, 24.55b!; 21. Kia Jackson, 24.85b; 33. Nyosha Bryant, 25.71b
3000m: 15. Elizabeth Tiller, 10:58.07b!
Distance Medley Relay: 7. Brittany Sheffey / Brittany Jones / Kim White / Elizabeth Tiller, 12:27.95b
4x400m Relay: 4. Ellen Wortham / Phoebe Wright / Martinique Octave / Chanelle Price, 3:39.07b+
Shot Put: 11. Laquoya Kelly, 41-10.50/12.76m
Long Jump: 3. Ellen Wortham, 19-3.50/5.88m!; 14. Nyosha Bryant, 17-6/5.33m; 22. Kia Jackson, 16-2.50/4.94m; 24. Kirstyn Sweeney, 15-7/4.75m
Weight Throw: 3. Laquoya Kelly, 60-3.25/18.37m!; 8. Jessie Harrison, 56-2.50/17.13m; 22. Taylor Rotella, 42-3.50/4.94m; NM - Akeela Bravo, F
* NCAA automatic qualifier; + - NCAA provisional qualifier; ! - Personal best; Adv. - Advanced to next round; b - Banked track; DNF - Did not finish; DQ - Disqualified; F - Foul; FS - False start; m - meters; mr - Meet record; NM - No mark; p - Prelims; sr - School record