March 11, 2011
By Eric Trainer, Associate Director of Media Relations
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Tennessee collected a national title Friday, got four additional scoring contributions and qualified two more for Saturday's finals in front of a crowd of 4,483 at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium.
For the Lady Vols, Jackie Areson had the marquee performance, helping UT's women settle into fourth place after the first day of competition with 16 points. Oregon holds the lead after seven events with 26 points. Texas (23) is second, while LSU (19) stands in third.
The Vols, meanwhile, got on the scoreboard thanks to freshman Justin Hunter, who scored in the long jump. They tallied a point and are tied for 30th in the men's team standings. BYU and Florida State stand atop the leader board with 24 points each.
Hunter was not satisfied with his mark or being unable to register a fair jump in the final. He had to take some comfort, though, in the fact that he got the Vols on the board and put himself into position for All-America honors. He wound up eighth in the long jump with a top leap of 25-4 1/2.
Qualifiers out of preliminary round races for Saturday finals included Vol Dentarius Locke in the 60 meters and Lady Vol Chanelle Price in the women's 800 meters. Locke overcame two false-start recalls in the quickest heat of the preliminary round, matching his career best with a 6.64 readout that ranks seventh of the qualifiers. The redshirt freshman will run in his first NCAA final on Saturday at 6:10 p.m. CT (7:10 ET). Price, a junior who finished fourth at this meet in 2010, moved on to Saturday's 6:20 p.m. Central time (7:20 ET) championship race in impressive fashion, delivering a season-best time of 2:04.17 that was the fastest of the evening.
"Justin Hunter, as a freshman, came in and scored for the men's team," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. "Dentarius Locke, a redshirt freshman, also made the 60m final, which bodes well for our future. Overall, it was a good day and we had some good efforts across the board."
Areson, who returned in 2011 with only indoor eligibility remaining, accomplished a major personal goal in winning the 5K and became the first Lady Vol to do so at the NCAA Indoor meet. Her 16:04.16 readout was four seconds faster than the runner-up and gave Tennessee 10 huge points.
It came after Areson ran contently around fourth position during the first 20 laps, even as the pace dragged at times, before she stomped on the pedal with 4 1/2 laps to go and dusted the field.
Teammate Liz Costello, who transferred to UT from Princeton this season to pursue graduate school and a final year of eligibility, also got in on the scoring action in the 5K. After leading during the early going, she remained within striking distance and wound up taking fifth and contributing four points with a 16:11.06 clocking.
"We put some points on the board, which was the obvious goal," Clark said. "Jackie winning the 5K was sensational, Chanelle looked great in her round of the 800 and the DMR, where we wanted to score higher, put a point on the board. We won the last three DMRs before this one. You can't win them all, but I'd like to try.
"Liz Costello also put forth a great effort in the 5K. She wasn't feeling well but came back and was very, very courageous in scoring for the team."
In the women's pentathlon, junior Ellen Wortham continued to demonstrate her intensely-competitive spirit, riding personal-best marks in three of the five events to wind up eighth with 4,042 points despite entering the meet with the No. 13 qualifying mark. Making her initial NCAA appearance in the pent., Wortham put together the third-best score in program history, enabling her to become UT's first NCAA pentathlon scorer since the event was instituted in 2004.
Wortham opened the competition in strong fashion as she did at the SEC Championships, navigating the obstacles deftly in a career-best time for the 60-meter hurdles. A readout of 8.46 seconds eclipsed her previous personal record of 8.47, providing her 1,026 points and a fourth-place finish in the event.
The product of Maryville High School came right back in the high jump and punched out her second PR of the day, matching her lifetime best at 5-7 3/4 inches to place seventh with 879 points. Wortham remained in fourth place after two events with 1,905 points, as she cleared 5-3, 5-4 1/4 and 5-5 1/4 with her first attempts and sailed over 5-6 1/2 and 5-7 3/4 on her third tries before failing on all three leaps at 5-8 3/4.
In event three, the shot put, Wortham carded another lifetime best, stretching the tape to 32-8 1/4 to tack on 527 points. Unfortunately, the Lady Vol's effort was the 16th-best of the competition, so her new cumulative point total of 2,432 dropped her to 10th in the overall standings.
Wortham didn't have her best performance in the long jump, but her ninth-place leap of 18-9 1/4 scored her 765 points and upped her total to 3,197. That tally bumped her to ninth overall heading into the final event.
With a point for her team and All-America honors at stake, Wortham closed out the day in solid fashion, grabbing sixth in the 800 meters in 2:18.44 to snare 845 points and work her way into the top eight in the overall standings.
"When I saw where Ellen was ranked coming in (to the meet), I said, `Ellen is going to find a way to score,' and I really believed that," Clark said. "She always gives us her best, and she always puts it on the line.
"Her specific event coach, Sharon Seagrave, did a great job with her throughout the year, getting her strong with speed, and then individually the event coaches banded together with training and strategies to get her to this point. Congratulations to Ellen and to Sharon for putting it all together, and to the rest of the staff for working together to achieve this result."
Tennessee also got a point in the distance medley relay, but it came as the Lady Vols finished back in eighth place after winning the last three NCAA crowns at this meet. The combination of Price, Wortham, sophomore Nijgia Snapp and junior Brittany Sheffey covered the mileage in 11:07.86.
In addition to Price and Locke advancing, Tennessee will have Areson and Costello in action in the women's 3000 meters at 6:40 p.m. CT (7:40 p.m. ET), and the Lady Vols will have a unit running the 4x400m relay at 7:10 p.m. CT (8:10 ET). The qualifying lineup for that race includes Wortham, sophomores Nijgia Snapp and Martinique Octave, and freshman Kianna Ruff.
Saturday's final day of the NCAA Indoor meet will be streamed live on ESPN3.com at 5:55 p.m. ET. A tape-delayed recap of the meet will be shown March 16 on ESPN2 from 2:30-4 p.m. ET.
5000m (Final): 1. Jackie Areson, 16:04.16b; 5. Liz Costello, 16:11.06b
Distance Medley Relay (Final): 8. Chanelle Price / Ellen Wortham / Nijgia Snapp / Brittany Sheffey, 11:07.86b Pentathlon (Final): 8. Ellen Wortham, 4,042b! (60mH: 4th, 8.46!, 1,026 pts.; High Jump: 7th, 5-7.75/1.72m!, 879 pts.; Shot Put: 16th, 32-8.25/9.96m!, 527 pts; Long Jump: 9th, 18-9.25/5.72m, 765 pts.; 800m: 6th, 2:18.44b, 845 pts.)
800m Prelims: Adv. Chanelle Price, 2:04.17b (1st)
* - NCAA automatic qualifying mark, ! - personal record, ^ - oversized track, b - banked track, DNF - did not finish, DQ - disqualified, F - foul, fr - facility record, FS - false start, h - heat, m - meters, mr - meet record, NM - no mark registered, NH - no height registered, p - preliminary round, sr - school record
J.J. Clark talks about Tennessee's performance on Friday at the NCAA Indoor Championships.