April 27, 2012
PHILADELPHIA -- The Lady Vols claimed an upset victory in the sprint medley relay, and the Vols followed that performance with a runner-up showing of their own Friday, providing a warm, Big Orange blast at the end of a cold, blustery day at the 118th Penn Relays.
Facing an LSU squad that had won the last five sprint medley Championship of America titles at Franklin Field, the Lady Vols shrugged off pre-race predictions and put their school back in the winner's circle here for the first time since 2010. With a clocking of three minutes, 43.79 seconds, which ranks as third-best in UT history, the squad from Rocky Top chalked up win number three in this event (2004, 2006, 2012) and registered UT's 20th overall women's baton-event title at the Penn Relays. Twelve of those triumphs have come since Clark took over the program in 2002-03.
In a relay that features a mixture of sprint and middle distance runners, senior Brittany Jones and junior Martinique Octave handled the first two hitches, with 200m legs that kept Tennessee in the thick of the competition on a day that saw 39,531 fans move through the turnstiles. With her team standing in third, senior Ellen Wortham's turn was next, and she catapulted Tennessee into first place with a 53.2 400m split.
With Wortham depositing the baton into her hand, Price set sail for the closing 800m hitch with a 10-meter lead. After seeing her DMR team wind up second on Thursday, Price's focus on Friday was to help her team fight its way to victory and also add a sixth Penn Relays winner's watch to her collection. Price's 2:03.6 turn with the baton was more than enough to hold off LSU anchor Charlene Lipsey and complete her acquisition of new jewelry. The Tigers finished second in 3:44.50.
"People would agree that LSU was favored coming in, because they've won it several years in a row," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. "Even though we are the collegiate record-holder in it, we typically don't run this event here, but I decided to focus on it. It showed that we can be very dominant in the event.
"Chanelle ran a good anchor leg, and they all ran great. Brittany Jones just ate the first leg up, and Ellen put us in position to get the job done. Martinique, coming off a sprained ankle, really had a strong showing, and Chanelle had a great closer for us."
The Vols, meanwhile, turned in an equally-uplifting performance, carding a second-place outing in a time of 3:21.41 to send the squad back to its road quarters on a very positive note. That good feeling is bolstered by the fact that three of the four legs are slated to return in 2013.
Junior Arnez Hardnick and freshman Jamol James handled the back-to-back 200m legs, sending Tennessee to the lead as senior Varick Tucker took the stick. Though Tucker delivered a strong 47.4 400m turn, he found himself in third as he made the pass to freshman anchor Nick Kaiser. Kaiser had too much ground to make up to catch victorious Penn State (3:18.47), but his 1:51.8 stint with the baton moved the Vols past Norfolk State (3:22.54) and into second place.
"Obviously, coming out here and being involved with best at the Penn Relays is always exciting and coming fairly close at the end to a victory is exciting," Clark said. "I see the momentum and seeds of progress starting to be made. Last night, having some PRs from two out of our three distance guys, and today, having the sprint medley come around and take second at the Penn Relays is always a big feat.
"We just have to keep the ball rolling and next year go for the win in that event. For now, we're building one building at a time, one brick at a time, and at the end of the day we hope we'll have a nice structure when it's all said and done here at Tennessee. We just have to keep filling in the gaps and keep recruiting. It's all about recruiting, and my staff and I are committed to doing that."
Earlier in the day, Tennessee carded a sixth-place finish in the women's 4x100m Championship of America. The quartet of seniors Ashley Harris and Brittany Jones, junior Kia Jackson and senior Ellen Wortham ran an identical 44.98 readout to what they clocked in Thursday's prelims to improve two spots over their 2011 placement.
"The 4x1 improved over last year's finish," Clark said. "They were eighth last year and moved up to sixth, signifying progress is being made in that area as well."
UT was unable to advance to the finals in the men's 4x200m and 4x100m relays. The 4x2 lineup of junior Reggie Juin, freshman Jamol James, sophomore Jarael Nelvis and junior Arnez Hardnick took third in heat four at 1:25.19 and was 10th overall, while the quartet of Juin, James, Nelvis and senior Desmond Brown finished fourth in heat one of the 4x1 in 41.43 and wound up 24th overall.
In individual event finals, sophomore Allison Outerbridge was ninth in the College women's triple jump at 39-10 3/4.
In individual prelims, three Big Orange representatives competed but did not advance. Jackson was fourth in heat two of the women's 100m dash prelims at 11.83, senior Terry Benson was seventh in heat two of the men's 110m hurdles prelims at 14.32 and senior Bianca Blair did not finish in the women's 100m hurdles prelims after clipping the first hurdle and getting knocked out of stride.
A quartet of former Lady Vols, competing as Orange Crush, finished third in the women's Masters 4x400m relay, covering the distance in 4:33.02. The lineup included Tisha Prather Wiggins (1990-93), Shawn Moore Nix (1987-90), Tisha Milligan DeShields (1990-91) and Pat Leroy Boykin (1990-93).
In addition to Tennessee competing in three events on Saturday, former Vol Justin Gatlin (4x100mR) and former Lady Vols Erica Moore (Sprint Medley Relay), DeeDee Trotter (4x400mR) and Phoebe Wright (Sprint Medley Relay) are slated to compete in the USA vs. The World competition. That segment of the meet will be televised live from 1 to 3 p.m. Eastern time on NBC.
Sprint Medley Relay Championship of America: 2. Arnez Hardnick / Jamol James / Varick Tucker / Nick Kaiser, 3:21.41
4x200m Relay Prelims: DNA - Reggie Juin / Jamal James /Jarael Nelvis / Arnez Hardnick, 1:25.19p/3rd, ht. 4 (10th)
110m Hurdles Prelims: DNA - Terry Benson, 14.32p (w: -0.9)/7th, ht. 2 (20th)
4x100m Relay Prelims: DNA - Reggie Juin / Jamal James / Jarael Nelvis / Desmond Brown, 41.43p/4th, ht. 2 (24th)
College Long Jump: NM - Desmond Brown
Sprint Medley Relay Championship of America: 1. Brittany Jones / Martinique Octave / Ellen Wortham / Chanelle Price, 3:43.79
Championship 4x100m Relay: 6. Ashley Harris / Brittany Jones / Kia Jackson / Ellen Wortham, 44.98
College Triple Jump: 9. Allison Outerbridge, 39-10.75/12.16m (nwi)
100m Dash Prelims: DNA - Kia Jackson, 11.83p (w: 0.3)/4th, ht. 2 (11th)
100m Hurdles Prelims: DNF - Bianca Blair
Distance Medley Relay Championship of America: 2. Chanelle Price / Ellen Wortham / Kianna Ruff / Brittany Sheffey, 11:03.53
College Pole Vault: 2. Linda Hadfield, 13-1.50/4.00m
Championship 3000m: 21. Amber Zimmerman, 10:06.51!; 22. Kelsey Kane, 10:07.42!
4x100m Relay Prelims: Adv. Ashley Harris / Brittany Jones / Kia Jackson / Ellen Wortham, 44.98/2nd, ht. 5 (8th)
! - personal record, DNF - did not finish, DNS - did not start, 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, w - wind-aided