April 29, 2011
By Eric Trainer, Associate Director of Media Relations
PHILADELPHIA -- Tennessee saw its first action of the 2011 Penn Relays, and the Big Orange overcame an hour-and-a-half delay due to a thunderstorm Thursday to collect a runner-up relay finish and advance another relay to Friday's final at Franklin Field.
For the Vols, though, their only action came during Thursday night's distance carnival. Junior Steve Fassino turned in the top finish of the evening for the squad from Rocky Top.
A product of Red Bank High School and Signal Mountain, Tenn., Fassino knocked out an 11-second personal best to wind up fourth in the men's college 3000m steeplechase in 9:05.28. His previous best came here last season, when he was ninth in the Olympic Development division in 9:16.97.
Elsewhere, freshman Jake Rainey cranked out a big PR of 14:32.73 to finish seventh in the college 5000m, senior Michael Spooner was 13th in the men's championship 3000m steeplechase in 9:17.02, senior Chris Rapp was 25th in the college 5000m in 15:03.68 and sophomore Chris Bodary was 26th in the men's championship 5000m in a career-best 14:41.06.
"Steve Fassino ran a nice race and had a good PR tonight in the steeple," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. "He had been struggling a little bit and has started making some strides. It was impressive to see him perform well at the Penn Relays.
"It also was nice to see Jake Rainey run a big PR here in the 5K. He's a freshman who has a bright future. Chris Bodary also continued to move in the right direction, running a PR as well. It's always encouraging to see people performing their best as the SEC Outdoor meet approaches."
Lady Vol freshman Amber Zimmerman added to the distance success, notching a third-place showing in the women's championship 3000 meters. Her time of 10:08.98 was just shy of the 10:08.31 personal record she produced at the UT-UCLA Dual on April 2.
UT's dominant run in the women's distance medley relay at this meet, as well as its chance for an unprecedented distance triple, came to an end. Georgetown snapped the Lady Vols' two-year streak in the DMR with a four-second win. The Hoyas covered the 4000-meter race in 10:51.49 for their first victory here since 1996. Tennessee, meanwhile, clocked in second at 10:56.20 for the number-six readout in school history.
Senior Liz Costello opened with a 3:24.20 split for 1200 meters, fighting her way from the back of the pack to sixth at the exchange. Junior Ellen Wortham then elevated Tennessee to third place with a sizzling 51.64 400-meter leg that left the Big Orange about 15 meters behind the leaders.
Junior Chanelle Price quickly erased the remaining gap and settled into second behind Georgetown's Chelsea Cox, handling the 800m hitch in 2:04.27 before handing off the baton. Junior Brittany Sheffey drew the task of filling the anchor leg, which had been the domain of Sarah Bowman in 2009 and Phoebe Wright in 2010. Though she did her best to follow in their footsteps, her 4:36.09 turn at the 1600 meters was not enough to net victory.
"I think we exceeded most expectations today, considering we didn't have the kind of race we wanted to have at the NCAA Indoor meet several weekends ago," Clark said. "We bounced back from that very well and were in it up until the last lap or so.
"Ellen ran a great 400 split, and everyone contributed to a good team effort. I thought they did well."
The Lady Vols still will have opportunities for distance wins in the 4x1500m and 4x800m relays on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Earlier in the day, the Lady Vol 4x100m quartet advanced to Friday's Championship of America final with a 45.20 trip around the Franklin Field oval. That mark, fashioned by junior Ashley Harris, Wortham and sophomores Martinique Octave and Kia Jackson was good enough for second in heat two and was eighth-fastest of the qualifiers.
"It was good to see the 4x1 advance," Clark said. "It's always a great accomplishment to make the finals at the Penn Relays. They were moving the stick very well, and Coach (Sharon) Seagrave is doing a great job with that group."
Tennessee will be in action in as many as 11 events on Friday at the Penn Relays. Men's events include the championship 400m hurdles (Terry Benson), the 100m hurdles prelims, the college pole vault (Chase Brannon, Robert Rasnick, Tyler Porter), the 4x100m and 4x200m relay prelims, the championship distance medley relay, championship sprint medley relay and the championship long jump (Justin Hunter). Women's events will be the championship 4x1500m relay, the championship 4x100m relay and the 4x200m prelims.
In Des Moines, Iowa, junior Annie Alexander will compete in the shot put and discus throw on Friday at the Drake Relays. Senior Holly Kane and freshman Katherine Dresch will throw the javelin.
4x100m Relay Prelims: Adv. Ashley Harris / Ellen Wortham / Martinique Octave / Kia Jackson, 45.20/2nd, ht. 2 (8th)
Distance Medley Relay Championship: 2. Liz Costello / Ellen Wortham / Chanelle Price / Brittany Sheffey, 10:56.20
3000m Championship: 3. Amber Zimmerman, 10:08.98
3000m Steeplechase Championship: 13. Michael Spooner, 9:17.02
3000m Steeplechase College: 4. Steve Fassino, 9:05.28
5000m Championship: 26. Chris Bodary, 14:41.06!
5000m College: 7. Jake Rainey, 14:32.73!; 25. Chris Rapp, 15:03.68
! - personal record, DNF - did not finish, DQ - disqualified, - 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