Tennessee Squads Improve Stock, Win Titles On Final Day Of SEC Championships
Evander Wells

May 17, 2010

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The University of Tennessee track & field teams each scored in six events on the final day of the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships, picking up a pair of victories and two runner-up finishes Sunday on the third-straight rain-soaked, weather-delayed day at UT's Tom Black Track at LaPorte Stadium.

Despite a pair of stoppages that totaled one hour and 22 minutes and one hour and 20 minutes, the third and fourth such delays of the weekend, the squads were able to persevere and post some solid performances in front of the home fans. A lack of depth, though, prevented the Big Orange units from fairing as well as they would have liked.

On the women's side, the Lady Vols managed to place seventh with 58 points. LSU captured the crown, totaling 124 points to hold off runner-up Florida (106.50). Auburn was third with 91, followed by Arkansas (88.50), Georgia (74.50), Alabama (64) and Tennessee. South Carolina was eighth (46.50), with Mississippi (45), Kentucky (44), Mississippi State (31) and Vanderbilt (5) closing out the scoring.

The UT men, meanwhile, improved from 10th at the SEC Indoor meet to ninth with 45 points. Florida won the trophy with 114 points, with LSU taking second at 95. Auburn grabbed third (88), followed by South Carolina (83), Georgia (80), Mississippi (74), Arkansas (62), Mississippi State (56). After Tennessee came Kentucky (44) and Alabama (37).

The Lady Vols picked up two victories, including Phoebe Wright in the 800 meters and Jackie Areson in the 5000 meters.

Wright matched a Lady Vol legend and four-time Olympian when she recorded her fourth SEC 800m title to equal the feat of Joetta Clark, older sister of UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark. The senior, who came to UT as a walk-on freshman back in 2007, claimed her fourth consecutive conference crown in that event in a season-best time of 2:01.81.

Wright, who now has won indoor and outdoor league crowns in 2009 and 2010, pushed the tempo from the get-go and put pressure on LSU's LaTavia Thomas, who had swept the meet as a freshman and sophomore in 2007 and 2008. With 150 to go, Wright put the pedal down and pulled away down the home stretch from Thomas, who would finish a distant second in 2:03.35. Wright had company during the team's 14-point splurge in that event from senior Kimarra McDonald, a first-time SEC individual scorer in a career-best 2:07.40, and sophomore Ramzee Fondren, another first-time scorer in eighth at 2:10.87.

"We expected Phoebe to do that," Clark said. "She's been very tough in her races, and she's executed extremely well.

"It was raining a little bit, and the track had some puddles on it, but she disregarded all of that and got it done and looked really good in the process. It was also good to see Kimarra McDonald PR and have her and Ramzee Fondren get some points for us."

Areson later completed an SEC season sweep in the 5000 meters, growing impatient with the pace midway through and turning the event into a one-woman race en route to a victorious 16:20.89 clocking. Teammate Brittany Sheffey made a run on the final lap and narrowed the gap with Areson, finishing in a career-best 16:21.93 to take second in the 5K after collecting runner-up honors in the 3K indoors.

"Jackie Areson, after not having her best 1500m race, regrouped mentally and got it done in the 5K and became a 5K champion outdoors. It was something that she was striving to do and looked good.

"The surprise was Brittany Sheffey coming back (from the 1500m) and taking two seconds at this meet. She's really done a great job, and I am very proud of both of them for getting it done."

The UT men, meanwhile, picked up nine points by taking fifth, sixth and seventh in the 800. Sophomores Emerson Peacock and Joe Franklin, who were eighth and second, respectively, a year ago, produced the No. 5 and 6 times of the evening in 1:48.70 and 1:48.71. Freshman Terrance Livingston came from the back with a strong charge at the end to rustle up two points for seventh in 1:49.88.

In the women's 1500 meters, Sheffey followed up her runner-up effort in the mile indoors with a second-place finish outdoors in the 1500 meters. The sophomore, whose pair of runner-up efforts Sunday left her third in the individual SEC high-point scorer race with 16, ran near the front of the pack for the entire race and recorded a career-best time of 4:19.34. Florida senior Charlotte Browning, though, pulled away with 250 meters remaining and pulled off an indoor/outdoor sweep of the mile and 1500. Areson also recorded a personal best in the 1500m, checking in at 4:27.45 to finish seventh and nab two points as the Lady Vols got on the scoreboard for the first time at this meet.

Tennessee pulled off a nice showing in the women's 400-meter hurdles. First, it was a local product, sophomore Ellen Wortham of Maryville, zooming down the home stretch and reeling in her competitors left and right to grab second-place honors in a career-best 57.77 and move to No. 5 on UT's all-time performers list in that event. She had finished fifth as a freshman. Next, it was Vol senior John Hewitt's turn, and he, too, produced a career best time. His 51.39 output propelled him to a fourth-place showing and his first SEC individual scoring finish.

"Ellen has become a game day performer, and these are the types of athletes we have to have on our squad, getting it done for us," Clark said. "I also liked the way John Hewitt came through in the 400m hurdles. He ran with passion and emotion."

The UT men collected seven points in the 100-meter dash. The senior duo of Evander Wells and Kyle Stevenson finish fourth and seventh, respectively, with Wells clocking in with a season best of 10.24 and Stevenson scoring individually in SEC competition for the first time since 2007 with a career-topping readout of 10.32.

Stevenson and Wells came back later in the evening to add more points to the Big Orange hopper. This time it would be Stevenson getting the better end of the deal, as he placed seventh in 21.29. Wells, meanwhile, scored for the 20th time in his career in SEC action, winding up eighth in 21.92.

In the women's javelin, Knoxville native Holly Kane matched her career best to nab a fifth-place finish in her first career SEC scoring performance. The Karns graduate stretched the tape to 142-10 on her fifth attempt to improve over ninth last season.

UT's women closed out the meet with a strong finish, earning four points for a fifth-place finish. Carrying the stick for Team Orange to a readout of 3:36.54 were freshman Martinique Octave, Wortham, McDonald and Wright. The Vols capped the weekend by taking eighth in 3:10.10, with the lineup of junior Alan Bachman, senior Samdi Fraser, sophomore Varick Tucker and Livingston toting the baton.

Peter Sigilai added a sixth-place finish in the 5000 meters, covering the distance in 14:13.86 to contribute three points to the Vols' tally.

Finishing just out of the points w Sigilai, who finished ninth in the men's 1500m at 3:53.19, and the Lady Vol 4x100m relay combination of sophomores Ashley Harris and Wortham, Octave and freshman Kia Jackson, which placed ninth in 46.39.

It was not a good day for the UT vaulters. Brad Holtz and Robert Rasnick, who came in ranked fourth and 10th, respectively, in the league this season, suffered the misfortune of no-heighting.

"There were more individual highlights today than as a team," Clark said. "The idea now is to go and get some more depth and help across the board and have more balanced scoring. That's what we will strive to do."





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