May 30, 2010
By Eric Trainer, Associate Director of Media Relations
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- When it came time for people to stand and deliver, the University of Tennessee had no shortage of volunteers at the NCAA East Preliminary Round this weekend. As a result, UT Director of Track & Field J.J Clark will have a larger than expected contingent heading to the national championship meet, June 9-12, in Eugene, Ore.
On the final day of action at North Carolina A&T's Irwin Belk Track, the Big Orange added three women and two more men to the travel squad. That output boosted the final tally to five Vols and six Lady Vols in the group that will compete in a week and a half at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Oregon's historic Hayward Field.
Joining the list of qualifiers on Saturday were Lady Vol sophomore Brittany Sheffey in the 1500 meters, Lady Vol senior Jackie Areson in the 5000 meters, Vol seniors Evander Wells and Kyle Stevenson in the 200 meters, and the Lady Vol 4x400m relay combination of sophomore Ellen Wortham, senior Phoebe Wright, freshman Martinique Octave and senior Kimarra McDonald. In all, six of the 11 UT NCAA qualifiers will be making their first national appearances outdoors.
"We're just getting the ball rolling, and things are getting better," Clark said. "There's a ways to go, but we're definitely fighting, and I have to give credit to the student-athletes. They put their hearts into the meet and came out with successful performances.
"We have a great staff, so I don't expect anything less. As time goes on, we're looking to do bigger and better things, and right now, this is just a stepping stone and the start of something good."
Sheffey, a two-time NCAA champion with the Lady Vol distance medley relay teams in 2008 and 2010, qualified for nationals in her first individual event. The 2010 SEC runner-up finisher overcame some jostling in a wide and tightly-bunched pack to make the cut in the NCAA East Preliminary 1500 meters. She did so by racing to a career-best time of four minutes, 18.74 seconds to place fourth in section one and move on automatically to the NCAA meet.
Her time, which came after she passed two runners in the final 15 meters, was the fourth fastest of the 12 qualifiers, and with it she moved to No. 8 on UT's all-time performers list in that event.
"It was very nice to see Sheffey make it," Clark said. "She kind of got pushed around a little bit. She was around third or fourth, got pushed to sixth and nearly came to a stop. She was able to sprint back into contention and qualify with a fourth-place finish, when they take the top five (in each heat). She's been very consistent and very strong mentally all year, so that's a positive."
Next, it was the Vol sprinters' turn, and Wells and Stevenson did not disappoint. Running in heat two, Wells rolled around the turn and down the straightaway in 20.63 to finish second, while Stevenson covered the distance in a season-best 20.82 to snare fourth. Those marks left the Rocky Top duo eighth and 11th, respectively, and earned them each a trip to Eugene. Wells will be making his fourth straight outdoor national appearance, while Stevenson will be going outdoors for the first time since running on UT's All-America 4x100m relay units in 2007 and 2008 and making the 200m field as a freshman.
"On the men's side at this meet, there were a couple of things that stood out, and that was Evander and Kyle," Clark said. "After not having good performances yesterday, they really came through in the 200m today.
"I have to couple in the pole vaulters. They didn't do well at the SEC meet, they came back at this meet and got it done. That's the start of great things in the future. I think our young men are really poised to do great things, and we just have to keep building and growing as we have by becoming a better outdoor than indoor team this season."
Areson, the SEC's indoor and outdoor champion at 5000 meters this season, booked her travel to the West Coast by taking third in heat two and ninth overall in the semifinals in 16:27.36, grabbing an automatic berth to the NCAA meet. Running with the leaders the whole time in a herky-jerky paced race and holding on to third with her strong kick, she will make her second straight trip to the NCAA Outdoor meet, where she finished 26th a year ago in the 5K at 17:16.87. A different runner this season, Areson was a two-event scorer for Tennessee at the NCAA Indoor Championships, finishing third in the 5K (15:53.12) and fourth in the 3K (9:10.98).
"Jackie did what she needed to do to advance," Clark said. "It was a very choppy race. She was ready to go early in the race, and she got her rhythm disrupted but was still able to qualify. The whole objective is to qualify, and she did as a senior. We look forward to her doing some good things in Eugene."
The women's 4x400 tandem added the final icing on the cake, giving Tennessee its first NCAA Outdoor unit in that event since 2006 and its first 4x4 quartet at any NCAA meet since Wright and McDonald helped the Lady Vols finish eighth at the 2008 NCAA Indoor Championships. The Big Orange finished second in heat three and third fastest of the 12 qualifying teams in a season-topping 3:33.69, which was 2 1/2 seconds better than their previous 2010 best.
"Our mile relay came up big, knocking over 2 1/2 seconds off their time with some good splits," Clark said. "I told them they could qualify if they believed they could qualify. The order was changed around a little (from Octave/Wortham/Wright/McDonald), and that was to the benefit of the group and it paid off."
In the first event of the day, North Carolina native Aslynn Halvorson competed in the women's discus throw qualifying round. Unfortunately, she saw her season come to an end. The rookie was unable to register a fair throw in three attempts, carding sector fouls on all of her tries.
The Big Orange will return to Knoxville on Sunday, practice all next week and travel to Oregon on June 7.
UT Men's Saturday Results
Javelin Throw Qualifying: NCAA Qualifier (12th) Matt Maloney, 219-8/66.95m
800m Quarterfinals: 22. Emerson Peacock, 1:52.83p/7th, ht. 3
400m Hurdles Quarterfinals: 23. John Hewitt, 1:07.40p/8th, ht. 2
400m Hurdles First Round: Adv. (19th) John Hewitt, 51.82p/3rd, ht. 3
1500m First Round: 22. Peter Sigilai, 3:50.74p/6th, ht. 1
Long Jump Qualifying: 20. Desmond Brown, 24-3.75/7.41m (w: 0.0)
400m First Round: 41. Samdi Fraser, 47.54p/6th, ht. 5
10000m Semifinal: 24. Michael Spooner, 31:11.90
Discus Throw Qualifying: NM Aslynn Halvorson, F
1500m Quarterfinals: NCAA Qualifier (4th) Brittany Sheffey, 4:18.74p!/4th, ht. 1
5000m Semifinals: NCAA Qualifier (9th) Jackie Areson, 16:27.36p/3rd, ht. 2
4x400m Relay Quarterfinals: NCAA Qualifier (3rd) Ellen Wortham / Phoebe Wright / Martinique Octave / Kimarra McDonald, 3:33.69p/2nd, ht. 3
800m Quarterfinals: NCAA Qualifier (1st) Phoebe Wright, 2:00.87p/1st, ht. 2; NCAA Qualifier (6th) Kimarra McDonald, 2:04.19p!/4th, ht. 2; 20. Ramzee Fondren, 2:08.61p/8th, ht. 2
400m Hurdles Quarterfinals: NCAA Qualifier (10th) Ellen Wortham, 57.55p!/5th, ht. 1
Javelin Throw Qualifying: 32. Holly Kane, 131-8/40.15m
400m Hurdles First Round: Adv. (20th) Ellen Wortham, 58.88p/2nd, ht. 5
1500m First Round: Adv. (11th) Brittany Sheffey, 4:22.27p/2nd, ht. 4
800m First Round: Adv. (1st) Phoebe Wright, 2:05.18p/1st, ht. 5; Adv. (22nd) Kimarra McDonald, 2:08.66p/3rd, ht. 6; Adv. (24th) Ramzee Fondren, 2:08.80p/4th, ht. 3
DNF - did not finish; DNR - did not run; DQ - disqualified; f - foul; fr - facility record; m - meters; mr - meet record; nwi - no wind index; p - prelims; sr - school record; ! - personal