Feb. 3, 2010
By Eric Trainer, Associate Director of Media Relations
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The University of Tennessee men's and women's track & field teams are heading to the Big Apple to compete this weekend. The Big Orange will take part in the New Balance Collegiate Invitational, held at The Armory in the Washington Heights area of New York City on Friday and Saturday.
In the men's field, ranked teams expected to be in attendance include No. 1 Texas A&M, No. 4 LSU, No. 7 Arkansas, No. 9 Oklahoma and No. 18 South Carolina, among a host of others. In addition to the No. 5 Lady Vols, No. 1 Texas A&M, No. 3 BYU, No. 4 LSU, No. 10 South Carolina, No. 11 Arkansas, No. 12 Villanova, No. 15 Oklahoma, No. 23 UConn and No. 25 North Carolina headline the lengthy list of squads represented. The meet, held on one of the fastest indoor surfaces in the country, always features an outstanding field of competitors from around the country.
"We went to New York (to this meet) my first year at Tennessee; then we took a little break from it and went again last year," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. "I think it is a very good meet, and we figured out how to get around a little easier by using the subway last year (rather than relying on lengthy shuttle bus trips through Manhattan traffic).
"The Armory offers a very nice venue, but the track is only as good as the athletes who run on it. We're taking some talented athletes to a fast track, so we'll see what happens."
Among the standouts to watch for the men's team are senior sprinter Evander Wells and sophomore pole vaulter Robert Rasnick. Wells ranks fourth nationally in the 200 meters (20.99) and fifth in the 60 meters (6.66) with runner-up marks he posted last weekend at the Rod McCravy Memorial meet in Lexington, Ky. He has NCAA provisional qualifying marks in each event and would like to continue lowering his times and upgrade to automatic marks in the near future. Classmate Kyle Stevenson also has shown improvement in the sprints, charting personal bests of 6.73 and 21.38, respectively, at the McCravy.
Rasnick, meanwhile, sailed over a career-best height of 17-0 3/4 to place second in the pole vault last weekend in Lexington, and he also met the NCAA provisional standard. Rasnick ranks No. 2 in the SEC thus far in 2010, and junior teammate Joe Berry is right behind him at No. 3 after debuting with a 16-6 3/4 clearance at the McCravy. Berry is a three-time SEC champion in the vault.
Others in the top five on the SEC top performers list this week include Wells (5th, 400m, 48.17), freshman Peter Sigilai (5th, 800m, 1:51.65), sophomore Ben Bartholomew (4th, shot put, 53-11 3/4) and UT's distance medley (2nd, 10:10.99, Spooner/Tucker/Degfae/Brodsky) and 4x400m (4th, 3:12.37, Hewitt/Wells/Stevenson/Fraser) relays.
The Lady Vols, who moved into the top five this week at fifth, feature three automatic qualifiers already. Running a school-record time of 9:07.27 in the 3000 meters at the Penn State National Invitational last Saturday, senior Jackie Areson punched her ticket to the NCAA Indoor meet in Fayetteville, Ark., on March 12-13. She did so with the second fastest time by a college woman this season.
Areson joined 800m auto qualifiers in senior Phoebe Wright and sophomore Chanelle Price, who unleashed what are still the fastest times in the country at 2:04.00 and 2:04.72. Annie Alexander owns a provisional mark of 54-7 1/2 in the shot put that ranks fifth nationally, while Wright (5th, 4:43.50) and Areson (6th, 4:43.85) also have provisionals in the mile, and sophomore Ellen Wortham possesses one in the pentathlon that she earned last weekend with a PR score of 3,899 that rates her eighth in the country.
"Both our men's and women's teams made a little jump last week," Clark said. "We had some automatics and provisional marks in some different areas, and that was good to see on both sides. We just have to keep moving forward and keep producing some performances that will allow us to be competitive in our conference and nationally."
One additional area worth noting this weekend is the women's distance medley relay, which the Lady Vols won at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational last season with a-then American record time of 10:56.40 that the squad later topped at the NCAA Championships. UT, which has won the past two NCAA DMR titles, will be looking for a qualifying mark in New York. Clark has not divulged his lineup just yet, but ace anchor leg Sarah Bowman will not be an option after completing her eligibility and graduating.
"Our women are running the DMR on Friday night, in the championship section," Clark confirmed. "We are entered and are just looking for a time that will get us to the (NCAA) meet.
"The most important thing is that we run a solid race. It's nice to be able to put some fast marks up, but in reality, those are just enabling us to qualify for the NCAA Championships. We just want to make the field and go from there."
The meet begins at 11 a.m. on Friday and concludes at 6 p.m. on Saturday. For a link to live results, please go to www.utsports.com or www.utladyvols.com.