March 9, 2010
By Eric Trainer, Associate Director of Media Relations
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The University of Tennessee track & field program will be represented by eight student-athletes this weekend, as they travel to the NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. The meet will be held Friday and Saturday at the Randal Tyson Track Center on the University of Arkansas campus.
ESPN360.com and NCAA.com will be providing live streaming of much of the action, and ESPN2 will televise the meet on a tape-delayed basis on March 17. Airtime for the 90-minute show is 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time. A link to live results also will be available this weekend at www.utladyvols.com and www.utsports.com.
Representing the fifth-ranked Lady Volunteers will be seven young women. Included in that group are seniors Jackie Areson (3000m/5000m) and Phoebe Wright (800m/distance medley relay), juniors Annie Alexander (shot put) and Kim White (distance medley relay - alternate), and sophomores Chanelle Price (800m/distance medley relay), Brittany Sheffey (distance medley relay) and Ellen Wortham (distance medley relay). Senior Evander Wells (60m/200m) will represent the Vols.
The Lady Vols enter as the defending NCAA champions after winning the meet in College Station, Texas, a year ago. UT will be without 2009 standouts Sarah Bowman and Celriece Law, who have graduated. Bowman set a meet record in winning the mile in 4:29.72 last season and also anchored UT to a world record in the distance medley relay (DMR) at 10:50.98. Law, meanwhile, finished second in the 60m hurdles in a school-record time of 8.04.
Despite those losses, Tennessee will head to the meet with chances to score in five women's events. Wright (2:01.47) and Price (2:03.12) finished one-two at the SEC Indoor Championships and rank in the same order in the NCAA this season, with Wright's mark standing as the No. 2 clocking ever by a college woman. Only the 2:00.75 collegiate record of former Lady Vol Nicole Cook, set in 2005, is faster. Wright was second a year ago at the national meet, while Price did not qualify individually.
Areson, a first-time entrant in the NCAA Indoor meet, is slated for duty in two long distance events and ranks third nationally in the 3000 meters (9:07.27) and 5000 meters (15:53.54). Those marks each broke 19-year-old school records set by Patty Wiegand in 1991. Areson focused on the 5K at the recent SEC Indoor meet and won the race in a time of 16:15.12. She also aided the DMR, anchoring it to victory in a meet-record time of 11:14.59.
Because she is ticketed for the distance double, Areson won't likely be a part of the DMR at the national meet. That duty will go to Wright, Wortham, Price and Sheffey. Wright (1200m) and Price (800m) return from last season's world-record-setting DMR unit, which delivered the Big Orange its second straight national championship and third overall triumph in that event. Sheffey redshirted last season but ran the opening 1200m leg on UT's 2008 NCAA-winning tandem and this year's top unit as well. Wortham, an alternate last season, handles the 400 leg, while Price and Wright fill the 800m and 1600m hitches. White, who ran the 400 leg at the SEC meet, will be the alternate.
The final piece in the Lady Vol puzzle is Alexander, who finished third at both the 2009 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships in the shot put. She enters this weekend ranked 10th in the field with a best toss of 55-1 that she carded two weekends ago in a runner-up effort at the SEC meet. She unleashed a school-record-tying heave of 57-2 at the NCAA meet last season, and a mark like that would certainly bolster UT's outlook in 2010.
"I'm not sure what our chances are (for contending for an NCAA Championship), but I know we have good athletes going to Fayetteville," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. "We have to figure out how to maximize our point opportunities. We're staying focused on Tennessee and making sure we all get our jobs done."
Clark said his women's team is where he wants it to be heading into the NCAA fray.
"We didn't win the meet, but we had some impressive victories at the SEC Championships," Clark said. "We wanted some positive things to come out of the conference meet, and I think we were able to accomplish that by breaking a meet record and winning some events."
As for the men's portion of the meet, Tennessee will send Wells into battle in the 200 and 60 meters, where he ranks 12th and 13th in the field, respectively, with times of 20.88 and 6.66. He is coming off an SEC meet where he placed fourth in the 200 and seventh in the 60.
Wells is making his fourth straight NCAA Indoor appearance. He was fourth in the 200 (20.78) last season and placed 10th in the 60m (6.70). The eight-time All-American also has a pair of sixth-place NCAA Indoor finishes in the 200 in 2007 (20.80) and 2008 (20.78) under his belt.
"Evander has run some good times this season," Clark said. "At the SEC meet, he wanted to perform a little better, but fortunately for him, he has the NCAA meet to come back and maybe perform at his very best. We're pleased that he is in this meet for the fourth straight season, and I'm sure he'll be ready to go.
"We'll have more Vols at this meet in the future. It's just been a very hard year with the transfers and a couple of people being ineligible. I look forward to definitely stepping this up as the next few months go by."
Men's 60m Prelims: Evander Wells
Women's 800m Prelims: Phoebe Wright, Chanelle Price
Men's 200m Prelims: Evander Wells
Women's 5000m Final: Jackie Areson
Men's 200m Final: Evander Wells?
Women's Distance Medley Relay Final: Phoebe Wright/Ellen Wortham/Chanelle Price/Brittany Sheffey (Alt: Kim White)
Women's Shot Put Final: Annie Alexander
Men's 60m Final: Evander Wells?
Women's 800m Final: Phoebe Wright, Chanelle Price?
Women's 3000m Final: Jackie Areson