June 7, 2010
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The University of Tennessee track & field teams were slated to arrive Monday afternoon in Eugene, Ore., where the Lady Vols and Vols will compete in this week's NCAA Outdoor Championships at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field. Action starts Wednesday and runs through Saturday with CBS College Sports Network carrying Friday's action live from 8-10 p.m. Eastern time and CBS televising Saturday's events live from 1-3 p.m. ET.
The UT men, who have five competitors entered, remained unranked this week. The Lady Vols, with seven on the trip, moved back into the USTFCCCA Rankings this week at No. 20 after last being rated 24th on April 20. Both teams qualified more competitors for this meet than expected prior to last weekend's NCAA East Preliminary Round in Greensboro, N.C.
The Big Orange's top-ranked entrant and first competitor of the meet in Wednesday's semifinals is Lady Vol senior Phoebe Wright. The product of Signal Mountain, Tenn., who enters with the No. 1 ranked time in the nation and No. 9 mark in the world in the 800 meters at two minutes, 0.87 seconds, will be trying to complete a season sweep of both the SEC and NCAA titles in that event. In addition to winning the 2010 indoor national title, Wright was the indoor runner-up a year ago and finished fifth outdoors last season and sixth as a sophomore.
Senior Kimarra McDonald returned this season with only outdoor eligibility remaining, and her decision proved to be a wise one. She joins Wright in the 800m field and enters the week ranked No. 6 after recording a three-second personal best at the NCAA East meet in 2:04.19. She is making her first individual appearance at a national championship meet.
Another UT competitor projected to score in the women's middle distances is sophomore Brittany Sheffey. After redshirting due to illness in 2009, Sheffey has bounced back strong in 2010, qualifying in the 1500 meters with a career-best 4:18.74 readout that stacks her up eighth in the field for Thursday's semifinals. The first-time outdoor qualifier was a four-time SEC runner-up this season, placing second indoors in the mile and 3K and taking second outdoors in the 1500m and 5000m. She also anchored UT's DMR to a national championship indoors.
The Vols' Evander Wells enters with the No. 13 seed time in the men's 200 meters at 20.63, but the senior owns the fifth-best collegiate time this season at 20.45. Wells, who now has competed in all eight NCAA (indoor/outdoor) meets in his career, will be joined by classmate Kyle Stevenson, who is 22nd in the field at 20.82 and qualified as an individual nationally for the first time since 2007. They compete in the semifinal round on Thursday.
Lady Vol senior Jackie Areson qualified for the NCAA Outdoor 5000 meters for the second straight season and will run in the final on Friday. Areson, who placed 26th a year ago, projects to do much better in 2010, as she enters ranked No. 9 in the field with her 16:27.36 qualifying mark from regionals. She has a season-best of 15:51.56 and posted finishes of third in the 5K and fourth in the 3K at the 2010 NCAA Indoor meet in addition to sweeping both SEC 5K crowns this season.
Vols Robert Rasnick and Brad Holtz will make their first NCAA appearances in the pole vault on Thursday. Rasnick, a sophomore, and Holtz, a senior, placed eight and 11th, respectively, at the NCAA East meet with identical career-best 17-2 3/4 clearances, with Rasnick placing higher due to fewer misses. Technically, both Rocky Toppers come into the competition tied with the 11th-best mark.
Sophomore Ellen Wortham is a another Tennessean making her first NCAA trip as an individual qualifier. The SEC runner-up in the 400m hurdles, she went on to the NCAA East Preliminary Round and carded her fifth PR of the season. That 57.55 effort enabled her to finish 10th in the quarterfinals and stand 14th among the contestants for Wednesday's semifinals.
Wortham also provides the jump-start for UT's 4x400m relay unit, which enhanced its season best by nearly three seconds to 3:33.69 in crossing the line third in the quarterfinals at the NCAA East competition. Joining Wortham on the tandem, which rates No. 10 in the NCAA field and will run on Thursday, is freshman Martinique Octave, Wright and McDonald. Sophomore Charity Honeycutt is the squad's alternate.
UT's final member of the travel party is senior javelin thrower Matt Maloney, whose career actually began at Oregon in 2006. Maloney got the 12th and final qualifying spot out of the East at 219-8 last weekend, but he owns a fling of 230-11 this season from the UCSD Triton Invitational. After redshirting last season due to injury, Maloney is making his fourth appearance at NCAA Outdoors and will try to match the performance that enabled him to earn All-America distinction in 2008. He will throw on Thursday.
For links to live results and live video, please go to www.utsports.com or www.utladyvols.com.