Jan. 7, 2005
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- University of Tennessee freshman sprinter Cleo Tyson was victorious in her first collegiate competition, and three of her sprint corps teammates joined her with NCAA provisional qualifying marks Friday night as the Lady Vols opened the 2005 season in the Tennessee All-Comers Meet at Stokely Athletics Center.
Tyson, from Huntsville, Texas, easily met the national provisional of 6.92 in the 55-meter dash, zipping to a 6.80 reading that ranks as the fourth-best ever run by a Lady Vol. She impressively reached the finish line first against a field that included last year's NCAA 60-meter dash runner-up, Toyin Olupona, and 2004 U.S. Olympic 4x400m relay gold medalist Dee Dee Trotter. The highly-touted rookie also won her preliminary heat, doing so in 6.85.
Joining Tyson on the NCAA "B" cut crew for the 55 meters were fellow freshman Courtney Champion (Lawrenceville, Ga.), who was second in a career-best 6.83, sophomore Tianna Madison (Elyria, Ohio), who finished third in 6.86, and Olupona, who ran 6.90 in the prelims. Champion's performance, which came on the heels of a 6.85, heat-winning readout in the prelims, is the 11th-best in UT annals.
Olupona, a senior from Orillia, Ontario, Canada, settled for fourth in 6.93, but her prelim time (6.90) is the best clocking she has ever posted in a season-opening meet. That certainly bodes well for the
returning indoor All-American, who owns the school and Stokely records in the 55 meters at 6.74. The third in Tennessee's trio of freshmen sprinters, LaTonya Loche (Bastrop, La.)
wound up fifth in 7.00, while 400-meter specialist Trotter, now pursuing a professional career, worked on her short game with a 7.08 reading in the final to take sixth.
In the prelims, Champion and Tyson won heats one and two with identical career-best times of 6.85. Madison and Olupona, meanwhile, each logged 6.90 efforts to finish second behind their rookie teammates in heats one and two, respectively. Loche and Trotter crossed the line third and fourth in heat one, logging performances of 7.02 and 7.04.
"The idea was to get the ball rolling and hit some qualifying marks at this meet, and we did that and nearly got an auto in the short sprint," third-year UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "The sprinters showed great character and had good performances tonight."
In the 55-meter hurdles, sophomore Edra Finley (Mobile, Ala.) charted back-to-back personal bests of 8.59 and 8.53 to snare third, while junior Catherine Wright (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Caitlin Ward (Gibsonia, Pa.) were fifth and sixth, respectively, in 9.11 and 9.18.
Senior Antoinette Gorham (Glenarden, Md.) closed out the evening with a blue ribbon in the 400 meters, taking the two-heat field in 58.70. Senior Nicole Cook (Petersburg, Va.), the 2004 NCAA Indoor 800m champion, ran a leisurely 62.13 to place fourth, while sophomore Mindy Sullivan (Lubbock, Texas) took fifth in 62.74 and senior Elizabeth McCalley (Knoxville, Tenn.) was sixth in 64.28.
In field event action, junior college transfers Ariel Brooks (Miami, Fla.) and April Thomas (Albany, Ga.) opened their Lady Vol careers with wins in the throws. Brooks, previously with Barton County (Kan.) Community College, charted a first-place measurement of 57-11.75/17.67m in the weight throw. That mark is the number-two all-time throw in program history. As for Thomas, who came to Knoxville from Cloud County (Kan.) Community College, there was a first-place finish in the shot put in her first UT outing. Her 47-2.25/14.38m heave was the evening's top effort by seven inches. Thomas was second in the weight throw at 53-1.75/16.20m, while Brooks was third in the shot at 39-3/11.96m.
In the pole vault, junior Jessica Reust (Knoxville, Tenn.) was close to her indoor career best, winning with a clearance of 12-5.50/3.80m. Senior Jessica Andrews (Rockford, Tenn.) went over the bar at 10-11.75/3.35m to place third.
"Good things are happening," Clark said. "The sprinters performed well, our returning SEC pole vault champion (Jessica Reust) had some good attempts at 13 feet, and Ariel (Brooks) narrowly missed a school record in the weight throw. I don't want to get too excited too early in the season, but we recognize we have an opportunity for a great year."
The Lady Vols, this time with their distance runners joining them, hit the road next weekend and travel to Blacksburg, Va., to compete in the Virginia Tech Invitational on Friday and Saturday. The highly-competitive meet will feature a large field of teams from around the Southeast.