Jan. 25, 2003
The University of Tennessee women got NCAA provisional qualifying marks from three athletes, including a school-record height in the pole vault by Christie Elwin, and Brooke Novak won the first individual race of her collegiate career as the Lady Vol track & field team fashioned a sixth-place team effort Saturday at the eight-team SEC Challenge at Nutter Fieldhouse.
J.J. Clark's squad tallied 57 points to finish behind No. 3 South Carolina (170), No. 2 Florida (127), No. 18 Kentucky (90.50), Georgia (65.50) and No. 10 Auburn (59). Alabama (25) and Vanderbilt (23) rounded out the scoring.
Elwin, who placed third, cleared the bar at 12-9.50/3.90m to match the national provisional and topple her previous UT mark of 12-8/3.86m at the 2000 SEC Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. The senior's successful vault was the second highest of her indoor career and matches her collegiate outdoor best, which the Adelaide, Australia, native posted at the 2001 Georgia Tech Invitational.
Toyin Olupona, who hails from Orillia, Canada, sped to a provisional time and second-place finish in the 60-meter dash. After matching her season best at 7.50 in the prelims, the sophomore kicked it up a notch in the finals to throw a 7.41 reading up on the board, finishing only behind the 7.31 posting of South Carolina's Aleen Bailey. For Olupona, the mark is the 13th best in school history and ranks her as the third-fastest Lady Vol in that event behind only former All-Americans Kelli White and Heather Sumpter.
Not to be outdone, sophomore Dee Dee Trotter made her 2003 debut in the 400 meters with a career best that was good enough to also join the provisional club. The product of Decatur, Ga., rolled to a 54.48 clocking to take fifth place. That reading rates her seventh on UT's all-time performers list in the quarter. Christina Billings also ran and produced a three-second PR improvement to 58.08 and finished 13th.
Then came Novak's 10-point scoring nugget, a triumph at 3000 meters in her very first individual track & field race in college. The redshirt freshman from Kaukauna, Wis., covered the distance in 9:58.77, displaying an exceptional kick over the final 200 meters to outlast Kentucky's Caity Phillips, who crossed the line in 10:00.67. Novak's victory matched a first-place effort in her very first cross country meet at UT as a true freshman in the fall of 2001.
"To have three provisionals, a school record and 15 improvements in personal bests shows we're moving in the right direction," Clark said. "The team put in a great effort, and the overall spirit was super. If that combination continues to occur, we will repeatedly make strides throughout the year.
"One of our goals coming into this meet was to hit some provisional marks, and we were able to do that. We are going to continue that assualt next week at Penn State. I'm very excited about the future."
The Lady Vols began the day in fine fashion with freshman Katie Flaute (Dayton, Ohio) and junior Jessica Southers (Ashland, Ky.) combining to accumulate 11 points for their team in the 5000 meters. Flaute clocked the first sub-18 minute race of her running career, checking in third at 17:49.77 to become the 10th-fastest UT female runner ever in the indoor 5K. Southers, meanwhile, was fourth in 18:18.38.
Other individuals contributing points to the scoring cause were sophomore Nicole Cook (Petersburg, Va.), who lowered her PR in the mile to 4:59.77 in taking fifth; Olupona, who garnered seventh in the 200m at 24.52; Elizabeth McCalley, who was seventh in the 3000m at 10:32.34; and Janine Tessarzik, who grabbed eighth in the weight throw with a personal-best heave of 55-4.25/16.87m and moved up to number two on Tennessee's all-time performers list in that event.
Tennessee also secured points from both of its relays. The distance medley relay combination of Southers, Billings, Novak and junior Erin Anderson (Kent, Ohio) navigated the oval in 12:30.87 to cross the line fifth, while the 4x400m lineup of freshman Caitlin Ward (Gibsonia, Pa.), Cook, Olupona and junior Kelly Flowers (Westerville, Ohio) took fifth in 3:51.47.
Joining Elwin in the pole vault and recording personal records under the direction of volunteer coach David Job were sophomore Kendra Rhyne from Andersonville, Tenn. (10th, 11-5.75/3.50m), sophomore Lauren McNeil from Easton, Pa. (14th, 11-1.75/3.40m) and redshirt freshman Jessica Andrews from Rockford, Tenn. (15th, 11-1.75/3.40m). True freshman Jessica Reust of Knoxville, Tenn., was 22nd at 10-2/3.10m.
Those competing in the finals but not scoring included Anderson, who was 10th in the 800 meters at 2:22.14; Trotter, who was 10th in the 200m in 24.78; junior Kelly Flowers (Westerville, Ohio), who was 13th in the long jump at 15-8.75/4.79m and 15th in the high jump at 5-1.75/1.57m; Tessarzik, who took 14th in the shot put at 40-1.25/12.22m; and Ward, who was 14th in the long jump at 15-6.75/4.74m, 17th in the shot put at 34-6.25/10.52m and 18th in the 200m at 26.10. Preliminary performers who did not advance were Catherine Wright (Knoxville, Tenn.) in the 60m hurdles at 10.04; and Ward in the 60m hurdles at 10.27.
Clark and company will return to action next weekend, as they travel to University Park, Pa., to compete in the Penn State Invitational on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.