Feb. 6, 2009
NEW YORK -- The Lady Volunteer distance medley relay team won, it automatically qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships and it broke a school record, but that wasn't what had the crowd buzzing at the Armory's New Balance Track & Field Center Friday night. The fact that Tennessee did so with the second-fastest indoor time ever run by women, midway through the season to top it all off, was what had folks shaking their heads in amazement.
The combination of junior Phoebe Wright (Signal Mountain, Tenn.), sophomore Brittany Jones (Pompano Beach, Fla.), freshman Chanelle Price (Easton, Pa.) and senior Sarah Bowman (Warrenton, Va.) blistered the oval with a time of 10 minutes, 56.40 seconds to establish itself as the clear favorite to defend its 2008 NCAA title in that event. Only the 1988 Villanova squad's 10:54.34 readout stands ahead of it on the world, American or collegiate lists.
In the process, Tennessee destroyed the New Balance Collegiate Invitational's 2007 meet and facility standard of North Carolina (11:04.63) and laid waste to the UT-record, 2008 NCAA Indoor Championship-winning time of 11:01.97 that Brittany Sheffey, Jones, Wright and Bowman charted less than a year ago. BYU, which challenged the Big Orange until the final leg, placed second well back in 11:04.91 in a race that featured five teams that easily met the NCAA auto mark of 11:09.00.
Wright and Jones kept Tennessee even with BYU and just ahead of Baylor through the 1200m and 400m legs, with Jones' 54.7 quarter serving as only her second race of the season. Price then logged a 2:07.4 800m split that nudged the Lady Vols into the lead. She then handed the baton to Bowman, who ran off and left the field behind en route to her fourth NCAA auto mark of the season. She has carded autos in the 3000m, mile, 800m and DMR now in her first four meets this year.
"We knew we had a good DMR; it was just a matter of us coming here and getting it done," UT Head Coach J.J.Clark said. "Phoebe, Brittany and Chanelle all ran great legs, and Sarah ran a great anchor leg to top it off. I thought the school record we set last year was tough; this is something that will be very hard to top. I'm just happy to see their hard work paying off.
"Obviously, as a coach, you want to think there is a lot more in the tank. We'll just take it one step at a time. The goal was to qualify for the national meet, and we did it by running the fastest time in the country this season and the second fastest ever run indoors. It's good for our program."
Photo: Mary DiBiase Blaich/www.wingedfootfotos.com
For the third straight weekend, sophomore Annie Alexander (Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago) captured first-place honors in the shot put. She picked up her sixth career indoor shot victory with a heave of 54 feet, 11 1/4 inches in the championship division. With the 10th longest toss in UT history, Alexander moved to third this season on the NCAA provisional qualifying list with that performance and continues to rank second in the Southeastern Conference. Additionally, her measurement generated 10 points for the Lady Vols in the team standings.
Competing in New York against a number of teams ranked among the top 25 did not faze freshman Ellen Wortham (Maryville, Tenn.) one bit. The rookie recorded her third career-best performance of the season and third top-two finish as well, clearing the bar at 5-7 3/4 to place second among a field of 22 in the college high jump. She tied Frenke Bolt for ninth on UT's all-time performers list in that event.
"Annie had her best throw of the year so far to win the shot," Clark said. "She's getting her rhythm down and looked very good. Coach (John) Frazier does a great job with the throws group, and I'm glad to see that she's being very consistent and getting better as the season goes on.
"Ellen Wortham had a PR and a runner-up finish in the high jump for us. It's good to see a freshman come to a big meet like this and show up. I really want to tip my hat to her."
After matching her season-best provisional mark in the preliminary round of the 60m hurdles at 8.30, senior Celriece Law (Denver, Colo.) came back in the championship final later in the day. Unfortunately, a clipped hurdle prevented her from registering a better time. After hitting obstacle number three and getting knocked out of rhythm, Law settled for eighth place in 8.66.
In the consolation final of the 60m dash, junior Lynne Layne (New Rochelle, N.Y.) covered the distance in 7.50 to take seventh. The local product had posted a provisional 7.42 readout in the prelims, ranking 11th of the 139 participants. Layne also competed in the championship division of the long jump and fashioned a respectable finish of ninth. She garnered that position by leaping 19-7 1/2, which is a season best and her second longest career jump indoors.
In the championship section of the pole vault, senior Alicia Essex (Purcellville, Va.) grabbed eighth place. She managed to navigate the bar at 12-11 1/2.
"With Lynne and Celriece - these things happen," Clark said. "You sometimes have a bad race. The sign of a champion is how you bounce back, and I believe they will do that when it's time for them to perform. All in all, it was another day of continued progress by our team in its quest to be the best it can possibly be."
Tennessee will return to the New Balance Track & Field Center on Saturday with athletes competing in nine different events. Action begins at 9 a.m.
|FRIDAY, FEB. 6|
|EVENT (NCAA DIV. I QUALIFYING MARKS)|
|Ch. Shot Put (Auto: 16.90, Prov: 15.20) 11:30 a.m.|
|Coll. High Jump (Auto: 1.85, Prov: 1.78) 11:40 a.m.|
|Coll. Long Jump (Auto: 6.35, Prov: 6.10) 11:45 a.m.|
|Ch. 400m Pre. (Auto: 52.40, Prov: 54.40)b 1:55 p.m.|
|51st||Amanda Alexander||57.54bp/3rd, ht. 13|
|107th||Charity Honeycutt||1:00.00bp/3rd, ht. 26|
|Ch. 60mH Pre. (Auto: 8.14; Prov: 8.43) 3:35 p.m.|
|Adv.||Celriece Law||8.30p/1st, ht. 5|
|54th||Jená Murphy||9.08p!/3rd, ht. 11|
|61st||Ellen Wortham||9.17p/4th, ht. 15|
|Ch. 60m Pre. (Auto: 7.26; Prov: 7.44) 4:25 p.m.|
|Adv.||Lynne Layne||7.42p+/2nd, ht. 3|
|Ch. Pole Vault (Auto: 4.20, Prov: 3.95) 4:35 p.m.|
|Ch. Long Jump (Auto: 6.35, Prov: 6.10) 4:40 p.m.|
|Ch. 60mH Fin. (Auto: 8.14; Prov: 8.43) 6:35 p.m.|
|Ch. DMR Fin. (Auto: 11:09.00, Prov: 11:30.00)b 6:45 p.m.|
|1st|| Phoebe Wright/Brittany Jones|
Chanelle Price/Sarah Bowman
|Conso. 60m Fin. (Auto: 7.26; Prov: 7.44) 7:00 p.m.|
|SATURDAY, FEB. 7|
|EVENT (NCAA DIV. I QUALIFYING MARKS)|
|Coll. Mile Fin. (Auto: 4:38.00; Prov: 4:48.00)b 9:00 a.m.|
|Ch. Wt. Throw (Auto: 21.00, Prov: 18.75) 9:05 a.m.|
|Conso. High Jump (Auto: 1.85, Prov: 1.78) 9:15 a.m.|
|Coll. 800m Fin. (Auto: 2:05.40, Prov: 2:09.40)b 9:45 a.m.|
|Ch. 5000m Fin. (Auto: 16:08.00, Prov: 16:45.00)b 10:07 a.m.|
|Katie Van Horn|
|Ch. 200m Pre. (Auto: 23.20, Prov: 23.90)b 11:12 a.m.|
|Coll. 4x400mR Fin. (Auto: 3:33.00, Prov: 3:40.00)b 12:25 p.m.|
|Ch. 200m Fin. (Auto: 23.20, Prov: 23.90)b 1:25 p.m.|
|Ch. Mile Final (Auto: 4:38.00; Prov: 4:48.00)b 3:08 p.m.|