Feb. 9, 2003

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Redshirt freshman Brooke Novak stayed unbeaten in the 3000 meters and sophomore Dee Dee Trotter posted an NCAA provisional qualifying mark in the 400 meters to pace the University of Tennessee women's track and field team Sunday afternoon at the Gator Invitational.

Novak, from Kaukauna, Wis., finished in a career-best time of 9:52.13 to edge Auburn's Erica Braswell, who crossed the line in 9:53.74 at the University of Florida's O'Connell Center. The Lady Vol distance standout stayed unbeaten in individual races this season, duplicating her 3K victory at the SEC Challenge in Lexington, Ky., on Jan. 25 and her heat win in the mile run at last weekend's Penn State National Meet.

Through the first half of the race, Novak kept pace with a pack of about nine runners until Georgia Tech's Amy Dock, Braswell and the Big Orange runner opened up a sizeable advantage over the rest of the competitors. With two laps to go, Braswell went around Dock, and Novak followed close behind. Upon hearing the bell that signals the final lap, Novak kicked into a faster gear, and her opponent was unable to match the Wisconsin product's potent finishing speed. "Brooke Novak has shown a lot of maturity this year," Lady Vol Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "She is guiding the team with her good performances."



In the 400m, Trotter wasn't afforded the luxury of running in the fastest heats, but the Decatur, Ga., product still managed to reel off a 54.76 and place seventh against a strong list of runners. That time, posted on Florida's 200m flat track, was the second-year performer's second provisional this season in the quarter. Sophomore Nicole Cook (Petersburg, Va.) nearly recorded a qualifying mark in her first college try indoors at that distance, recording a personal-best 54.93 and grabbing eighth. The 4x400m relay closed out the day with a 3:47.90 effort to place fourth. The lineup, which included sophomore Antoinette Gorham (Glenarden, Md.), Cook, Trotter and freshman Caitlin Ward (Gibsonia, Pa.), posted the team's second quickest pace of the year. With junior Christina Billings (Madison, Wis.) running in place of Ward last Saturday at the Penn State National Meet, the Lady Vols put together at 3:44.09 result.

Other noteworthy finishes included junior Janine Tessarzik (Altamont, N.Y.) taking seventh in the weight throw at 56-6/17.22m; senior Christie Elwin (Adelaide, Australia) securing seventh in the pole vault at 12-1.50/3.70m; junior Erin Anderson grabbing ninth in the 3000m in a season-best 10:18.61; and Trotter finishing 15th in the 200m at 24.65.

"We're still moving up the ladder, continuing to produce PRs and still getting provisionals and wins every weekend," Clark said. "I am very proud of our growth and our consistency and the way we are learning to compete at a high level. The SEC denotes excellence, and we have responded every weekend to the competition we have faced. There is truly a good atmosphere amongst this group.

"The only way to get the team to a high level is to have people churning away and running their best against the top athletes and teams. We look forward to going to the Armory meet next weekend and continuing our progress and preparation for the upcoming SEC meet."

Elsewhere on Sunday, sophomores Kendra Rhyne (Andersonville, Tenn.) and Lauren McNeil (Easton, Pa.) were 15th and 17th, respectively, in the pole vault; Gorham finished 29th in the 400m in 58.97 and Billings placed 34th in the 400m at 59.65. Additionally, Ward posted a career-best 9.41 reading in the 55m hurdles prelims but did not advance to the finals in a meet that featured three of the nation's top five teams in No. 1 Florida, No. 2 LSU and No. 5 South Carolina as well as such schools as 15th-ranked Auburn and No. 22 Miami (Fla.).

Coach Clark's sister, Hazel Clark, who won the 800 meters Friday night at the Millrose Games in New York City, came back Sunday to take seventh in the mile at the Gator Invitational. She posted a time of 4:56.40 in her return to her college alma mater. Jearl Miles-Clark, Coach Clark's spouse, claimed victory in the 400m dash at the Millrose Games two nights ago, winning in 55.08. She did not, however, compete in Gainesville.

The Lady Volunteers will have a short week of practice before turning around and traveling to New York City on Thursday for the Armory Collegiate Invitational on Feb. 14-15.



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