Feb. 15, 2003
NEW YORK CITY
Toyin Olupona improved her NCAA Championships stock with a season-best effort in the 60m dash and Dee Dee Trotter matched her previous 400m provisional mark with one in the 200m dash on Saturday to spearhead a solid final day for the University of Tennessee women's track & field team at the Armory Collegiate Invitational.
In the 60m dash championship section final, Olupona (Orillia, Canada) ripped off her fastest time as a collegian, charting a 7.39 to finish third against a very talented field. LSU's Muna Lee claimed the title in 7.25, while South Carolina's Aleen Bailey was second at 7.36.
The UT sophomore's mark was an improvement over her 7.41 NCAA provisional qualifying mark from earlier this year and earned her a tie for the 12th-fastest short sprint ever run by a Lady Vol. She also moved closer to overtaking Heather Sumpter (7.37) as the No. 2 runner on UT's all-time performers list. Kelli White is first at 7.24. Olupona had advanced to the finals by virtue of a 7.47 reading in the prelims, where she finished with the second-quickest clocking behind only LSU's Lee (7.36).
As for Trotter, the fellow sophomore from Decatur, Ga., zipped to a season-topping 23.82 outcome in the 200 meters to place fifth against
a top-notch lineup. In addition to her provisional in the 400m, she now has one in the single-lap race. Her pace was just off her 23.78 of a
year ago, which ranks her third on the UT all-time performers chart.
In the 800 meters, sophomore Nicole Cook ran in the middle of the pack most of the way and utilized a strong kick to finish third in 2:07.70, which was a provisional mark but not an improvement over her season-best of 2:07.54. The margin between third and first was not much, as Neisha Bernard-Thomas took top honors in 2:07.57, while LSU's Marian Burnett finished second at 2:07.60. Redshirt freshman Brooke Novak saw her unbeaten streak come to an end, but the Kaukauna, Wis., product did lower her time in the mile to 4:51.37. That amounts to a nine-second improvement from the Penn State National Meet on Feb. 1 and is within three seconds of the NCAA provisional standard. Her efforts netted her a seventh-place outcome Saturday night.
Also tantalizingly close to an NCAA mark was the 4x400m relay team. The combination of Olupona, Cook, sophomore Antoinette Gorham (Glenarden, Md.) and Trotter covered the distance in a 2003-best 3:40.28 to take fifth. The time was nearly four seconds better than a 3:44.09 registered by Christina Billings, Cook, Gorham and Trotter at the Penn State meet two weekends ago. In the championship pole vault, senior Christie Elwin (Adelaide, Australia) managed a tie for second place with a clearance of 11-11.75/3.65m. Sophomore Lauren McNeil (Easton, Pa.) was seventh at 11-5.75, while sophomore Kendra Rhyne (Andersonville, Tenn.) was unable to clear a height. Simona Kovacic of Purdue seized the title with a jump of 12-5.50/3.80m.
Elsewhere, junior Erin Anderson (Kent, Ohio) was eighth in the B championship division of the mile in 5:11.88; junior Kelly Flowers (Westerville, Ohio) was 14th in the championship long jump at 16-11.50/5.17m; freshman Katie Flaute (Dayton, Ohio) and junior Jessica Southers (Ashland, Ky.) were 12th and 14th in the championship 3000m with times of 10:19.75 and 10:26.89, respectively; and freshman Caitlin Ward (Gibsonia, Pa.) posted a 10.01 in the championship 60m hurdle prelims but did not advance.
The Lady Vols will join the UT men in hosting the Tennessee Indoor Invitational on Friday, Feb. 21. The meet, which begins at noon with field events, will serve as the squad's final tuneup before the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships on March 1 and 2 in Fayetteville, Ark.