Feb. 18, 2005
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Toyin Olupona matched her school and facility records in the 55-meter dash, and teammate Tianna Madison joined her with an NCAA automatic qualifying mark in the short sprint, pacing the fourth-ranked University of Tennessee women's track & field team to a highly-productive pre-conference tune-up Friday at the Tennessee Indoor Classic.
Olupona, a senior from Orillia, Ontario, Canada, zipped down the Stokely Athletics Center straightaway in a time of 6.74, equaling the UT and track marks she set nearly a year ago on Feb. 20. Her mark, which ranks number two in the nation, assures her a berth in the NCAA Championship meet in Fayetteville, Ark., on March 11 and 12. It also signals that the 2004 NCAA runner-up in the short sprint is in prime form for next weekend's Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships, which are also slated for Fayetteville.
Madison, meanwhile, rolled across the finish line right behind Olupona in a career-topping 6.75, also punching her ticket to the national meet. That performance ranks the sophomore from Elyria, Ohio, second in UT annals and number three in the nation. The multi-talented second-year standout also stands first in the NCAA ranks and third in the world in the long jump with a top leap of 21-11.50/6.69m.
Freshman Cleo Tyson, who ranks fifth on the national list and gives Tennessee three of the top five short sprinters in the country at this point in the
season, took third this evening in 6.83. The rookie from Huntsville, Texas, had been UT's fastest performer until the veterans showcased their top-end speed
tonight. Closing out a one through five Big Orange run of performers in the 55 meters were freshman Courtney Champion (Lawrenceville, Ga.) in fourth at
6.85 and classmate LaTonya Loche (Bastrop, La.) in fifth in a career-best 6.92.
"The sprint group continues to show its dominance in that event," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "Their performance tonight demonstrates that they are peaking at the right time. Toyin stepped up big and matched last year's effort at this meet, and Tianna showed the caliber of athlete she is after recording a huge mark in the long jump last weekend. I am very excited about her development."
In the 400 meters, senior Nicole Cook (Petersburg, Va.) looked exceptionally sharp, setting a building record on the undersized Stokely oval with a 55.44 effort and winning by over three seconds. Cook, who bested the 57.35, 2001 track record by unattached competitor Ashley Taylor, sent a strong signal that she is prepared to defend her 2004 SEC and NCAA 800-meter titles in the coming weeks.
"We wanted to simulate the opening quarter of an 800-meter race, and she just ran so smoothly," Clark said. "That time is actually not bad on this track. She looked very impressive in preparing for the SEC meet."
Three other Lady Vols who specialize in distance races ran in the 400m as well, and they all registered career bests in the event. Junior Brooke Novak (Kaukauna, Wis.) placed eighth in 61.12, sophomore Mindy Sullivan (Lubbock, Texas) took ninth in 62.07 and senior Elizabeth McCalley (Knoxville, Tenn.) was 11th in 63.38.
Tennessee hauled in another facility record in the pole vault, where junior Jessica Reust (Knoxville, Tenn.) sailed over a career best of 12-11.50/3.95m to claim victory. With that clearance, the 2004 SEC Outdoor champ added her name to the NCAA provisional qualifying list. Teammate Jessica Andrews (Rockford, Tenn.) managed a tie for second, as the senior cleared 12-1.50/3.70m and just missed a personal record of 12-8.
"Jessica Reust's season best and provisional in the pole vault adds to the strength of our team," Clark said. "Now it is time for us to go back to work this week and finish our preparations for the conference championships."
In the throws, junior April Thomas (Albany, Ga.) collected a victory in the "A" flight of the shot put, stretching the tape to 48-10.75/14.90m, while freshman Shanna Dickenson (Cincinnati, Ohio) was sixth at 40-0.50/12.20m. In the weight throw, Thomas and Dickenson each charted career bests, placing second at 57-2/17.42m and fourth at 54-5.50/16.57m, respectively.
UT's multi-eventers prepared for the SEC pentathlon by entering in a pair of events. Sophomore Edra Finley (Mobile, Ala.) placed second in the high jump at 5-1/1.55m and was also the runner-up in the 55-meter hurdles in a career-best 8.20. Junior Caitlin Ward (Gibsonia, Pa.), meanwhile, was fourth in the high jump at 4-11/1.50m and took sixth in the 55-meter hurdles in a personal-best 8.59.
The Lady Vols will depart Thursday for the SEC meet, with Ward and Finley expected to get UT started on Friday in the pentathlon. The meet, held at the University of Arkansas's Randal Tyson Track Center, continues on Saturday and concludes on Sunday.