Feb. 28, 2003


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University of Tennessee freshman Caitlin Ward's debut in the pentathlon Friday at the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships was a promising one. The rookie tallied personal bests in four of five events and wrapped up the competition at the O'Connell Center with a third-place effort in the 800-meter run to place 14th overall with 3236 points.

Ward, a prep sprinter who hails from Gibsonia, Pa., wrapped up the competition with a time of 2:25.33 to place third in the 800 and earn 753 points. What makes that result even more impressive is that the Lady Vol had never run an organized race at that distance before. The effort enabled her final point tally to rate number five on UT's all-time performers list in the pentathlon.

Just as Ward had never run the 800 before today, she also had never successfully cleared a bar in the high jump. She sailed over nine different heights Friday, however, posting a top reading of 4-11.25/1.50m. In fact, Ward had entered the competition with no-heights in her only two collegiate tries at the event.

The second-best event for UT's multi-eventer was the shot put, where Ward increased her previous PR a foot and a half to 36-0.25/10.98m to place ninth. Another career topper came in the long jump, as she stretched the tape to 16-4/4.98m. Her only miss on a lifetime best came in the 55m hurdles, where perhaps a nervous start led to a 9.14 reading that was not up to her 8.99 season mark. With all of that positive information, and considering the limited amount of time that Ward has been training in each event, UT Head Coach J.J. Clark concluded that Ward could have a bright future as a multi-eventer.



"I am very proud of Caitlin," Clark said. "She performed well and had PRs in two events she's done before and established a pair in a couple of new events for her. We feel very good about her potential in this event over the next couple of years, and we are excited about helping get her to that next level.

Clark also saw the strong run in the 800 as an indicator of promise in the outdoor heptathlon. "There were no signs of weakness today. She was very strong at the end, too, with the 800. The heptathlon is a natural progression for her, so we'll get back to work on that for the outdoor season."

The Lady Vols will swing into action full blast on Saturday with prelims in the 55m (Toyin Olupona), mile (Brooke Novak, Erin Anderson), 400m (Antoinette Gorham, Christina Billings) and 200m (Dee Dee Trotter), and finals in the shot put (Janine Tessarzik) and 3000m (Jessica Southers, Christy Baird and Elizabeth McCalley). Olupona kicks things off at 2:10 p.m. in the 55.



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