March 2, 2003


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Tennessee's Christie Elwin broke her own school record and finished fourth in the pole vault; and Nicole Cook and Sharon Dickie contributed fourth-place efforts in the 800m and 5000m, respectively; on the final day of the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships at the University of Florida's O'Connell Center.

The Lady Volunteers wrapped up the meet with 25 points, scoring all of them on the final day to place ninth and beat last year's sum of 21 by four. No. 8 Arkansas ran away with its third indoor title in the past four years, tallying 129 to outdistance second-place No. 5 South Carolina (108.50). No. 4 Florida was third with 105, followed by No. 1 LSU (88), No. 13 Auburn (62) and Georgia (55.50). Kentucky (48) had its best indoor meet since 1989, and No. 20 Mississippi State (29) collected the most points in school history (indoors or out) to finish ahead of UT in the seventh and eighth positions, respectively. Scoring behind Tennessee were Vanderbilt with nine and Alabama and Ole Miss with two each.

"We had some good developments with Christie setting the school record in the vault and Toyin improving her personal best in the 55m," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "Sharon and Nicole took fourth and Nicole was able to hit the automatic mark the day before. Those are positives. I am optimistic about the people who did score and the impact our recruiting will have on our team.



"We have a long way to go to get the program where I want it to be. I will have to be very poised and patient in a conference that contains so many teams of a high level. I look forward to getting back in the office, continuing our recruiting, training and getting ready for the remainder of the indoor schedule and the upcoming outdoor season."

Elwin, who came to UT with an impressive high school clearance of 13-1/3.99m, finally had the day she was looking for as a Lady Volunteer. The senior from Adelaide, Australia, eclipsed not only her previously school records (indoor and outdoor) of 12-9.50, but she also sailed over the magical 13-foot plateau for the first time as a collegian. Her mark of 13-2.25/4.02m was good for five points. It also gave her a significant improvement within the NCAA provisional qualifying ranks.

The progressions for Elwin included clearances of 11-9.75/3.60m, 12-4/3.76m, 12-10/3.91m and her scoring height. The 12-10 attempt broke her old UT mark, while the 13-2.25 flight crushed both her school and personal records. Elwin also had three attempts at 13-5/4.09m but was unable to navigate that height. Arkansas freshman Stacie Manuel was first at 13-8.25/4.17m. Dickie, meanwhile, scored her first individual points at an SEC indoor meet since 2001. Her 16:49.72 pace in the 5K also chipped five points into the Tennessee coffers. For the senior from Grand Blanc, Mich., who has traveled a road frought with injuries and has never wavered in her quest to once again be among the league's elite distance runners, the reward was a long time coming. After charting a 2:06.11 NCAA automatic qualifying mark in the prelims, Cook took fourth against a very talented 800m field in a time of 2:07.66 to garner five points. Marian Burnett, the 2002 SEC indoor champ successfully defended her title in 2:05.42, followed by Florida's Kristina Bratton in 2:05.78 and Kentucky's Beth Heimann in 2:05.80.

The third-place SEC finisher indoors and the champion outdoors a year ago, Cook (Petersburg, Va.) went out fast and led the first two laps, going through the quarter mile in 58 seconds. Burnett moved to the front on lap three, however, and Cook was unable to keep pace despite clocking a 1:32 for 600 meters. Bratton and Heimann also went around Cook on the third trip around the track as the Tennessee standout dug deep but was unable to find reserve energy for the final 200. Still, she managed to hold off Auburn's Caitlin Reese (2:07.76) at the finish.

Toyin Olupona got on the board first for the Big Orange, tallying three points for a sixth-place effort in the 55m dash. The sophomore from Orillia, Canada, ripped off a career-best time of 6.87 to improve her NCAA provisional qualifying status and rise from ninth to fifth on UT's all-time performers list in that event. Auburn's Elva Goulbourne, the fastest in the prelims at 6.76, backed that up in the finals by knocking off LSU's Muna Lee, 6.73 to 6.75.

Entering the championship race, Olupona ranked as the ninth-fastest of the qualifiers, recording a 6.93 in the prelims on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, however, the Canadian speedster rolled to a lifetime best and erased her previous PR of 6.90, which she recorded at the Tennessee Indoor Classic on Feb. 21.

Next up, redshirt freshman miler Brooke Novak added two points with a seventh-place finish in her first SEC final. After qualifying seventh in 4:52.79 yesterday, the Kaukauna, Wis., native was just off her personal record of 4:51.37 from the Armory Collegiate Invitational on Feb. 15, crossing the line Sunday in 4:51.66 to aid the Big Orange cause.

Near the end of the day, the distance medley relay combination of Novak, freshman Caitlin Ward (Gibsonia, Pa.), junior Erin Anderson (Kent, Ohio) and sophomore Elizabeth McCalley (Knoxville, Tenn.) tacked on a seventh-place finish in a season-best 11:54.84 to add two points. The 4x400m relay tandem of sophomore Antoinette Gorham (Glenarden, Md.), Cook, sophomore Dee Dee Trotter (Decatur, Ga.) and Olupona wrapped up the scoring with a sixth-place reading of 3:43.76 to obtain the final three points.

Elsewhere, junior Janine Tessarzik was 13th in the weight throw with a top heave of 57-6.25/17.53m; freshman Katie Flaute was 16th in the 5000m in 18:09.92; and freshman Jessica Andrews (Rockford, Tenn.) and Jessica Reust (Knoxville, Tenn.), and sophomores Lauren McNeil (Easton, Pa.) and Kendra Rhyne (Andersonville, Tenn.) were unable to clear the opening height of 11-9.75/3.60m. After running the 3K yesterday, junior Jessica Southers (Ashland, Ky.) started the 5K but did not finish.



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