March 13, 2005
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- Toyin Olupona led a 17-point Lady Vol onslaught in the 60-meter dash, and the 4x400m relay team rocketed to a second-place finish in the meet's final event to send the number-one ranked University of Tennessee women to their first-ever NCAA Indoor Track & Field championship Saturday night in front of a crowd of 5,461at the Randal Tyson Track Center.
The Lady Volunteers, who entered the final day atop the leader board with 21 points and only two events left in which to score points, maximized their opportunities to the utmost. First, they hoarded second, third and sixth in the 60 meters to retake the lead for the first time on Saturday with only three events remaining. Then, while clinging to a six-point lead over second-place Florida in the meet's final event, the UT 4x4 delivered the clinching blow. A season-best clocking and near school-record performance generated eight points and sent the orange-clad contingent into a jubilant, Rocky Top-fueled celebration.
Tennessee's 46 points were more than enough to claim the UT Women's Athletics Department its first non-basketball NCAA title in the organization's history and give the Lady Vol family a new addition to the six trophies that Pat Summitt's hoops squads have earned over the years. Southeastern Conference foe Florida, where Lady Vol Head Coach J.J. Clark spent 10 years as an assistant, produced 36 points to finish second for the third year in a row. Miami (Fla.) tallied 32 points to place third, followed by Nebraska (29), South Carolina (28), LSU and Brigham Young (26), Stanford (24), Texas (23) and Auburn (20) rounding out the top 10.
"This was our goal, and we knew it was attainable," Clark said. "The media thought so, too, because they ranked us number one at the beginning of the season and coming into this meet. But, it is very hard to carry that ranking through the season and then end it with a championship. Very few teams do that. It just shows a lot of character on the part of our team in being able to win this after losing Nicole Cook to injury (strained hamstring) yesterday.
"I told the team we had two events today, and that we somehow needed to come up with 20 points to add to the 21 we got yesterday. We had the 60-meter dash and the 4x4, and the goal was 20 points. Coach Gilbert (Assistant Coach Caryl Smith Gilbert) got the sprinters really sharp, and when I talked to them today, I felt good about it. I thought we could get it done, and we took advantage of our opportunity."
For the second-straight season, Olupona charted a runner-up effort in the 60-meter dash at this meet. The senior from Orillia, Ontario, Canada, led a crucial Big Orange splurge of points, just missing her own school record of 7.23 with a fleet, 7.24 trip down the Tyson Center straightaway. Her back-to-back NCAA performances in 2004 and 2005 are the best consecutive indoor short sprint finishes in Lady Vol history.
"It was a great performance in the 60," Clark said. "Toyin is a veteran, and her leadership really came through. Early in the season, she was not on her "A" game, but she regrouped and closed out the indoor season in very impressive fashion."
As key as Olupona's result was, Madison's (Elyria, Ohio) and Champion's (Lawrenceville, Ga.) finishes were every bit as crucial. The career-best 7.27 by sophomore Madison, who on Friday won the long jump, and the 7.29 by rookie Champion, who snagged third in the 200 meters 24 hours earlier, put Tennessee on the scoreboard for the first time on the final day of competition. Even more importantly, it boosted the Lady Vols back into the lead for good with 38 points.
Then, with victory within reach, the 4x4 combination of freshman LaTonya Loche (Bastrop, La.), junior Patricia Hall (St. Ann, Jamaica), senior Antoinette Gorham (Glenarden, Md.) and Champion navigated the oval in a sizzling 3:31.76 readout. That courageous display, which was without the injured Nicole Cook and came with freshmen on each end of the quartet, was just off the 2004 school record of 3:31.49 that was set at NCAAs by a foursome that included Cook and now-professional performers Dee Dee Trotter and Kameisha Bennett.
"Tianna Madison was just tenacious the whole weekend," Clark said. "Courtney was unbelievable, taking third in the 200 meters yesterday and coming back today to finish sixth in the 60 and run a low 52 anchor leg on the 4x4. We got those kinds of performances all weekend long, from everyone.
"It's also a great ending and a big relief for Nicole, even though she couldn't run. She helped out any way she could, encouraging her teammates and displaying great character that you expect from your team captain."
Recapping Friday night, Madison set a school record and became the first NCAA Indoor long jump champion in Lady Vol history, leaping to 22 feet, three inches/6.78m. Madison's jump tied for the fourth-longest in meet history and bested Dedra Davis's 1994 school record of 22-0.25.
Also enabling Tennessee to take a day-one lead with 21 points was the freshman trio of Champion, Tyson and Loche, who placed third, seventh and eighth in the 200 meters, with Champion racing to a school record time of 22.98. The distance medley relay unit of junior Brooke Novak (Kaukauna, Wis.), Hall, Gorham and sophomore Felicia Guliford (Gallup, N.M.) also chipped in two points, finishing seventh in a season-best 11:15.21.
In summary, Tennessee finished the meet with all 10 athletes earning a total of 17 All-America honors. Those meriting national prestige were Champion (60m/200m/4x400mR), Nicole Cook (800m), Gorham (DMR/4x400mR), Guliford (DMR), Hall (DMR/4x400mR), Loche (200m/4x400mR), Madison (LJ/60m), Novak (DMR), Olupona (60m) and Tyson (60m/200m).
"You go down the line and you see that we came here with 10 athletes, and every one of them is going home an All-American and a national champion, Clark relected. "You can't leave anyone out, because they all contributed to us attaining this goal.
The Lady Vols are slated to arrive back in Knoxville on Sunday night and will now turn their focus to the outdoor campaign, which begins on March 24-26 at the Florida Relays in Gainesville.
|FRIDAY, MARCH 11|
|Long Jump Final (Auto: 6.40, Prov: 6.10) 4:00 p.m.|
|1st (10 pts)||Tianna Madison||22-3/6.78m!s|
|800m Prelims (Auto: 2:05.65, Prov: 2:09.00)b 4:30 p.m.|
|12th||Nicole Cook||2:08.25bp/8th, ht. 2|
|60m Prelims (Auto: 7.27; Prov: 7.44) 6:15 p.m.|
|Adv.||Toyin Olupona||7.24p/1st. ht. 2|
|Adv.||Courtney Champion||7.25p/3rd, ht. 1|
|Adv.||Tianna Madison||7.29p/5th, ht. 1|
|Cleo Tyson||7.31p!/6th, ht. 1|
|200m Prelims (Auto: 23.30; Prov: 23.90)b 7:20 p.m.|
|Adv||Courtney Champion||23.32pb/1st, ht. 2|
|Adv.||Cleo Tyson||23.45pb/2nd, ht. 4|
|Adv.||LaTonya Loche||23.48!pb/3rd, ht. 4|
|200m Final (Auto: 23.30; Prov: 23.90)b 8:50 p.m.|
|3rd (6 pts)||Courtney Champion||22.98b!s|
|7th (2 pts)||Cleo Tyson||23.39b|
|8th (1 pt)||LaTonya Loche||23.45b!|
|DMR Final (Auto: 11:09.00; Prov: 11:28.00)b 9:10 p.m.|
|7th (2 pts)||Brooke Novak/Patricia Hall/Antoinette Gorham/Felicia Guliford||11:15.21b|
|SATURDAY, MARCH 12|
|60m Final (Auto: 7.27; Prov: 7.44) 7:15 p.m.|
|2nd (8 pts)||Toyin Olupona||7.24|
|3rd (6 pts)||Tianna Madison||7.27!|
|6th (3 pts)||Courtney Champion||7.29|
|4x400mR Final (Auto: 3:33.50; Prov: 3:40.00)b 8:05 p.m.|
|2nd (8 pts)||LaTonya Loche/Patricia Hall/Antoinette Gorham/Courtney Champion||3:31.76b|
All Times Listed Are Central Time
b - Banked Track Qualifying Standard, dnf - Did Not Finish, dnr - Did Not Run, f - Facility Record, m - Meters, mr - Meet Record, nm - No Mark Recorded, p - Prelims, s - School Record (Indoors), u - Undersized Track Qualifying Standard, * - NCAA Automatic Qualifier, + - NCAA Provisional Qualifier, ! - Personal Record (Indoors), ^ - Oversized Track Qualifying Standard