March 14, 2003
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - After barely missing the cut for the 800-meter finals as a freshman last season, Tennessee's Nicole Cook made sure she got the job done the second time around. The Lady Vol sophomore advanced Friday night with the seventh-best qualifying time and clinched the fifth All-America certificate of her young career on day one of the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships.
Cook moved on to the championship race in the 800m with a 2:08.57 clocking, finishing second in heat one behind the 2:08.48 reading of Florida's Kristina Bratton. The Lady Vol sophomore from Petersburg, Va., who placed ninth a year ago and earned All-America honors as one of the top-eight finishers from the United States, advanced to her first NCAA indoor final after just missing out in 2002. Guaranteed of her third All-America accolade in the 800 and the fifth overall during her time at UT, Cook will run at 7:25 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday.
"Saturday night, she will need to execute a better race and not lose her focus. She must stay alert the entire race, know where everyone else is and run a little more aggressively to have a shot at a top-three finish."
Much like she did at the 2003 Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships, Cook got off to a good start Friday night and led the race most of the way. Entering the final lap, however, she was passed by Bratton and UCLA's Lena Nilsson. Cook responded by making a strong charge down the home straightaway to edge Nilsson at the line. Nilsson, as it turns out, grabbed the final spot in Saturday night's spotlight race.
Several members of the field should look very familiar to Cook and Clark. Among the finalists alongside the Tennessee middle distance ace and Bratton, whom Clark tutored as an assistant at Florida, is LSU's Marian Burnett. The indoor SEC champ the past two seasons, Burnett also claimed the NCAA indoor crown in 2002, holding off Bratton for the victory. Burnett enters Saturday night's finals with the fastest qualifying time at 2:05.35, followed by UCLA's Tiffany Burgess in 2:05.56.
Fellow Big Orange sophomore Dee Dee Trotter uncorked her best 200m race ever, zipping to a 23.42 reading that blew away her week-old previous career best of 23.59. Unfortunately for the second-year performer from Dectaur, Ga., the oval at the Randal Tyson Track Center was friendly to the rest of the field as well, enabling 10 athletes to post better times than the 11th-place Lady Vol sprinter. In addition to Trotter's lifetime-best effort, there was another positive footnote. Her pace in the NCAA 200m prelims rates as the fourth-best ever turned in by a UT woman, placing her behind only Sue Walton's 1995 school record of 23.23 and the 1999 readings of 23.36 and 23.41 by Kelli White. Both were seniors when they registered those marks.
Earlier, sophomore Toyin Olupona recorded her fastest prelim time ever in the 60-meter dash, but her 7.39 was not enough to earn one of the eight qualifying spots. The Orillia, Canada, native, whose mark tied for the second-quickest of her collegiate career behind only a 7.38 reading in the finals of last weekend's Alex Wilson Invitational, wound up fifth in heat three. She finished 14th overall out of 21 competitors after qualifying 17th.
"Toyin ran her best time ever in a prelim race and continues to make consistent improvements. Dee Dee ran her second-consecutive personal best in a 200m race and came up just short of making the finals against a very fast field. As a coach, you have to be pleased with the effort these young ladies put forth tonight."
FRIDAY, MARCH 14
800m Run Trials 5:00 p.m.
Adv. Nicole Cook 2:08.57p (2nd, ht. 1)
60m Dash Trials 6:45 p.m.
DNQ Toyin Olupona 7.39p (5th, ht. 3)
200m Dash Trials 7:50 p.m.
DNQ Dee Dee Trotter 23.42p! (2nd, ht. 3)
SATURDAY, MARCH 15
800m Run Final 7:25 p.m.
All Times Are Eastern
b - Banked Track Qualifying Standard
DNF - Did Not Finish
DNQ - Did Not Qualify
DNR - Did Not Run
DNS - Did Not Start
f - Facility Record
h - Hand Times
NH - No Height
NM - No Mark
p - Prelims
sr - School Record (Indoors)
u - Undersized Track Qualifying Standard
* - NCAA Automatic Qualifier
+ - NCAA Provisional Qualifier
! - Personal Record (Indoors)
^ - Oversized Track Qualifying Standard