April 19, 2003
University of Tennessee Head Women's Track & Field Coach J.J. Clark took four athletes to the Mt. SAC Relays over the weekend, and all four of them are coming home with career bests in their events and NCAA regional qualifying marks to boot. Redshirt freshman Brooke Novak and sophomores Nicole Cook and Dee Dee Trotter followed Dickie's personal-record effort and regional qualifying performance in the 5000 meters Thursday night with the exact same results in their own specialty races.
"It's been a great weekend for us," Clark said. "The athletes knew the mission coming out here, and I wanted them to execute our plan. We came all this way to run fast and qualify all of them for regionals, and we accomplished that. "I'm very proud of their efforts at this meet. This is just another step we are taking toward achieving our goal of becoming a top program. All four of them are SEC scorers who keep working hard, getting better and recording PRs. If they score well at the conference level, it translates into scoring at the NCAA meet, and that's how we move up in the national picture. We're continuing to head in the right direction."
The fourth of the UT qualifiers on the weekend, Cook's race in the 800 meters may have been the most sparkling. The Petersburg,
Va., native rewrote her career mark of 2:04.40, set in winning the SEC Outdoor title in 2002, with a come-from-the-back, 2:04.33 result to
take third in the Invitational section on Saturday afternoon. Former LSU national champion Marian Burnett won the star-studded field in
2:03.17, while Butler's Becky Lyne was second in 2:03.83. Lena Nilsson of UCLA, who edged Cook for the 2003 NCAA Indoor title,
was scratched from the entry list and did not run.
Cook's clocking, the fastest in the SEC this season, ranks her ninth on the UT all-time performers list in the 800. Comparing the Mt. SAC race, her first at that distance in 2003, to last year's debut, the difference is astounding. As a freshman, Cook opened with a 2:11.33 and didn't hit her 2:04.40 pinnacle until her victorious SEC Championship race on May 12. Trotter, meanwhile, was the first Big Orange performer to turn in an impressive race on Saturday, doing so in the 200-meter dash. The Decatur, Ga., product rocketed to a 23.40 reading to erase her prior season best of 23.91 and supplanted her lifetime pinnacle of 23.47, which she recorded at the Bulldog Limited in Athens, Ga., on April 20, 2002.
Trotter's time at Hilmer Lodge Stadium on the Mt. San Antonio College campus was the best in heat three and good enough for second place in the University/Open Division. Only Rachelle Boone of Indiana was faster, covering the distance in 23.36. Both topped former Lady Vol and 2000 Canadian Olympian Erica Witter, who wound up eighth in 24.09. Trotter moves to ninth on the all-time performers list at Tennessee and ranks seventh in the SEC in 2003
Late on Friday night, Novak charted the fastest 1500-meter race by a Lady Vol since 1999, notching an NCAA Mideast Regional qualifying mark with her 4:26.25 result in the University/Open Division. For the redshirt freshman from Kaukauna, Wis., the career-best mark was good enough to win section three and place her 11th overall. Arkansas senior Christin Wurth took top honors at 4:18.70. Novak's performance ranks her 12th on the UT all-time performers list in the 1500m. Her time was a nine-second improvement over her previous personal best of 4:35.71, which she set on April 5 at the SEC Challenge in Columbia, S.C. It also vaults her to fifth in the SEC rankings this season at that distance.
UT's California quartet and the rest of their teammates will be back in action next weekend as the Lady Vols travel to the Penn Relays on April 24-26 and join the Tennessee men in hosting the Knoxville Invitational on April 27 at Tom Black Track.