April 22, 2010
By Eric Trainer, Associate Director of Media Relations
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Just like the NCAA Indoor Championship meet, the women's distance medley relay came down to Tennessee and Oregon. And just like in March, the Lady Vols summoned the necessary strength to emerge victorious, winning their fifth all-time Penn Relays Championship of America in the DMR Thursday evening in front of a crowd of 24,132 at Franklin Field.
Unlike the NCAA match-up between the two distance powerhouses, which featured a knock-down, drag-out 1600m leg battle between UT sophomore Brittany Sheffey and Oregon's Jordan Hasay, this one came without any late-race drama. The Lady Vols easily won their third Penn Relays DMR crown in the past four seasons in a time of 10 minutes, 54.65 seconds, which is fourth fastest in school history and ninth-best in meet annals. The Ducks wound up second in 11:02.85. Hometown favorite Villanova was third in a distant 11:07.42.
Instead of playing the role of closer this time, Sheffey and Hasay handled the lead-off legs for their respective schools on Thursday. As it played out, Indiana's Molly Beckwith would produce the fastest 1200m readout, delivering the baton in a time of 3:21.03 with Sheffey doing so almost simultaneously in 3:21.63. Hasay, meanwhile, made the handoff in fourth place in 3:23.32.
Local product Ellen Wortham of Maryville took the stick for the 400m leg and saw her position slip to fourth momentarily. After hesitating slightly, the lanky sophomore found another gear and surged down the home straightway to make the exchange first after a nifty 52.64 turn.
Wortham deposited the baton into the awaiting hand of 2010 NCAA Indoor 800m champion Phoebe Wright, and the senior from Signal Mountain essentially delivered the title to the Big Orange. Her 2:02.12 stint with the stick was four seconds faster than any other runner and propelled Team Orange to a 30-meter advantage and Wright to her fourth consecutive Penn victory in her last four starts here.
With such a head start, there was no additional pressure on anchor Jackie Areson. The senior smartly covered her 1600m turn in 4:38.26, never allowing the Ducks or anyone else to creep back into the picture. Just like she did in anchoring UT to victory in this event at the SEC Indoor meet, Areson cruised across the finish line uncontested and the celebration was on.
"It's a special group and a special moment for them," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said after coaxing the ninth overall Penn Relays baton-event crown out of his pupils since taking the reins at UT in 2002-03. "They all ran very well, and I was quite surprised by how much and how easily they actually won. I'm very proud of them.
"We had big, big legs by everyone. We'll just take every race here one at a time, and then we'll get back home and regroup."
Tennessee also ran the 4x100m relay earlier in the day. The quartet of Ashley Harris, Wortham, Martinique Octave and Kia Jackson circled the track in 45.96 to place fourth in heat sixth and 20th overall. The unit qualified to run in Friday's college final at 1:10 p.m.
UT's men did not run any races on Thursday, but they will have entries in the distance carnival later in the evening.