April 23, 2004
In front of a crowd of 38,647 at Franklin Field, the University of Tennessee's sprint medley relay stole the show Friday evening. The speedy Lady Vol quartet left the track-savvy fans shaking their heads and checking their meet programs for records, as J.J. Clark's squad produced its second Championship of America victory in as many days and unexpectedly brought down 16-year-old national collegiate and Penn Relays standards in the process.
After finishing second here to LSU in 2003 by a mere 29/100ths of a second, UT erased those memories and charted its first-ever triumph in the event at the 110th edition of this storied meet. The Lady Vols covered the distance in a remarkable 3:41.78, toppling Texas's 1988 Penn Relays mark of 3:41.97, which had stood as the collegiate, meet and track record since that time. LSU, which suffered a dropped baton on the 400-meter leg, finished more than three seconds back in 3:44.97 and saw its two-year meet win streak in the event snapped.
In addition to the previously mentioned trio of records, the UT SMR also shattered the school mark of 3:43.55, which was charted at the 1991 Penn Relays by Michelle Bookman, Tisha Prather, Tonya Lee and Jasmin Jones. The Lady Vols' triumph on Friday matched the first-place finish of the distance medley relay on Thursday evening and pushed Tennessee's total of Penn relay titles to 10, with another one possible Saturday afternoon in the 4x800m event.
"There have been some great teams to grace this track over the years, and to come in here and break the collegiate, Penn Relays, Franklin Field and UT records shows you how talented this
group really is," a jubilant Head Coach J.J. Clark said afterward. "We stepped up and competed with courageous hearts against a very talented LSU team. Our group came in with the expectation of
winning, but to top it off with a collegiate record is a great way to end the day."
Freshman Tianna Madison got the Lady Vol SMR tandem off to a superb start in the 200-meter opener. The Elyria, Ohio, product got out of the blocks well, made up the stagger and handed the baton to Toyin Olupona before LSU's Stephanie Durst made the exchange with Monique Hall. Olupona, a junior from Orillia, Ontario, Canada, put up a fight against Hall, but yielded first place to the purple and gold in the opening 15 meters of her 200 hitch and had to settle for second in her turn with the stick.
Once Olupona made the pass to Dee Dee Trotter, however, the tables soon turned. The junior from Decatur, Ga., erased a 10 to 15-meter gap over the first 300 meters and sent the crowd into a frenzy when she began to overtake Hazel Ann Regis on the final turn before the home stretch. Just as Trotter was gliding past the LSU standout, the baton fell from Regis's hand and bounced on the track as the Tennessee All-American sped away toward the awaiting hand of anchor Kameisha Bennett.
After the 51-second 400-meter stint by Trotter and the miscue by the Tigers, Bennett assumed control of the baton and the race with a healthy advantage. The senior from Dayton, Ohio, didn't settle into a conservative mode, however, as she blasted away during the first lap of her 800-meter closing leg and put to rest any notion of a miracle comeback by the purple and gold. Her 2:04.2 anchor split maintained the margin she had been given and discounted a nearly-identical effort of 2:04.1 by LSU closer Neisha Bernard-Thomas.
"I'm very proud of them - they all ran great legs," Clark said. "I have to commend Dee Dee Trotter for running another great 400m leg (as she did Thursday in the DMR) and showing why she is one of the nation's best. My hat is also off to Kameisha Bennett, who not only had a great race but also ran with a lot of courage."
Earlier in the day, Madison, Olupona and Trotter were in action in the 100-meter dash prelims, but none of them earned qualification for Saturday's championship race. Madison came the closest, taking third in heat one and placing 10th in a 19-runner field in 11.61. She missed an opportunity for the finals by one spot, while Olupona and Trotter wound up 15th and 16th overall, respectively, with times of 11.74 and 11.80.
Tennessee's schedule on the final day of the 2004 Penn Relays is a light one, but the sole event in which the Lady Vols are scheduled to compete on Saturday is of great significance to Coach Clark. He will send junior Nicole Cook (Petersburg, Va.), Bennett, freshman Leslie Treherne (Chesapeake, Va.) and senior Lindsay Hyatt (Auburn, Calif.) into battle in the 4x800m relay, as UT attempts to win its first Championship of America in that event since 1984.
That season, Coach Clark's sister, Joetta, anchored the Lady Vols to their fourth-straight Penn Relays title in that event. Joined by Karol Davidson, Alisa Harvey and Cathy Rattray, Clark and company rolled to victory in a Penn Relays and collegiate record time of 8:20.22 that still stands today. That win also enabled UT to claim titles in three different relays (4x1, 4x4, 4x8) that season.
The event is also special to Coach Clark because of his success in it during his tenure as the distance coach at the University of Florida. His Lady Gator squads rolled to Penn Relays triumphs in 1999, 2001 and 2002, and standout Erin Merten, who now trains with Clark in Knoxville, won the Philadelphia Sportswriters Association Outstanding Female Athlete Award in 2001.
The Big Orange women will return to Knoxville late Saturday night and will rest briefly before heading out to Tom Black Track for the Knoxville Invitational on Sunday. Women's field events action begins at 9:30 a.m. with the hammer throw, while races on the track get underway at 1:55 p.m. with the 100-meter dash. The meet is expected to conclude around 5 p.m.
|THURSDAY, APRIL 22 AT THE PENN RELAYS|
|(LADY VOL EVENT SCHEDULE/RESULTS)|
|Dist. Medley Relay-Champ. (Not An NCAA Event) 4:45 p.m.|
|1st||Brooke Novak/Dee Dee Trotter/Nicole Cook/Lindsay Hyatt||10:59.35|
|5000m-Champ. (Regional: 16:56.43) 8:40 p.m.|
|10,000m-Champ. (Auto: 34:10.00, Prov: 35:15.00) 10:30 p.m.|
|FRIDAY, APRIL 23 AT THE PENN RELAYS|
|100m Prelims (Regional: 11.78) 2:55 p.m.|
|10th||Tianna Madison||11.61#/3rd, ht. 3/Did Not Advance|
|15th||Toyin Olupona||11.74#/7th, ht. 3/Did Not Advance|
|16th||Dee Dee Trotter||11.80/4th, ht. 2/Did Not Advance|
|Sprint Medley Relay -Champ (Not An NCAA Event) 6:10 p.m.|
|1st||Tianna Madison/Toyin Olupona/Dee Dee Trotter/Kameisha Bennett||3:41.78crfms|
|SATURDAY, APRIL 24 AT THE PENN RELAYS|
|4x800m-Champ. (Not An NCAA Event) 1:10 p.m.|
Penn Relays College Women Sprint Medley Championship of America
Final Standings * 1 3:41.78 Tennessee *Tianna Madison, Toyin Olupona, Dee Dee Trotter 51.0, Kameisha Bennett 2:04.2 2 3:44.97 Louisiana State *Stephanie Durst, Monique Hall, Hazel Ann Regis 54.9, Neisha Bernard-Thomas 2:04.1 3 3:51.30 Stanford *Janice David, Ashley Purnell, Nashonme Johnson, Ashley Freeman 2:09.0 4 3:53.50 Ohio State *Molly Logan, Brandi Hogan, Jenna Harris, Tameca Brown 5 3:54.71 North Carolina *Anissa Gainey, Lindsay Bond, Tiffany Flomo, Georgia Kloss 6 3:54.97 Buffalo *Stacey Downer, Pat Coney, Celestine Coney, Allison Laske 7 3:55.78 Seton Hall *Tysa Colon, Henriette George, Sophie Smellie, Andrea Allstin 8 3:56.21 George Mason 9 3:58.42 Pittsburgh 10 3:58.58 Mississippi State 11 3:59.00 South Carolina 12 3:59.97 Penn State 13 4:00.37 St. Augustine's 14 4:01.09 Maryland 15 4:01.19 Essex CC (NJ) 16 4:02.41 Princeton 17 4:02.50 Kent State 18 4:02.65 Clemson 19 4:02.72 Wake Forest 20 4:03.67 Hampton 21 4:03.75 East Carolina 22 4:05.48 Fairleigh Dickinson 23 4:05.57 Pennsylvania 24 4:05.69 Virginia 25 4:06.73 St. Joseph's 26 4:07.05 Georgetown 27 4:07.60 Florida International 28 4:08.72 Georgia Tech 29 4:09.10 Fordham 30 4:09.39 C.W. Post 31 4:10.45 East Stroudsburg 32 4:10.76 Findlay 33 4:11.43 Sacred Heart 34 4:14.35 Norfolk State 35 4:14.78 Delaware 36 4:14.88 Stony Brook 37 4:15.87 Rider 38 4:17.75 West Chester 39 4:18.76 Hartwick 40 4:19.60 James Madison 41 4:21.46 Morgan State 42 4:30.68 Dayton 43 4:38.80 Virginia State 44 4:39.87 Shaw
* Winning time is a collegiate, Franklin Field, Penn Relays and Lady Vol record
LADY VOL QUICK QUOTES:
Toyin Olupona: "This race felt really good. We executed today. Setting the meet record is great. This event is great - there are more fans and that makes it more exciting. There are people here supporting you who don't know you. It makes you feel good."
Tianna Madison: "This is a great accomplishment for me being a freshman. Tennessee is a great program. Penn Relays is a great atmosphere. It makes you run even harder with all of the fans yelling."
Kameisha Bennett: "Even though I'm hurting now, it's a good kind of hurting. I'm really excited that we set those records. I went out fast and that made it a little harder for me at the end. This is my fifth year, and I want to thank God for being here today."