April 23, 2010
By Eric Trainer, Associate Director of Media Relations
PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- A throng of 38,904 at Franklin Field on Friday basked in the glow of a beautiful spring day. The Tennessee track & field program not only soaked in the sun, but it also earned the savvy crowd's adulation as the Big Orange stepped back into the limelight with another baton-event victory at the 116th Penn Relays.
After winning the distance medley relay on Thursday, the Tennessee women came back to record their second straight victory at this meet in the 4x1500m event, using a crucial 4:17.3 anchor leg by senior Phoebe Wright to hold off hometown Villanova by less than a second. The Lady Vols recorded their fifth distance relay victory in as many tries at Franklin Field over the past two seasons, navigating the race in 17 minutes, 14.91 seconds for the No. 2 mark in UT history and fourth best in meet annals.
The Wildcats, eight-time winners in this event, finished second in 17:15.41 after Sheila Reed gave Wright all she could muster in matching the UT star's anchor split. Oregon, which battled the Big Orange for the DMR crown on Thursday and was in the picture for the title in this race, faltered to third in 17:25.27.
The Lady Vols, who will go after their second straight Penn Relays distance trifecta on Saturday when they run the 4x800m relay, trailed Princeton at one point and then sat behind Oregon at the close of sophomore Chanelle Price's 4:20.7 opener. Senior Jackie Areson propelled UT into the lead for good with a hard charge over her final 250 meters en route to a 4:18.3 turn. Sophomore Brittany Sheffey was next, covering her hitch in 4:18.6 to provide Wright with a key five-meter cushion entering the final leg.
Wright and Reid ran together for the first three laps, with Oregon's Jordan Hasay working the Ducks back into the picture. With 300 to go, though, Wright and Reid took off with all their might. Reid appeared to present her final challenge with 200 to go, but Wright's strength proved to be too much, allowing the product of Signal Mountain, Tenn., to cross the line with her fifth relay victory in Philadelphia in the past two seasons.
"I saw our team dig in today and really want to do this," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. "They have gone to another level, mentally, and I believe that is showing on the track. I tip my hat to all of them, and I'm very proud of what they've done."
Clark made the statement that his relay teams have taken shots from all the best teams in the nation the past two years, much like a boxer absorbs punches, yet his troops repeatedly have shown their resilience in pressure situations.
"That's what it's been like. People are taking aim and trying to beat us, and we just continue to keep moving forward day after day."
With that, Clark and company will turn their thoughts toward a possible third victory in the 4x800m on Saturday.
"I'm going to let this marinate for a second, and then we'll move ahead. That (potential for a hat trick) is something that is obviously there and realistic. We'll switch (800m runner) Kimarra McDonald in place of Jackie Areson for this race and see what happens."
For the UT men, senior John Hewitt began the day in a positive fashion, taking fifth in the 400m hurdles in 51.90. That mark ranks him fifth in the SEC this season. Sophomore Desmond Brown also added a fifth-place individual result, soaring to wind-aided, but season-best, 24-5 3/4 in the long jump.
The Vols ran the DMR on Friday, hoping to make some noise like their Lady Vol colleagues did on Thursday. Despite improving from ninth to third on the final leg, the Vols ended up settling for sixth in 9:39.61. Representing the Big Orange were sophomore Emerson Peacock on the 1200m leg, junior Alan Bachman on the 400m hitch, sophomore Joe Franklin on the 800m turn and junior Peter Sigilai on the anchor. Their mark moved them to No. 8 on UT's all-time performers list in that event.
The Lady Vols, meanwhile, wound up fifth in the college division final of the 4x100m relay. The collaboration of freshman Ashley Harris, sophomore Ellen Wortham and freshmen Martinique Octave and Kia Jackson rolled around the track in a season-best 45.55.
In addition to the finals, Tennessee's men had three preliminary events on Friday. In the heats of the 100m dash, senior Evander Wells earned a lane in Saturday's championship race. The Big Orange speedster zipped down the straightaway in a season-best 10.40 to win heat two and record the third-fastest qualifying time.
The UT men also advanced a pair of relays to final day action. Their 4x200m relay unit moved along to the Championship of America race, with the quartet of seniors Hewitt and Kyle Stevenson, sophomore Deaundra Dailey and Wells jetting twice around the oval in 1:23.93 to win heat six, post the fifth-best time of the nine qualifiers and the No. 8 mark on UT's all-time performers list. The 4x4 followed suit, earning a spot in the college final with sophomore Varick Tucker, Hewitt, Stevenson and freshman Terrance Livingston trucking along in a season-best 3:10.58 to place third in heat three.
Joining those male qualifiers in competition on Saturday will be pole vaulters Brad Holtz and Robert Rasnick and the 4x800m relay unit.
The youthful Lady Vol 4x200m relay tandem, meanwhile, wasn't quite as fortunate as the Vol quartets on Friday. The 1:35.39 effort of Octave, Wortham, Jackson and Harris left them third in heat three and 11th overall.
4x800m Relay Champ. Final: TBA
400m Hurdles Final: 5. John Hewitt, 51.90
College Long Jump: 5. Desmond Brown, 24-5.75/7.46mw (w: 4.9)
Distance Medley Relay Champ. Final: 6. Emerson Peacock / Alan Bachman / Joe Franklin / Peter Sigilai, 9:39.61
100m Dash Heats: Adv. Evander Wells, 10.40p (w: 1.2) / (1st. ht. 2)
4x200m Relay Heats: Adv. John Hewitt / Kyle Stevenson / Deaundra Dailey / Evander Wells, 1:23.93 (1st, ht. 6)
4x400m Relay Heats: Adv. Varick Tucker / John Hewitt / Kyle Stevenson / Terrance Livingston, 3:10.58 (3rd, ht. 3)
Pole Vault Final: Brad Holtz, Robert Rasnick
4x200m Relay Championship Final: TBA
100m Dash Final: Evander Wells
4x400m Relay College Final: TBA
4x800m Relay Champ. Final: TBA
Olympic Development 3000m Steeplechase Final: 9. Steve Fassino, 9:16.97!
Championship 5000m Final: 16. Michael Spooner, 14:21.42!; 19. Leoule Degfae, 14:25.07!
College 5000m Final: 30. Chris Bodary, 14:56.14!