PHILADELPHIA -- The Tennessee track & field teams came away with two runner-up finishes on Thursday, advanced a relay to a championship final and closed things out with personal-record times from four out of five distance runners on their first day of action at the 118th Penn Relays.
The UT women gave it all they had in the DMR, but they came up just short in their bid to win their sixth Championship of America in that event at Franklin Field on a day where 23,075 passed through the turnstiles. The lineup of seniors Chanelle Price and Ellen Wortham, sophomore Kianna Ruff and senior Brittany Sheffey covered the distance in 11 minutes, 3.53 seconds, finishing behind the 11:01.03 winning time of hometown Villanova.
Tennessee got a 3:21.8 1200m opening leg from Price, a 51.7 400m turn from Wortham and a 2:06.5 800m hitch from Ruff before Sheffey took the baton with a slight lead over VU anchor Sheila Reid. Sheffey maintained the minimal advantage for three laps of the 1600m anchor leg, with Reid content to sit back and wait. As the bell sounded for the final 400, Reid surged to the front with Sheffey giving chase. Despite trying mightily to seize back the lead, Sheffey was unable to do so, and UT took runner-up honors for the second straight season. The Lady Vols either have won or finished second every season since 2007.
Price, who has won five Penn Relays titles during her career, still has two opportunities to help Tennessee claim more hardware. The sprint medley relay comes on Friday and the 4x800m relay is on Saturday.
"The DMR - we came in here and gave it our best shot," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. "I am very proud of what they did today and the effort that they gave.
"We come here and try to win everything. Sometimes you do, and sometimes you don't, but they gave their best, and that's what we do at Tennessee. I tip my hat to that group."
A week after carding a personal record in the pole vault, sophomore Linda Hadfield was in action in the women's college pole vault and produced a runner-up finish out of a field of 23. Coming into the competition with the bar set at 12 feet, 9 1/2 inches, Hadfield cleared the first height on her third attempt and sailed over 13-1 1/2 on try number two before failing on six stabs at her PR of 13-4 1/4. Vaulters normally get only three jumps at a height, but the bar was discovered to be positioned unevenly, so Hadfield and eventual winner Petra Olsen of South Carolina (13-4 1/4) were given a new set of attempts.
"Linda is jumping very consistently at 13-1, 13-4," Clark said. "She had good attempts at 13-4. I'm glad to see that kind of consistency, because that means a big jump is coming very soon."
The Lady Vol 4x100m relay team advanced out of the preliminary round and into Friday's 1:05 p.m. Championship final. The quartet of senior Ashley Harris, senior Brittany Jones, junior Kia Jackson and senior Ellen Wortham circled the track in 44.98 seconds to finish second in heat five and fifth-fastest of the eight qualifying teams for the Championship final. UCF posted the top mark at 43.84, followed by Texas A&M (44.66), Ohio State (44.79) and LSU (44.79), with OSU finishing ahead of UT in heat five.
"The 4x1 advanced, and we expected that," Clark said. "We had an injury with Martinique (Octave). She's been running it all year, and Ellen came in and filled the void very gracefully. She's always there when we need her."
In the distance carnival on Thursday night, Tennessee had five runners in action, and four of them turned in the fastest times of their careers while running in prime conditions.
Vols ran in three different 5000m races. In the men's College 5K, senior Tom Gilmartin was 20th in a career-best 14:52.25, topping his previous best of 15:25.59. Redshirt freshman Stephen Derlath produced a PR time of 14:52.25 to place 20th in the Olympic Development 5K, supplanting a 15:07.62 readout. In the men's Championship 5K, junior Chris Bodary was 23rd in 14:38.08.
In the women's Championship 3000 meters, both Lady Vol entrants ran career-best times. Amber Zimmerman finished 21st in 10:06.51, while Kelsey Kane was 22nd in 10:07.42. Zimmerman's time was a two-second improvement, while Kane's was a second better.
"In the distance races, Amber, Kelsey, Tommy G. and Derlath all ran PRs tonight," Clark said. "We had four PRs out of the five that ran. That means we are on the right track.
"It was a solid first day for us, and we want to continue doing our best over the next two days."
Championship 5000m: 23. Chris Bodary, 14:38.08
College 5000m: 20. Tom Gilmartin, 14:52.25!
Olympic Development 5000m: 20. Stephen Derlath, 14:57.59!
Distance Medley Relay Championship of America: 2. Chanelle Price / Ellen Wortham / Kianna Ruff / Brittany Sheffey, 11:03.53
College Pole Vault: 2. Linda Hadfield, 13-1.50/4.00m
Championship 3000m: 21. Amber Zimmerman, 10:06.51!; 22. Kelsey Kane, 10:07.42! 4x100m Relay Prelims: Adv. Ashley Harris / Brittany Jones / Kia Jackson / Ellen Wortham, 44.98/2nd, ht. 5 (8th)
! - personal record, DNF - did not finish, DNS - did not start, DQ - disqualified, F- foul, fr - facility record, FS - false start, h - heat, m - meters, mr - meet record, NM - no mark registered, NH - no height registered, p - preliminary round, sr - school record, w - wind-aided