May 3, 2003
Having a low key home track meet sometimes translates into sub-par performances. That wasn't the case Saturday, as the University of Tennessee women took full advantage of their opportunity with 12 personal-best performances, eight NCAA Regional qualifying marks and a school record in the pole vault from senior Christie Elwin at the Gatorade Classic at Tom Black Track.
Though the field was small and the competition wasn't up to the standards to which the Big Orange tracksters are accustomed, UT Head Coach J.J. Clark's squad managed to tally qualifiers in the 100, 200 and 400-meter dashes, the 800 and 1500-meter runs as well as the pole vault and 4x400m relay. That effort was very pleasing to Clark as his squad went through its final competition prior to the SEC Outdoor Championships, which will be held in Knoxville, May 15-18.
"It was a very productive day with all the personal bests, qualifying marks and Christie's record," Clark said. "We got a lot of things done this afternoon and really sharpened ourselves for the SEC Championship meet. Considering everyone is going into finals next week, I thought we focused very well today.
"Really, it was one of our best all-around meets of the year. We have now had four-consecutive meets where we've turned in
solid performances, so I think we are continuing to move in the right direction. We're definitely doing a lot of good things right now."
Elwin was the final competitor in the meet to make her appearance, waiting until the entire pole vault field had run out of jumps. By then, the rest of the events had concluded and only a small crowd remained to cheer on the Adelaide, Australia, native as she improved her own school record with a clearance of 12-10. It replaced her old mark of 12-9.50, which she posted in Atlanta on May 19, 2001, in a last chance meet.
Making the occasion even more special to Elwin was the fact her parents, John and Jennifer, were on hand to see the victorious, record-setting vault, which marked the third-straight performance she has sailed above the regional qualifying standard. Taking aim at Tracy Carrington's Gatorade record of 13-0.25, three tries at 13-3.75 were unsuccessful. Fellow vaulters Jamie Rebella and Jessica Reust posted PRs of 11-5.75 and 10-11.75 to place second and fourth, respectively, and Kendra Rhyne was third at 11-5.75.
Earlier in the day, UT booked a pair of qualifying times from sophomores in the 100-meter dash, as Dee Dee Trotter (Decatur, Ga.) raced to a season best and improved her regional mark to 11.66, while Toyin Olupona (Orillia, Canada) had a personal record of 11.69 to take second and earn a ticket to the Mideast Regional in Columbus, Ohio, on May 30-31. Trotter nearly missed a PR of her own, finishing just shy of her 11.65 career topper.
The same duo did battle in the 200 dash, with Trotter again coming out the winner. The Georgia native did not have an improvement with her victorious 23.72 clocking, but she did come in below the regional standard for the third time in four races this season. Olupona, meanwhile, was again the runner-up, bagging her second PR of the day in 24.12.
For the first time during the outdoor slate, the Lady Vols sent their top 4x400m relay combination onto the track. Despite the sparse field, the quartet of Trotter, sophomore Nicole Cook (Petersburg, Va.), sophomore Antoinette Gorham (Glenarden, Md.) and Olupona rolled to a provisional-qualifying 3:40.11 to take first. The Tennessee "B" tandem of freshman Caitlin Ward (Gibsonia, Pa.), redshirt freshman Brooke Novak (Kaukauna, Wis.), junior Christina Billings (Madison, Wis.) and junior Erin Anderson (Kent, Ohio) was second in 4:09.07.
The Big Orange also got regional marks in events where the qualifiers probably won't compete in Columbus. Cook, already in via the 800m, notched an impressive 54.11 readout in the 400 meters to chart a PR and meet the NCAA standard en route to victory. Senior Sharon Dickie (Grand Blanc, Mich.), a 5000m qualifier, took the 1500 meters with a Mideast-ready 4:24.98 personal best, while Novak was second in the 800 in a PR and regional-qualifying time of 2:09.98 behind 2000 Olympian Hazel Clark's winning 2:05.29.
Other noteworthy career bests came from Felicia Guliford (Gallup, N.M.), who was third in the 1500 meters in 4:39.19; and Gorham, who was third in the 800m in 2:12.95. Unattached competitor Michelle Boswell broke a Gatorade record with a heave of 198-11 in the hammer throw. Former South Carolina standout Dawn Ellerbe previously set the mark at 195-4 on May 4, 1996.
UT is idle next weekend as the squad prepares to host the league gathering in two weeks.