May 14, 2011
By Eric Trainer, Associate Director of Media Relations
ATHENS, Ga. -- The Tennessee track & field teams scored in five events Saturday, produced their second event victory of the meet and advanced qualifiers to the finals of the men's and women's 1500 meters and men's 100m dash at the SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
After three days of battling at Georgia's Spec Towns Track, the Lady Vols find themselves in fifth place with 28 points. They trail Florida (50) and Georgia (49) as well as Arkansas and LSU, who each have 39. The Vols, meanwhile, stand sixth in the men's team tally with 14 points. Georgia is in command with 68, followed by Florida (51) and Arkansas (46). The Lady Vols will have nine scoring opportunities on Sunday, while the Vols have 11 chances to put points on the board.
Annie Alexander did just that Saturday in the women's discus, ringing up a 10-spot. Standing in seventh place with the discus in hand for her final attempt, the junior from Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, summoned the right combination of serenity and strength to send the implement to a victorious distance of 184 feet, five inches. It marked her fourth career SEC title and her first in the discus since her freshman season of 2008. Sophomore teammate Jessie Harrison just missed scoring, placing ninth at 147-5.
"Talk about exciting," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. "Up to that point, she had one big throw, but her first throw of the final was a foul. She followed that with a horrible second throw in the final. Then she just dug in deep and let it rip, and it was enough to win the SEC meet.
"That's championship stuff, when things aren't going well and you can pull it out on the last throw. John (Frazier) has been working with her a few years now, and he's kind of figured out how to tweak things and get her to be at championship caliber when it's time."
The Vols biggest splurge of the day came in the final men's event, the 3000m steeplechase. Junior Steve Fassino continued his upward trend this season, fighting his way to fifth place in nine minutes, 6.38 seconds to secure the first conference points of his career.
Less than 24 hours after placing fourth in the 10,000 meters, Michael Spooner was back on the oval for more. The senior scored in the steeplechase for the second straight season and contributed SEC points for the fifth time in his career with an eighth-place run of 9:16.25. Redshirt freshman Daniel Tobin and junior Tom Gilmartin weren't far behind, snagging 10th and 11th, respectively, in 9:29.49 and a career-best 9:32.19.
"The 10K/steeplechase is a very tough double, so my hat is off to Michael Spooner for scoring in both of them," Clark said. "Steve Fassino has never scored before in SEC competition. We needed the points, and he scored big for us today and delivered, so we are happy he was able to do that."
Junior Ellen Wortham and freshman Linda Hadfield chipped in points in the women's long jump and pole vault, respectively. Those contributions weren't necessarily expected on paper for the Lady Vols, so they were very well received.
Wortham unloaded a personal-best leap of 19-10 1/4 and appeared headed for a respectable sixth-place finish. On her final attempt, however, she dug deeper and stretched the tape measure to a slightly-wind-aided 19-11 3/4 to nab fourth place, garnering five points for her team. She had entered with a season best of 19-4.
"I keep saying this again and again," Clark said. "Ellen is a competitor. You could probably put her in the mile, and she'll compete just fine. She loves to compete, and she's a big-timer. I am just happy that Coach (Jerome) Romain got her together in the long jump.
"We were hoping to get some points out of her, but she overachieved as she has done for us in the past." . Hadfield's performance on Saturday was even more surprising. After entering the meet with a season-best of 11-5 3/4, the rookie nailed personal-best clearances of 12-8 and then 13-1 3/4 to nab sixth place. That latter mark earned her the UT freshman record and the No. 4 position on UT's all-time performers list. Christie Elwin previously held the rookie mark, a 12-8 1/4 clearance in 2000.
"Last year, I spoke to Coach (David) Job, and he told me what she had done, and he showed me some video of her in high school. I said, `let's go get her and make her a Lady Vol.'
"Scoring as a freshman is definitely what we like to see. She has a big upside, and we look forward to her doing great things here."
In one of the first events of the day, freshman Justin Hunter contributed two points to the Big Orange cause. His seventh-place leap of 25-7 1/2 came on his fifth attempt. Junior Desmond Brown, a fifth-place finisher a year ago, wound up 12th at 23-10 1/4.
"The long jump was incredible; they were jumping 27 feet," Clark said. "Justin had a hard time finding the board, but he finally nailed it and was able to get some points for us in the long jump. We are looking forward to him coming back tomorrow in the triple and high jumps."
In preliminary events, the UT men moved three to Sunday's finals, while the Lady Vols produced another.
After advancing to the 200m final with his effort on Friday, redshirt freshman Dentarius Locke got the job done in the 100m dash prelims on Saturday. The speedster rolled down the straightaway in a career-best 10.25 seconds to post the third-best readout of the qualifiers. With false starts taking Florida's Jeff Demps and Chris Rainey as well as LSU's Horatio Williams out of the competition, Locke's opportunity for points became even greater.
"We knew D-Locke had a great chance of advancing," Clark said. "There were some big disqualifications, unfortunately for Florida and LSU, but that opens the door for anyone to win an SEC title, including D-Locke. So, he needs to keep focused and go after it."
In the 1500-meter prelims, seniors Chris Rapp and Eric Ryan became first-time SEC finals qualifiers in that event. Rapp had the pleasure of running in the fastest heat, and he didn't seem to mind the pace, covering his race in 3:50.90 to finish second in section one and second of all the qualifiers. Ryan, a transfer from Cornell who finally became eligible during the outdoor campaign, made his 3:55.06 effort in heat two stand up for the 12th and final qualifying spot.
"Chris Rapp looked great," Clark said. "He and Eric were long shots to advance, based on their times, but they were able to pull it through for us. I am very happy George Watts got them rolling at the right time."
Lady Vol Brittany Sheffey also moved along in the women's 1500. The runner-up in this race in 2010, she posted the top readout of the prelims Saturday, winning section one in a season-best 4:19.49.
"Sheffey looked great, Clark said. "She was close to a PR today, and it was just in the rounds. She felt good and won her heat convincingly.
"We look for a great day tomorrow, and hopefully we can get some more points on the board when it counts."
Elsewhere, junior Terry Benson, the victim of a disqualification in the 400m hurdles on Friday night, hoped to bounce back in the 100m hurdles on day three. Unfortunately, his hard luck continued, as he appeared to lose his rhythm and wound up fourth in heat two in 14.60. That time left him ninth overall and one spot out of qualification for the finals.
Be sure to follow the Vols and Lady Vols on Twitter @Vol_Track and @LadyVol_Track, and find live results or live video links for Sunday at http://www.utsports.com/sports/m-track/sched/tenn-m-track-sched.html.
3000m Steeplechase Final: 5. Steve Fassino, 9:06.38; 8. Michael Spooner, 9:16.25; 10. Daniel Tobin, 9:29.49; 11. 9:32.19!
Long Jump Final: 7. Justin Hunter, 25-7.50/7.81m (w: -1.0); 12. Desmond Brown, 23-10.25/7.27m (w: 0.0)
Javelin Throw Final: 15. Les Gilbert, 181-0/55.17m; 17. Blake Hamilton, 160-7/48.95m
1500m Prelims: Adv. Chris Rapp, 3:50.90p!/2nd, ht. 1 (2nd); Adv. Eric Ryan, 3:55.06p/5th, ht. 2 (12th)
100m Prelims: Adv. Dentarius Locke, 10.25p! (w: 1.5)/2nd, ht. 2 (3rd); 21. Reggie Juin, 10.86p (w: 0.9)/5th, ht. 3
110m Hurdles Prelims: 9. Terry Benson, 14.60p (w: 0.0)/4th, ht. 2
400m Prelims: 14. Varick Tucker, 47.46p/2nd, ht. 1
10,000m Final: 4. Michael Spooner, 30:40.05; 7. Jake Rainey, 30:54.32!; 11. Chris Bodary, 31:47.34
800m Prelims: Adv. Peter Sigilai, 1:50.83p/3rd, ht. 1 (8th); 10. Joe Franklin, 1:51.29p/3rd, ht. 2; 13. Ford Bell, 1:53.09p/4th, ht. 1; 18. Jordan Chaney, 1:54.19p/6th/ht. 2; 22. Breon Dixon, 1:55.47p/5th, ht. 4
200m Prelims: Adv. Dentarius Locke, 20.61pw (w: 2.2)/2nd, ht. 1; 16. Nathan Grace, 21.29pw (w: 2.8)/5th, ht. 1; 26. Jarael Nelvis, 22.77pw (w: 2.2)/6th, ht. 5
400m Hurdles Prelims: NM - Terry Benson, DQ
Hammer Throw Final: NM - Drew Thomas, F
Women's Discus Final: 1. Annie Alexander, 184-5/56.22m; 9. Jessie Harrison, 147-5/44.95m
Long Jump Final: 4. Ellen Wortham, 19-11.75/6.09mw (w: 2.1); 18. Kia Jackson, 18-9.75/5.73mw (w: 3.4)
Pole Vault Final: 6. Linda Hadfield, 13-1.75/4.01m!ufr
1500m Prelims: Adv. Brittany Sheffey, 4:19.49p/1st, ht. 1 (1st); 26. Amber Zimmerman, 4:41.21p!/9th, ht. 2; 27. Elizabeth Altizer, 4:41.21p!, 9th, ht. 1; 34. Kelsey Kane, 4:47.63p!/12th, ht. 2; 38. Andrea Ferri, 5:14.96p/13th, ht. 3
100m Hurdles Prelims: 15. Bianca Blair, 14.03p (w: 0.7)/4th, ht. 1
100m Prelims: 17. Kia Jackson, 11.84p (w: -0.1)/6th, ht. 2; 20. Ashley Harris, 12.10p (w: -0.1)/7th, ht. 2
400m Prelims: 18. Martinique Octave, 55.48p/4th, ht. 5
10,000m Final: 1. Liz Costello, 33:42.96mrfr
Hammer Throw Final: 9. Laquoya Kelly, 175-2/53.39m; 10. Jessie Harrison, 167-9/51.15m
800m Prelims: Adv. Chanelle Price, 2:04.83p/1st, ht. 3 (1st); Adv. Kianna Ruff, 2:08.83p!/2nd, ht. 4 (7th); 10. Nijgia Snapp, 2:10.17p!/4th, ht. 4; 13. Brittney Jackson, 2:11.19p/3rd, ht. 1; 14. Ramzee Fondren, 2:11.34p/5th, ht. 4; 18. Ty-Vonna Johnson, 2:12.37p/5th, ht. 2; 19. Elizabeth Altizer, 2:14.64p!/5th, ht. 3; 24. Kim White, 2:17.72p!/6th, ht. 1
400m Hurdles Prelims: Adv. Ellen Wortham, 57.75p/1st, ht. 1 (2nd); 11. Bianca Blair, 1:00.69p/5th, ht. 1; 19. Kirstyn Sweeney, 1:03.87p/6th, ht. 3; 20. Jená Murphy, 1:05.28p/5th, ht. 4
200m Prelims: 11. Martinique Octave, 23.67p! (w: 1.0)/2nd, ht. 2; 20. Brittany Jones, 24.14p (w: 0.5)/4th, ht. 4; 25. Kia Jackson, 24.34p (w: -1.2)/4th, ht. 1; 28. Ashley Harris, 24.58p (w: -1.2), 5th, ht. 1
! - personal record, DNF - did not finish, 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, ufr - UT freshman record, w - wind-aided
Annie Alexander talks about winning an SEC title in the discus throw on her final throw.