May 16, 2003
Lady Vols Jessica Southers and Katie Flaute recorded top-eight finishes in the 10,000 meters and Nicole Cook and Dee Dee Trotter advanced to the finals in the 800 and 200 meters, respectively, on Friday night at the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships at the University of Tennessee's Tom Black Track.
Southers, from Ashland, Ky., logged a personal-record time of 36:47.91 to chart her second-consecutive sixth-place performance at the SEC Outdoor meet. Her 37:23.33 readout at the 2002 competition was her only other attempt at that distance. Flaute, a freshman from Dayton, Ohio, ran her second 10K of the campaign and collected eighth-place accolades with a 37:15.01 output. Another rookie, Felicia Guliford of Gallup, N.M., appeared to be on her way to scoring as high as fifth when she dropped out with approximately five laps remaining.
As it was, Southers' and Flaute's four-point contribution put Tennessee in a tie for seventh place with Alabama after day two. Florida, on the strength of 33 points in the hammer throw, took the lead after three events with 35. Arkansas is second in 28, followed by Auburn with 12, Georgia and South Carolina with 11, and Vanderbilt with eight. LSU and Ole Miss have two apiece, while Kentucky and Mississippi State have yet to get on the board.
"Jessica Southers had a 35-second PR in the 10,000 meters, and I was very happy with her competitive spirit, which is indicative of many of the performances we've had all year," Lady Vol Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "Katie Flaute scored at the SEC Championships as a freshman, which is also very impressive. As far as Felicia goes, she just had a bad day. It's nothing serious - just a bad day."
Earlier in the evening, Cook advanced to the finals of the 800-meter run with the fourth-fastest time of the prelims, a 2:07.01 clocking that was good enough to take first in heat three over Florida's Kristina Bratton (2:07.75) by 74/100ths of a second. The relaxed pace moved the sophomore from Petersburg, Va., on to Sunday's 7:50 p.m ET finals, where she will attempt to defend her 2002 SEC crown. Sophomore teammate Antoinette Gorham (Glenarden, Md.) wasn't as fortunate, clocking a career-best 2:11.39 but missing the cut with a 12th-place result in her first conference try at the half mile.
Trotter, meanwhile, earned a ticket to her initial SEC final, cranking out a 23.46 effort to finish second in heat two of the 200-meter dash. The sophomore from Decatur, Ga., will enter Sunday's 8:35 p.m. championship race as the seventh seed after crossing the line just behind Auburn's Elva Goulbourne (23.44) with a legal wind of -0.8. Fellow sophomore Toyin Olupona (Orillia, Canada) was fourth in heat four and 14th overall at 24.46 with an allowable wind of -0.5.
In the heptathlon, freshman Caitlin Ward came within two places of scoring in her very first try at that event. The Gibsonia, Pa., native utilized a strong kick on the final lap of the 800 meters to place third in that race in 2:31.04 and rise from 12th to 10th for the seven-event competition. Her 482-point tally in the 800 brought her final total to 4340. Georgia's Hyleas Fountain, the day-one leader, took top honors at 5626, while Vanderbilt's Josie Hahn was second at 5327
On the second day, Ward carried her momentum over from her last two events on Thursday, where she was third in the shot put and fifth in the 200-meter dash. She began Friday evening with a sixth-place, 660-point performance in the long jump with a season-topping leap of 17-7. After taking 10th in the javelin and tallying 386 points with a hurl of 82-8, Ward wrapped up the two-day test with her gutsy run in the 800m, out-kicking all but two runners down the home stretch.
"Dee Dee Trotter and Nicole advancing to the finals was very exciting today," Clark said. "Caitlin Ward competed very well in her first heptathlon, had two PRs and had a really strong finish. I look forward to getting back out here and seeing what we can do on Saturday."
In the first scored event to be completed on the women's side, Lady Vol junior Janine Tessarzik (Altamont, N.Y.) finished out of the points in the hammer throw at 12th place with a throw of 171-7. The mark was her second-best career performance behind a school-record toss of 175-9 on April 27 at the Knoxville Invitational. Florida's Candice Scott took the title with an SEC and Tom Black Track collegiate record throw of 217-10.
On Saturday, Tennessee has Tessarzik in the discus; Brooke Novak, Erin Anderson and Christy Baird in the 1500-meter prelims; Trotter in the 400-meter dash prelims; Olupona in the 100-meter dash prelims and Elizabeth McCalley in the 3000m steeplechase finals. Women's action at the track begins at 3:30 p.m. with the long jump.