May 17, 2003
Succeeding despite another lengthy delay due to stormy weather, Lady Vol junior Janine Tessarzik came up big with a third-place finish in the discus, and Dee Dee Trotter and Brooke Novak advanced to the finals in the 400 and 1500 meters, respectively, Saturday night at the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Tom Black Track.
Much like Thursday night, when athletes had to endure a three-hour-and-18-minute delay due to severe weather, storms once again brought the meet to a halt. This time, two hours and 50 minutes passed between the 5:38 p.m. ET hiatus and the resumption of events at 8:28 p.m. Once high winds, lightning and heavy rains finally moved out of the area, activity resumed in a normal fashion until the women's 3000m steeplechase was completed around 11:30 p.m.
When all was said and done, Tennessee was in ninth place with 10 points and in position to add much more on day four. Florida continued to lead the pack with 69, followed by Arkansas at 58 and Georgia with 35. Kentucky and Auburn moved into a tie for fourth with 26, with Alabama (14), Vanderbilt (13) and South Carolina (12) next in line. Trailing UT were LSU (6) as well as Ole Miss and Mississippi State (2).
Tessarzik, whose previous best this season was a toss of 150-4 at the Sea Ray Relays, unleashed a throw of 167-3 on her third
attempt of the competition. The mark withstood the challenge of 23 other competitors, with the exception of victor Rachel Longfors of
Florida (180-9) and her teammate Dore Debartolo (169-8).
With the PR showing, Tessarzik gathered six points for the Big Orange in her first scoring performance during a conference competition. It erased her previous career-best fling of 158-5, which she achieved in finishing ninth at the 2002 SEC Outdoor meet in Starkville, Miss., and gave UT a successor to graduated SEC discus champ Diane Slinden.
"I am really excited to go out and execute in a meet what I do in practice all the time but haven't been able to do in competition this season," Tessarzik said. "I felt comfortable and laid back today on my home field, and I was able to get myself psyched up in the first flight. It's just good to go out and get points for the team in an area where no one might have expected it."
In the 400 meters, Trotter, a sophomore from Decatur, Ga., out-dueled LSU's Hazelann Regis, the SEC leader in the 400 meters, 52.10 to 52.11 to win heat four and post the fastest qualifying mark of the evening. Trotter will run in her first conference final race at 7:10 p.m. Sunday.
The career-best performance by Trotter was also the second-fastest quarter run in the conference this season behind Regis's 51.54 at the LSU Alumni Gold meet on April 12. The mark ranks the second-year standout fifth all-time among Lady Vols in that event and is the 12th fastest 400 ever turned in by a Lady Vol, joining the company of such Lady Vol notables as Cathy Rattray, Ilrey Oliver, Delisa Walton and Kelia Bolton.
"I felt good tonight," Trotter said. "I didn't know that I beat the SEC leader (Regis) until someone told me. The only thing I could say was, 'wow'. I haven't run this race that many times, so it's only going to get better. I am going to find my spot tomorrow and turn it on."
In the 1500 meters, Novak easily advanced to the finals with a 4:29.21 effort in her first SEC outdoor meet. The redshirt freshman from Kaukauna, Wis., grabbed the lead early and then stayed on pace with defending champion Christin Wurth and Londa Bevins of Arkansas to cruise to the finish line third in her heat and fourth-fastest among the qualifiers.
Mississippi State's Tiffany McWilliams, the runner-up outdoors in 2002, posted the fastest 1500m qualifying time in 4:18.56, just three seconds off the league record of 4:15.45, set by Tennessee's Alisa Harvey in 1987. Novak's teammates weren't so fortunate, as Erin Anderson (Kent, Ohio) and Christy Baird (Knoxville, Tenn.) checked in with readings of 4:40.91 and 4:46.24 in placing 12th and 15th, respectively.
"Janine stepped up and had a big day when it counted," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "She practiced what I've been preaching about following coaches directions, executing our plans and stepping up in the big meets. I am very proud of her finishing third in the SEC meet when she has never scored before.
"Brooke looked great and ran a smart and crafty race in the 1500 meters. Dee Dee is starting to come into form, and she's someone who will have to be reckoned with nationally. We're just excited about the progress of our team this season. We'll go out there tomorrow and attempt to do what it took to make the finals, and that's compete and do our best."
Sophomore Elizabeth McCalley, seventh last year in the 3000m steeplechase, logged her best time of the season in the event, but was only able to punch out a ninth-place result with her 11:10.78 readout. The Knoxville, Tenn., product clocked the second-best reading of her career Saturday night, sliding in behind her school record of 11:03.38.
Toyin Olupona suffered an unfortunate setback in the 100m dash. The sophomore from Orillia, Canada, pulled up about 20 meters from the finish line with what appeared to be a leg injury. Her status for tomorrow's 4x400m relay is uncertain. Olupona had anchored that unit to a season-best and NCAA regional-qualifying 3:40.11 mark at the Gatorade Classic on May 3.
Sunday, Tennessee will take aim at points in the pole vault, 4x100m relay, 1500m run, shot put, 400m dash, 800m run, 200m dash, 5000m run and 4x400m relay. Senior Christie Elwin (Adelaide, Australia) in the vault, Novak in the 1500m, Trotter in the 200m and 400m, Cook in the 800m and Sharon Dickie in the 5000m appear to be Tennessee's best candidates for major point production. Final day action at the track begins at 2:30 p.m. for field events and at 6 p.m. for races on the oval.