May 17, 2004

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The ninth-ranked University of Tennessee women got runner-up performances from senior Kameisha Bennett in the 800 meters and junior Dee Dee Trotter in the 400 meters on Sunday, but those and other point-producing efforts were not enough to keep the Lady Vols in contention on the final day of the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

The Lady Volunteers, who soared to second at the 2004 SEC Indoor meet in Lexington, Ky., had to settle for sixth at the outdoor competition with 78.50 points. Arkansas generated 124 points to win its third title and stop a two-year win streak by Florida. LSU took second with 114, on the strength of a 100-point final day, and was followed by Georgia in third with 101.50, South Carolina in fourth with 90.50 and Florida in fifth with 79. Trailing the Big Orange were Auburn (68.50), Alabama (68), Kentucky (30), Vanderbilt (27), Mississippi State (22) and host Ole Miss (15).

Head Coach J.J. Clark's squad nearly overtook SEC Indoor champion UF for fifth on the final event of the meet, but a half-point deficit remained after UT's third-place, 3:32.77 effort in the 4x400m relay. Handling the baton for UT on the sprint relay was a quartet of 800m runners, including junior Antoinette Gorham (Glenarden, Md.), Bennett, junior Nicole Cook (Petersburg, Va.) and freshman Leslie Treherne (Chesapeake, Va.).



"The team in most instances competed well," Clark said. "I thought we scrapped for points wherever we could. The team got after it today, and the 4x4, with Dee Dee out and four middle distance runners in there, ran a 3:32 and showed the kind of heart this team has.

"I'm proud of what this team is doing. We scored 20 more points (23.50) than we did at this meet last year, so we're still moving in the right direction. Hopefully we'll add another 30 or more next year."

Tennessee started its push for points early in the evening with a haul of 10 in the 1500 meters. Sophomore Brooke Novak (Kaukauna, Wis.) scooted to a career-best 4:19.61 to place fifth and chart the fastest UT time in that event since 1990. Senior Lindsay Hyatt (Auburn, Calif.) wasn't far behind, grabbing fifth place in 4:20.78 and just missing her personal record by a second. Tiffany McWilliams of Mississippi State cruised to her second-straight conference title in a meet-record time of 4:09.19.

Next, Trotter rocketed to the second-fastest time in the world in the 400 meters this season. Unfortunately for the Lady Vols, LSU's Hazel-Ann Regis out-leaned the orange-clad star at the finish line and posted the planet's best reading by a woman at 50.64. Despite a world-class performance, the 2003 SEC champion from Tennessee had to settle for the runner-up medal this time around and an eight-point contribution with an impressive 50.69 readout. That mark from the Decatur, Ga., native rates number two in UT annals behind only her own school-record run of 50.66 at last year's SEC Outdoor meet in Knoxville.

Trotter appeared to be kicking in the jets down the home stretch and steaming toward victory, but she was challenged gamely by Regis as well as LSU teammate Nadia Davy. As the three approached the finish line, Regis and Trotter began to separate from Davy, and as they crossed, the public address announcer actually called Trotter the victor at the wire. When the official readout flashed on the scoreboard, however, the LSU sprinter appeared in first place. The timing picture apparently showed Regis narrowly beating the Big Orange standout to the stripe.

After winning the 2004 SEC Indoor 800m title, Cook was aiming for a season sweep in that event on Sunday night. MSU's McWilliams and Cook's teammate Bennett, however, weren't in the giving mood. McWilliams pulled off a sweep of her own, claiming the 800m crown for the second year in a row in 2:01.96 to go along with her earlier 1500m triumph. Bennett, meanwhile, finished hard down the stretch to cross in second in a career-topping 2:02.53. Cook, the 2002 SEC Outdoor champ, followed Bennett across in third place in a time of 2:03.21 that was also a career best.

Treherne gutted out a two-second PR of 2:05.57 to grab sixth and top off UT's run of 17 points in the event. Bennett, Cook and Treherne now rank as the fifth, sixth and 12th-best 800-meter runners of all-time at Tennessee.

Bennett and Cook surged to the lead on the opening lap, and McWilliams and LSU's Neisha Bernard-Thomas stayed glued to their heels momentarily. McWilliams and Bernard-Thomas opted for a faster pace, however, and overtook the Tennessee duo. Bennett and Cook kept themselves within striking distance, and on the turn down the home stretch, Bennett began to move toward the outside and pass Cook and the LSU runner. She could not, however, catch McWilliams.

After scoring in the 10,000 meters at the last two SEC Outdoor meets, senior Jessica Southers (Ashland, Ky.) got on the board in the 5000 meters in her final go-around. She posted a PR run of 16:54.87 to finish seventh, while UT sophomore Felicia Guliford (Gallup, N.M.) claimed eighth in 16:57.48. Competing, but not scoring, were junior Elizabeth McCalley (Knoxville, Tenn.) in 12th at 17:05.18, sophomore Katie Flaute (Dayton, Ohio) in 15th at 17:13.51 and redshirt freshman Carly Matthews (Winston-Salem, N.C.) in 25th at 18:10.31.

Junior Toyin Olupona (Orillia, Ontario, Canada) scored for the first time at the SEC Outdoor Championships, registering a seventh-place effort of 24.23 in the 200-meter dash. Trotter qualified but did not run and later was scratched from the 4x400m as well. Clark said he was being careful because of injury concerns.

Earlier in the evening, the first-time 4x100m relay combination of Olupona, Gorham, sophomore Caitlin Ward (Gibsonia, Pa.) and freshman Edra Finley (Mobile, Ala.) contributed a point for an eighth-place finish, circling the oval in 46.94.

Elsewhere, Finley was ninth in the triple jump in a career-best 38-11.75, freshman Tianna Madison (Elyria, Ohio) was ninth in the 100-meter dash in 11.81, while Ward and junior Sara Vigil (Tucson, Ariz.) were 18th and 19th, respectively, with throws of 84-1 and 79-2.

"Dee Dee ran a 50 point, Leslie had a 2:05, Kameisha stepped up big, and Nicole had a PR," Clark said. "Jessica Southers had a PR in the 5K, so we had some good performances today. You give up the DMR points from indoors and have some gaps in the 4x1 and throws, but we've recruited well and hopefully we'll be able to fill some of those voids in the future."



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