May 18, 2003
Dee Dee Trotter rocketed to a jaw-dropping victory in the 400 meters and Sharon Dickie rolled to an emotional triumph in the 5000 meters Sunday night to highlight an impressive final day for the University of Tennessee women at the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Tom Black Track.
The 10-point performances by Trotter and Dickie, combined with contributions from Nicole Cook in the 800 meters, Christie Elwin in the javelin, Brooke Novak in the 1500 and 5000 meters, Trotter again in the 200 meters as well as the 4x400m relay, enabled the Lady Volunteers to finish seventh with 55 points. The mark bettered last year's SEC Outdoor accumulation of 52.50 and was the highest Tennessee total since the 2000 squad netted 71.25.
Florida walked away with the team title with 159 points, followed by Arkansas with 130, LSU with 110 and South Carolina with 86. Auburn reported in fifth with 77, while Georgia was sixth at 66. Trailing UT were Kentucky (49), Alabama (38), Mississippi State (22), Vanderbilt (19) and Ole Miss (5).
"I thought it would be a challenge for us to score 50 points at this meet, but we got it done," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said.
"We definitely have a talented young team, and they had a great meet with PRs, a couple of championships and some folks stepping
up to make contributions that might not have been expected. We continue to move in the right direction and look forward to our
climb up the ladder over the next several years."
After posting the fastest time in the 400-meter prelims the day before, Trotter made sure everyone knew it was no fluke. The second-year standout rocketed to a school-record reading of 51.65 to chart the eighth-fastest time in the world this year and claim the SEC title by a tenth of a second over LSU's Hazelann Regis (51.75).
A product of Decatur, Ga., Trotter had entered the meet ranked 14th among all-time Lady Vols in the 400 with a mark of 53.66 that she posted on April 12, 2002, at the Sea Ray Relays. She bumped up to fifth on the list with her preliminary clocking of 52.10 Saturday night before erasing a 51.71 mark that Cathy Rattray had held since the 1982 NCAA Championships in Provo, Utah. To boot, Trotter also added three points for taking sixth in the 200 meters in a career-best 23.36.
"My main goal Saturday was to get myself a good lane for today," Trotter said. "That worked out fine. I got out to a good start today, and followed the race pattern set by Coach Caryl (Smith). I needed to be faster at the start and the backstretch so I could finish strong.
"Coach Caryl gets you mentally into it, and that really helps. She and I talked for a long time before I was convinced to take a shot at the 400m."
As for Dickie, the fifth-year senior from Grand Blanc, Mich., never looked smoother and fresher than she did on a humid evening at Rocky Top. From the get-go, it was clear the race belonged to Dickie. Her impressive effort resulted in a 16:40.36 navigation of the distance, allowing her to hit the victory tape over 10 seconds ahead of runner-up Christin Wurth of Arkansas.
The heavy air managed to slow the pace of the 5K, but Dickie was clearly up to the task. After taking a brief early lead, Dickie then fell back a bit and saw Arkansas's Penny Splichal grab the driver's seat. At the mile mark, however, Dickie moved back to the front and left the rest of the field behind en route to top honors.
"I wanted to do my best," Dickie said. "My coach (J.J. Clark) had given me some splits, but it was too hot to go for a personal best, so I didn't meet those goals. The NCAA Regionals and Championships overshadow the SECs as far as my focus is concerned.
"I took the lead early, lost it and then went ahead for keeps after about a mile. It was very nice to run on my home track, with the fans behind me. Their support helped, because I was getting tired."
Joining Dickie in scoring in the 5000 was redshirt freshman Brooke Novak. The Kaukauna, Wis., native notched a sixth-place effort with a career-best time of 17:06.01. That came after she had provided the squad with fifth-place points in the 1500 meters earlier in the day with a career-topping 4:23.13 readout.
Sophomore Nicole Cook was looking to defend her SEC crown in the 800, but the Petersburg, Va., product came up a little short despite running the best time of her career. Cook's 2:03.60 PR clocking rated third on the day behind Mississippi State's Tiffany McWilliams (2:02.74) and LSU's Neisha Bernard-Thomas (2:03.32), but she improved to fifth on UT's all-time performers list in the half mile.
"Tiffany McWilliams ran a great race, she ran like a champion, and she deserved to win tonight," Clark said. "Nicole competed well, she ran her best time and did a lot of things right. As long as she is running her best, we're O.K.
"I am encouraged, because she is continuing to get faster. She has nothing to be ashamed about tonight. We'll return to practice and continue to prepare for the NCAA meets."
Cook came back to run her usual strong leg on UT's fourth-place 4x400m relay, which cranked out a season-best of 3:36.76. Also aboard that quartet were sophomore Antoinette Gorham (Glenarden, Md.), freshman Caitlin Ward (Gibsonia Pa.) and Trotter.
Senior Christie Elwin got the Big Orange on the board with the first event of the day, the javelin throw. The Adelaide, Australia, native let loose a top measurement of 129-3, which was far enough to merit fifth place and garner her school points in that event for the second-straight season. Her willingness to help the team score could have cost her in her primary event, the pole vault. The highest bar she could clear on this night was 12 feet even, which turned out to be worthy of only a tie for 10th place.
"Christie Elwin took one for the team tonight," said Clark. "She got us some points in the javelin and tried to get more in the pole vault. I don't know whether the javelin affected her in the vault, but now she can concentrate on her event. She's qualified for regionals, and she can go up there and focus on her specialty.
Elsewhere, redshirt freshman Kendra Rhyne (Andersonville, Tenn.) was 13th in the pole vault at 11-6.25, junior Janine Tessarzik (Altamont, N.Y.) was 14th in the shot put at 45-9.75, and juniors Erin Anderson (Kent, Ohio) and Jessica Southers (Ashland, Ky.) were 14th and 15th in the 5000 meters, respectively, at 17:47.50 and 17:49.14. Sophomore Elizabeth McCalley (Knoxville, Tenn.) and freshman Katie Flaute (Dayton, Ohio) also ran the 5K, taking 19th and 24th at 17:56.29 and 18:12.65.
Tennessee will be off next weekend before heading to Columbus, Ohio, on May 30-31 for the NCAA Mideast Regional Championship meet at Ohio State's Jesse Owens Stadium.