May 28, 2011
By Eric Trainer, Associate Director of Media Relations
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Tennessee track & field team converted five of six qualifying opportunities Saturday at the NCAA East Preliminary Round meet, advancing three individuals and a pair of relays to the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Annie Alexander made it in the discus throw, snapping her own Trinidad & Tobago national record in the process, and she'll be joined by Lady Vol teammate Brittany Sheffey (1500m) as well as the women's 4x100m and 4x400m relays. Vol Dentarius Locke moved on in the 200 meters after previously advancing in the 100.
Already a qualifier in the shot put a day earlier, Alexander made the NCAA meet in her second event, posting the top mark in the discus throw competition at 192 feet, two inches on her third attempt of the qualifying round. That career-best effort toppled her previous national record of 189-3, which she set on June 5, 2008, in Lexington, Ky. The effort also ranks as the No. 4 all-time mark in Lady Vol history and is the finest by a UT woman in 34 years, dating back to Jane Haist in 1977.
Saddled with fouls on her first two tries, including one where she stepped out of the ring on a big throw, the 2011 SEC champion was on the verge of fouling out of the competition. Faced with that possibility, the UT junior produced under pressure, flinging the implement to a career-best measurement and the No. 4 mark in the NCAA this season. She was unable to improve upon it in the finals, as she pursued a World Championships qualifying mark and the school record.
Tennessee's lone male qualifier for the NCAA Championships, redshirt freshman Dentarius Locke made sure he will get his money's worth in Iowa. After making his way through in the 100m dash on Friday, the SEC's third-place finisher in the 200 meters made a reservation in that event as well. He did so by cranking out the number-two time in heat three and the third-best readout overall in the quarterfinals at 20.93. Only Florida State's Maurice Mitchell (20.66) and LSU's Horatio Williams (20.91) were faster.
In the quarterfinals of the women's 1500 meters, Brittany Sheffey found herself precariously trapped in the middle of a tight pack for nearly the entire race, but she persevered and earned a trip to nationals. The junior handled the dicey situation with aplomb, patiently waiting for a couple of seams to appear and then shooting through them on the inside on two separate occasions over the final 250 meters to card a second-place readout of 4:26.93 in section one. The ninth fastest of the East qualifiers, the 2011 SEC champ will make her second straight trip to the NCAA Outdoor meet.
In relay action, Tennessee went two for two in advancing quartets to Des Moines. The Lady Vol 4x100m relay unit had the first crack at it and churned out a season-best readout of 44.61 to punch its ticket. The quartet of juniors Ashley Harris and Ellen Wortham, and sophomores Martinique Octave and Kia Jackson forged a fourth-place finish in heat two and were 10th-fastest of the 12 qualifying teams. UT will return to the NCAA meet in the 4x1 after a one-year absence, with Harris and Wortham back from the 2009 unit that placed seventh that season in 44.05.
To close out the meet, the Big Orange women's 4x400m relay unit delivered a stellar six-second season best of 3:32.60 to win heat three and advance to Iowa with the third-best readout of the evening. Wortham, freshman Kianna Ruff, Octave and sophomore Nijgia Snapp carried the baton, with each of them delivering when it counted and returning Tennessee to the NCAA Outdoor meet for the second straight season. Wortham and Octave were part of last season's unit as well.
"It was very good from the start today, with Annie coming out, throwing a personal best and getting it done," UT Director of J.J. Clark said. "She's been consistent in the clutch. She needed a good mark on the third throw of the prelims, and she did it."
"Getting everyone through is always the goal. Dentarius Locke and Brittany Sheffey coming through and doing what it takes to get to nationals - that's our goal. Both relays coming through with season bests and doing it at the right time, I'm definitely proud of what they've done. We needed that to happen."
In an unfortunate turn of events, SEC indoor and outdoor 5000m champ Liz Costello came up short in her bid for an NCAA berth in the 5K semifinals, finishing eighth in section two and 15th overall in 16:31.03. She appeared on her way to a fourth-place finish in section two but began to lose contact with the top three runners with 800 meters to go.
With 350 meters remaining, she reached upward with her right arm, possibly to get more air into her lungs as her body betrayed her at a critical moment. She pressed onward and was clearly struggling as she made the turn for home. With about 50 meters, she began to stumble but managed to stay upright until collapsing 12 meters from the finish line. She picked herself up, staggered across the stripe and fell once more. Instead of getting one of the five automatic bids, however, she found herself outside the group of 12 who advance to Des Moines.
Costello was immediately attended to by members of the UT and IU athletic training staffs and is now doing fine. Dehydration is thought to be a possible cause for her situation.
"We're disappointed for Liz, but glad she's O.K.," Clark said. "I'm really happy with what the team has done as a whole in getting through to the NCAA meet."
Tennessee, which totaled 10 qualifiers (nine women, one man) in nine events (seven women's, two men's), will return home Sunday morning, practice next week and depart for Des Moines on June 6. The meet will be held June 8-11 at Drake Stadium.
200m Quarterfinals: NCAA Qualifier: Dentarius Locke, 10.93p (w: 0.1)/2nd, ht. 3 (3rd)
100m Quarterfinals: NCAA Qualifier: Dentarius Locke, 10.41p (w: -0.4)/3rd, ht. 3 (9th)
200m First Round: Adv. Dentarius Locke, 21.08p (w: 0.6)/1st, ht. 2 (8th); 44. Nathan Grace, 22.12p (w: 1.4)/8th, ht. 5
Pole Vault Qualifying: t16. Joe Berry, 16-6.75/5.05m; t16. Chase Brannon, 16-7/5.05m!
100m First Round: Adv. Dentarius Locke, 10.47p (w: 0.5)/2nd, ht. 4
Long Jump Qualifying: 27. Justin Hunter, 23-6.75/7.18m (w: 0.0); 31. Desmond Brown, 23-4/7.11m (w: -0.8)
10,000m Semifinal: 35. Michael Spooner, 30:30.87; 44. Chris Bodary, 31:33.80
400m First Round: 35. Varick Tucker, 48.59p/6th, ht. 4
High Jump Qualifying: t38. Justin Hunter, 6-7/2.01m
Discus Qualifying: NCAA Qualifier: Annie Alexander, 192-2/58.58!T&T (1st)
4x400m Relay Quarterfinal:NCAA Qualifier: Ellen Wortham / Kianna Ruff / Martinique Octave / Kianna Ruff, 3:32.60/1st, ht. 3 (3rd)
1500m Quarterfinals: NCAA Qualifier: Brittany Sheffey, 4:26.93p/2nd, ht. 1 (9th)
4x100m Relay Quarterfinals: NCAA Qualifier: Ashley Harris / Ellen Wortham / Martinique Octave / Kia Jackson, 44.61p/4th, ht. 2 (10th)
5000m Semifinal: 15. Liz Costello, 16:31.03p/8th, ht. 2
800m Quarterfinals: NCAA Qualifier: Chanelle Price, 2:04.54p/2nd, ht. 3 (2nd)
400m Hurdles Quarterfinals: NCAA Qualifier: Ellen Wortham, 56.95p/1st, ht. 2 (4th)
Shot Put Qualifying: NCAA Qualifier: Annie Alexander, 55-7.75/16.96m (5th)
100m Quarterfinals: 21. Kia Jackson, 11.79p (w: 0.8)/7th, ht. 3
400m Hurdles First Round: Adv. Ellen Wortham, 57.56p/1st, ht. 3
1500m First Round: Adv. Brittany Sheffey, 4:29.84p/2nd, ht. 2
100m First Round: Adv. Kia Jackson, 11.67p (w: -0.1)/2nd, ht. 3
800m First Round: Adv. Chanelle Price, 2:06.21p/1st, ht. 5; 34. Kianna Ruff, 2:09.60p/8th, ht. 5
Pole Vault Qualifying: t20. Linda Hadfield, 12-1.50/3.70m
400m First Round: 35. Martinique Octave, 55.97p/5th, ht. 3
! - personal record, DNF - did not finish, DQ - disqualified, - 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, T&T - Trinidad & Tobago national record, w - wind-aided
Annie Alexander talks about her Trinidad & Tobago national record discus throw.