June 9, 2011
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Dentarius Locke propelled himself to his first national sprint final outdoors, Brittany Sheffey advanced with a little help from above and the Lady Vol 4x4 moved along, too, on a three-for-three Thursday for Tennessee at the NCAA Track & Field Championships at Drake Stadium.
Unable to qualify in the 100-meter dash on Wednesday, Locke returned to Drake's blue oval a day later and earned himself a lane in Saturday's 200 final at 1:49 p.m. Eastern time. He did so as a time qualifier, grabbing the final at-large bid with a 20.69 readout that left him third in heat three. That clocking was his second-fastest wind legal effort of the season and allows him a chance to score nationally outdoors as a rookie, just as he did indoors in the 60m dash (fifth) in March.
"The objective was to get to the final, and Dentarius did that," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. "D-Locke always answers the bell, and he did so again tonight. He has presented himself with an opportunity to become an All-American for the second time this season and to get some points on the board for the men's team."
For Sheffey, the 2011 NCAA meet must have seemed eerily similar to the 2010 competition. For the second straight season, her campaign appeared to come to a disappointing end after a fall during the 1500m semifinals. Despite getting to her feet quickly and trying to work her way back into contention, she wound up 11th in heat one and 22nd overall in 4:26.49.
This time, however, the NCAA had Sheffey's back. About two hours after her heart-breaking tumble, the jury of appeals agreed with Clark's protest that Sheffey had been impeded and advanced her to Saturday's final. She'll run at 1:18 p.m. ET.
A year ago in Eugene, Ore., she was in the middle of the pack with 800 to go. This time she had led the race for the first 800 meters and had 700 in front of her when she and Betzy Jimenez of Texas both went down. No matter how it happened, it would have been another major disappointment to overcome had she not been allowed to advance.
"I was optimistic, but they usually don't advance people because of falls," Clark said. "A yellow flag did go up, though, meaning there was some sort of incident. I was hopeful the flag could be in our favor, so I filed the protest.
"I am happy that they have rules in place that allow for runners who have been impeded to get back into the final in situations like this. We are both relieved, but there's still work to be done."
Just before thunderstorms moved in and forced a delay prior to the final women's heat, the 4x400m relay unit closed the second day of competition for the Big Orange in emphatic fashion. With sophomore Nijgia Snapp putting the exclamation mark on it with a 52.7 anchor leg, the quartet of Ellen Wortham, Kianna Ruff, Martinique Octave and Snapp won heat one in 3:32.98 to move along to Sunday's final at 2:40 p.m. ET.
"We went in thinking it would be nice to see them run like they did at the NCAA East meet," Clark said. "They were right on target with that. They are developing consistency, putting it together and now have given themselves a chance to earn All-America honors and score some points for our program."
On Friday, Tennessee will have one lone competitor in action. Junior Chanelle Price will try to earn her first NCAA individual title when she runs in the finals of the 800 meters at 8:10 p.m. Eastern time. Action will be televised live on CBS Sports Network from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. ET.
200m Semifinals: Adv. Dentarius Locke, 20.69p/3rd, ht. 3 (8th)
100m Semifinals: 13. Dentarius Locke, 10.39p/6th, ht. 3 (w: -1.1)
4x400m Semifinals: Adv. Ellen Wortham / Kianna Ruff / Martinique Octave / Nijgia Snapp, 3:32.98p/1st, ht. 1
1500m Semifinals: Adv. Brittany Sheffey, 4:26.49p/11th, ht. 1 (22nd, advanced to final after NCAA rules she was tripped)
Discus Throw Semifinals: 3. Annie Alexander, 188-9/57.55m
800m Semifinals: Adv. Chanelle Price, 2:02.84p/1st, ht. 2 (fastest qualifier)
400m Hurdles Semifinals: 7. Ellen Wortham, 56.43p/4th, ht. 3
4x100m Relay Semifinals: 20. Ashley Harris / Brittany Jones / Martinique Octave / Kia Jackson, 44.78p/7th, ht. 1
! - 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