June 12, 2003
The University of Tennessee women advanced two of the three athletes who were competing on Thursday at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships to the next round, as Nicole Cook secured a berth in the finals of the 800-meter run and Dee Dee Trotter qualified for a spot in the semifinals in the 400-meter dash.
With the warm, early-afternoon California sun shining upon her, Trotter wound up the three-event second day for the Lady Vols with a 52.52 reading in the 400m dash prelims to win heat five and advance to Friday's 8:25 p.m. Pacific Time semifinals. She is one of 16 athletes from a field of 29 who are moving on to the next round at CSU, Sacramento's Hornet Stadium.
Trotter had the luxury of watching the four previous heats and really didn't have to over-extend herself to cross the line first in her section. The product of Decatur, Ga., finished at the front of an SEC one-two-three in heat five, besting Novlene Williams of Florida (52.71) and Miki Barber of South Carolina (53.21) to earn a ticket to the semis.
"The goal was to get first or second and qualify for the semifinals, but it didn't feel like a very good race for me," Trotter said. "You can feel the competitiveness around you and you sense that nobody came here to play. Tomorrow, I will have to run smart and run well to make the finals."
Earlier in the day, Cook qualified for the third NCAA individual final of her young career, clocking a 2:04.64 in the semifinals of the 800-meter run. The Petersburg, Va., native, who was the runner-up by 6/100ths of a second at the 2003 NCAA Indoor Championships, will take aim at her first-ever national title on Saturday at 8:20 p.m. Pacific Time.
Her advancement to the finals didn't come without some nerve-wracking moments, though, as her fifth-place finish in heat one left the
UT contingent looking at the Hornet Stadium scoreboard with concern as the second heat was run. The top three in each heat plus the
next two fastest times advance, and her readout just edged Florida's Kristina Bratton for the eighth and final qualifying spot by a mere
tenth of a second. Still, the bottom line of moving on to the next round was achieved.
"I didn't finish as strong as I wanted today, but I'm just happy I made it back to the finals," Cook said. "There was probably more pressure for me in this race than there will be for the finals. I was so close to winning indoors, so I know that I just need to go out and run, not be afraid of going out too fast and realize that I am in good enough shape to handle it if that happens."
With her qualification for the championship race, Cook guaranteed herself All-America honor number six in her two seasons at UT. It marks the fourth time she has achieved the honor in the 800 meters, having finished ninth (top-eight American) and eighth indoors and out in 2002 and second indoors and among the top eight outdoors (pending) in 2003. Only 14 other Lady Vols in the rich history of the program have collected six or more All-America certificates, led by Cathy Rattray's 17 from 1981 to 1984.
Just before Cook ran Thursday morning, senior Christie Elwin saw her Lady Vol career come to a close in the qualifying round of the pole vault. Despite clearing two bars, the Adelaide, Australia, product was unable to advance to the finals.
Elwin cleared the opening height of 12-3.50 on her third try, joining everyone in her flight in advancing to the next increment of 12-9.50. After running through the box on her first attempt at that height and drawing a foul, she stopped short of the box on her second try and got to reset and try again. She made that second chance count and easily sailed over the bar to advance to the next round.
In round three, Elwin again began the first of her three attempts with a foul on a run through the box. After failing to traverse the new height of 13-1.50 on her second try, Elwin was down to one last chance. As she sprinted down the runway, she decided to abort the takeoff and attempted to stop her momentum. Thinking she had not crossed the plane in the box area or lifted off the ground, Elwin turned around and started back up the runway to give it another try.
As she began to eye the bar and prepare to start her approach, one of the field judges stepped in and informed her that they had declared a foul on her attempt. UT's coaching staff appealed the judge's decision, but the call was not overturned. Thus, Elwin's collegiate career was suddenly over.
Elwin will leave UT as the school's all-time record holder, indoors and out. She upped the indoor mark to 13-2.25 with a fourth-place effort at the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships in 2003 and matched that height outdoors in taking fifth and qualifying for nationals at the NCAA Mideast Regional two weekends ago. Elwin, a broadcasting major with a 3.63 grade point average, also capped her career in fine fashion in the classroom by earning Academic All-SEC and Verizon Academic All-District IV second-team honors this season.
"We got one more to the finals and advanced Dee Dee to the semifinals, which got us a little closer to our goal of having everyone in the finals and scoring at this meet," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "Christie Elwin had a very unfortunate situation occur concerning her final attempt, but that can't take away from the great season she had. She has left marks for Lady Vols to chase in years to come.
"I look forward to watching Dee Dee race tomorrow in the semifinals. We also will start gearing up for what will hopefully be a big day on Saturday for the Lady Vols."
|WEDNESDAY, JUNE 11|
|800m Prelims 11:05 a.m. PT|
|Adv.||Nicole Cook||2:05.21p/3rd, Ht. 3|
|5000m Prelims 9:20 p.m PT|
|Adv.||Sharon Dickie||16:24.74p/6th, Ht. 2|
|THURSDAY, JUNE 12|
|Pole Vault Qualifying 10:00 a.m. PT|
|800m Semifinals 11:05 a.m. PT|
|Adv.||Nicole Cook||2:05.64p/5th, Ht. 1|
|400m Prelims 12:55 p.m. PT|
|Adv.||Dee Dee Trotter||52.52p/1st, Ht. 5|
|FRIDAY, JUNE 13|
|400m Semifinals 8:25 p.m. PT|
|Dee Dee Trotter|
|SATURDAY, JUNE 14|
|Pole Vault Finals 6:00 p.m. PT|
|400m Finals 7:20 p.m. PT|
|Dee Dee Trotter|
|800m Finals 8:20 p.m. PT|
|5000m Finals 8:40 p.m PT|