April 29, 2010
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The University of Tennessee track & field programs will add nine new faces to their ranks for 2010-11, Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark confirmed as he announced the spring signing classes for both the Vols and Lady Vols on Thursday. Several of the UT students-to-be are ranked among the nation's best, according to Track & Field News magazine's top prep lists.
On the women's side, four will join the Lady Vol program. Among that group are two who hail from Clark's prep alma mater, including multi-event/middle distance standout Brittney Jackson (Maplewood, N.J./Columbia) and sprinter/middle distance runner Ty-Vonna Johnson (Newark, N.J./Columbia), as well as long sprint/middle distance ace Kianna Ruff (St. Louis, Mo./McCluer South-Berkeley) and sprinter/jumper Jazmen Townsend (Chesapeake, Va./Grassfield).
Teammates Jackson and Johnson followed both J.J. Clark and his sister, former Lady Vol Joetta Clark (1981-84), from Columbia High School to Rocky Top. Jackson is a 12-time Essex County indoor/outdoor champion, a 2010 Nike Indoor All-American in the pentathlon and 4x400m relay, and a 2010 member of the U.S. 4x800m relay unit that competed internationally in Jamaica. The New Jersey all-state performer owns an 800m career-best of 2:12.03 and recently ran the fifth-fastest high school split in the Penn Relays 4x800m at 2:11.4. She also has bests of 5-6 in the high jump and 3,224 in the pentathlon.
Johnson, meanwhile, logged a 2:12.4 split on Columbia's 4x800m relay at the 2010 Penn Relays and has an open personal best of 2:13.83 in the 800. She also owns a 56.32 400m PR as well as a 25.57 200m best and also has run races at 1600m and 3200m at CHS. Additionally, she won the 400m and was second in the 800m at the NJSIAA Sectional in 2009 and placed third in the 400 and 10th in the 800m in the NJSIAA Group Championships.
Ruff projects to bring even more firepower to the Big Orange 400/800 group after winning Missouri's Class 3-4 state title in the 400 in 2009 at 54.98 and taking second in the 800 in 2:14.56. She also placed second in the 800m and 400m at the state meet as a sophomore, running 2:09.89 and 55.80, respectively. Voted Most Versatile Runner on her team, she owns career bests of 24.64 in the 200m, 54.64 in the 400m, 2:09.69 in the 800m and 22:00.78 for 5000 meters in cross country.
Adding to the squad in the jumps and sprints area will be Townsend, a two-year state outdoor scorer in the long jump entering her final high school season. She was third at the VSHL AAA state meet last season with a slightly-wind-aided leap of 19-2 and placed sixth in 2008 at 18-2. She owns a long jump best of 19-11 and currently is ranked eighth nationally this season by TFN with a 19-3 indoor mark. Other PRs include 24.92 for 200m, 12.12 for 100m and 40.99 for 300m.
"On the women's side, I don't want to overlook the fact we already had two sprinters join us in January in Nyosha Bryant and Martinique Octave," Clark said. "We also have someone on campus we're working with now who will join the fold next season in Bianca Blair, who transferred from Texas A&M. She was one of the top hurdlers out of Austin-East a couple years ago, and she's here training very diligently for next year and will add quality and strength to our program."
"Most recently, we have added four more quality recruits to the equation. Jazmin has cleared nearly 20 feet in the long jump, Kianna is an open 400m runner who also has run 2:09 (in the 800m), and Brittney adds a lot of versatility to our program with her high jump, 400, 800 and hurdling abilities. Ty-Vonna shows great speed and potential in the 800/400 area, as well, and we look forward to getting them all on campus and keeping the tradition rolling."
The coaching staff also added five to the men's roster, covering a broad spectrum of event areas. Included in that group are previously announced football wide receiver signee Justin Hunter, a jumper/hurdler from Virginia Beach, Va. (Ocean Lakes High School), as well as thrower Matt Hoty (Sandusky, Ohio/Perkins), sprinter Jarael Nelvis (Memphis, Tenn./White Station), pole vaulter Tyler Porter (Jefferson, Ga./Jefferson) and distance runner Jacob Rainey (Clarksville, Tenn./Rossview).
On Track & Field News' 2009 national prep lists, Hunter ranked No. 3 in the long jump (25-3 3/4), No. 7 in the high jump (7-2 indoors) and No. 14 in the triple jump at 49-5. He also posted a 38.75 readout in the 300m hurdles. Thus far in 2010, he has posted a No. 3 national mark in the long jump (24-5 3/4 indoors) and his 25-2 1/2 wind-aided effort leads the nation. He also has a No. 6 national mark of 49-9 1/4 in the triple jump indoors. He was the 2009 VSHL AAA state champion in the high and long jumps, took second in the triple, was ninth in the 300m hurdles and ran a leg on the third-place 4x100m relay for Ocean Lakes.
Hoty, who Dyestat and Milesplit rated as the best shot putter in the class of 2010 for both the 2008 and 2009 seasons, ranks fourth nationally in the shot put thus far this season at 65-11, a mark he recorded during the indoor campaign. He had the 12th-best prep mark nationally in the shot in 2009, charting an Ohio Division II state record of 64-8 1/4, and was a two-time Ohio Division II state champion in that event in 2008 and 2009. He also owns a best of 180 feet in the discus.
One of two in-state signees, Rainey was named the Tennessean (Nashville) and Leaf-Chronicle (Clarksville) Runner of the Year in both 2008 and 2009, and was all-state in track & field in 2008 and 2009 as well as in cross country in 2007 and 2008. Rainey, who currently ranks No. 10 on the TFN national prep list with a career-best 9:00.33 readout in the two mile run, also has PRs of 4:15.34 for the mile, 4:17.48 for 1600m, 8:57.19 for 3200 meters and 15:06.46 for the 5K in cross country.
Also hailing from the Volunteer State is Nelvis, who was the TSSAA Class AAA champion in the 200-meter dash last season for White Station High School. His career-best clocking of 21.12 in 2009 ranked him No. 12 on TFN's national prep list. Nelvis also finished second in the state in the 100 meters as a junior, covering the distance in 10.71. He also owns a personal best of 7.06 in the 60m dash indoors.
The final Vol signee is Porter, who became the seventh high school athlete in the state of Georgia to vault 16 feet or higher with a clearance of 16-0 3/4 at the Southeast Regional Pole Vault Challenge on Aug. 8, 2009. He also cleared 16-0 on March 16, 2010 at the GAC-Jefferson Dual. Porter was the class A state champ in 2008 with a single state best of 14-2, and he snared the AA crown in 2009 with a 15-0 vault. He comes from a family that features a grandfather, great uncle, uncle and aunt who pole vaulted in college.
"We're very excited to have this recruiting class, with Matt Hoty being one of the top throwers in the country and Justin Hunter coming in for football and also adding some depth and strength to our jumps program," Clark said. "We also picked up a couple of in-state products in Jacob Rainey and Jarael Nelvis, who we are really pleased to have joining us, and we added strength to our pole vault corps with Tyler Porter, whose abilities and potential (vault coach) Russ Johnson is very excited about.
"That's a solid group, with sprints, distance, jumps, throws and the vault being covered. We have to keep recruiting this way in order to be where we need to be."