FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- University of Tennessee freshman Annie Alexander came through in the clutch once again to win the NCAA Mideast Regional discus title and automatically qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships Friday night at John McDonnell Stadium.
Alexander, from Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, uncorked a toss of 183 feet, seven inches on her fifth attempt to overtake Purdue’s Astin Steward. She then stretched the tape measure to her 183-10 mark of record to claim the first regional discus triumph in UT women’s history. The Lady Vol standout advances to the national meet, which will take place at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa, June 11-14.
“What can you say; Annie is a competitor,” UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. “She gets to the big meets, and she throws well. That’s what you want from your athletes, to be able to know what they need to do at the big meets. She’s delivering and giving us what is needed for us to be one of the top programs in the country.”
“I am thankful that I was able to come back,” Alexander said. “Even on one of my worst nights of competition, I was still able to get a throw in. One-eighty-three is a good throw, but at the same time, I know there is so much more in there. That is the only reason that I am a little disappointed, because I know what I am capable of doing.”
It didn’t come easy for Alexander, as she needed a toss of 173-10 on her third try of the prelims just to make the final. Had she not come up with that save, the season would have come to a sudden end for the rookie. Instead, she made the NCAA field, gave UT 10 points and a boosted her squad to fifth place in the team standings.
“Actually, I was feeling pressure,” Alexander said. “I fouled my first throw and the second wasn’t going to get me to the final. Before my third one, coach (John) Frazier just told me to relax, because I think I was forcing it.
“I just listened to him, and I went into the ring a little more confident than I was before. I was happy that I could make it on to the second round so I would have a shot at attaining my goal of going to nationals.”
The Big Orange also was productive in qualifying athletes for finals on the final day. Competing in seven preliminary events, Tennessee was able to advance nine entries in six events to Saturday’s round, which will determine who advances to the NCAA meet.
“We are definitely moving people to the finals, and the only objective here is to get people to the NCAA meet,” Clark said. “We had a couple of bumps in the road, but we advanced everyone but two in track events to the finals. That’s a good day, and they’ll just have to line up tomorrow and get after it.”
Junior Sarah Bowman (Warrenton, Va.) and freshman Brittany Sheffey (Bellport, N.Y.) automatically advanced to the finals of the 1500m run by finishing in the top four of their respective heats. Bowman posted the second-best mark in heat one and the sixth fastest of the 12 qualifiers at four minutes, 27.58 seconds. Sheffey covered the distance in 4:27.12 to place fourth in the faster of the two heats and fourth quickest of all advancers. Junior Rolanda Bell (Laurelton, N.Y.), meanwhile, came up one spot short of making the final, placing 13th at 4:30.30.
Sophomore Phoebe Wright (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) took care of business in the 800 meters and helped the Lady Vols go three-for-four in qualifying middle distance runners for the finals. Wright made the cut automatically by finishing second in section two in 2:06.05. That mark was third best of the advancers.
In the 4x100m relay, the UT quartet of freshman Jeneba Tarmoh (San Jose, Calif.), senior LaTonya Loche (Bastrop, La.), senior Cleo Tyson (Huntsville, Texas) and sophomore Lynne Layne (New Rochelle, N.Y.) moved along by winning heat two in a time of 44.71. The Lady Vol tandem bounced back after suffering a dropped baton at the SEC meet and today posted the second-fastest qualifying time behind LSU’s 43.51 heat-winning readout.
Layne and Tarmoh faced two more individual races later in the day. Both successfully advanced to the finals in the 100 and 200 meters.
In the 100m, Layne ripped off the second-fastest time ever produced by a Lady Vol to take second in heat two and move on. Tarmoh also advanced, finishing second in heat four in 11.38. Only Kelli White’s 1999 wind-aided mark of 10.96 (5.5 mps) is faster than Layne’s, which came with a 4.7 gust at her back. Layne was second among the qualifiers while Tarmoh was sixth.
Layne added 200m finalist to her list later in the evening, rocketing to a season best of 23.19 to win heat two and post the fourth quickest time of the prelims. Tarmoh reeled off a season topper of 23.31 to also live another day, snagging third in heat three and entering the final with the eighth and final qualifying time.
Layne’s and Tarmoh’s 4x1 mate Loche followed suit by moving along in the 400 meters. The senior from Bastrop, La., did so easily by winning heat two in 52.91. That readout stood fourth fastest of the qualifiers and was the second best mark of Loche’s career behind only her fourth-place SEC effort of 52.78 two weekends ago.
In addition to the previously mentioned qualifiers, Alexander will take part in the shot put finals on Saturday. The 2008 SEC champion begins UT’s day at noon Central Time.
Junior Celriece Law (Denver, Colo.) appeared to be on her way to the finals after registering a career preliminary round best readout of 13.26, with a tailwind of 2.6 meters per second, to finish second in heat two. A breeze of 5.3 mps, however, provided a huge boost to the competitors in heat five, allowing two runners to post faster times than the UT runner. As a result, Law wound up ninth overall and one spot from finals qualification. She will wait and see whether she is awarded an at-large bid.
In the first event of the day, the hammer throw, Dickenson wound up 11th with a toss of 185 feet, six inches. She will have to hope her season-best mark of 194-3 will be good enough to merit an at-large bid to the NCAA meet.
In the discus, Dickenson, the defending third-place NCAA finisher, will have no shot at making the national meet. Her toss of 143-11 left her in 27th place and out of consideration. Classmate Amara McKell (Nashville, Tenn.) finished five spots ahead of Dickenson
Junior Alicia Essex (Purcellville, Va.) cleared two heights but settled for a tie for 15th in the pole vault. Essex cleared 12 feet, six inches for her mark of record.
Junior Katie Van Horn (Glendora, N.J.) also was expected to compete in the 5000 meters, but she did not make the trip to Fayetteville. She was unable to compete due to an injury suffered at the SEC Championships.
|FRIDAY, MAY 30|
|Hammer (Regional: 177-8/54.15m) 11:00 a.m. CT|
|4x100m Relay Pre. (Regional: 45.70) 3:00 p.m. CT|
|Adv.||Jeneba Tarmoh/Cleo Tyson/LaTonya Loche/Lynne Layne||44.71p/1st, ht. 2|
|Pole Vault (Regional: 12-7.50/3.85m) 3:15 p.m. CT|
|1500m Prelims (Regional: 4:27.80) 3:30 p.m. CT|
|Adv.||Sarah Bowman||4:27.12p/4th, ht. 2 (4th)|
|Adv.||Brittany Sheffey||4:27.58p/2nd, ht. 1 (6th)|
|13th||Rolanda Bell||4:30.30p/6th, ht. 1|
|100mH Prelims (Regional: 13.92) 4:10 p.m. CT|
|9th||Celriece Law||13.26pw (w: 2.6)/2nd, ht. 3|
|100m Prelims (Regional: 11.75) 4:50 p.m. CT|
|Adv.||Lynne Layne||11.09pw (w: 4.7)/2nd, ht. 2 (2nd)|
|Adv.||Jeneba Tarmoh||11.38pw (w: 2.1)/2nd, ht. 4 (6th)|
|400m Prelims (Regional: 54.61) 5:30 p.m. CT|
|Adv.||LaTonya Loche||52.91p/1st. ht. 2 (4th)|
|800m Prelims (Regional: 2:09.80) 6:10 p.m. CT|
|Adv.||Phoebe Wright||2:06.05p/2nd, ht. 1 (3rd)|
|Discus (Regional: 155-2/47.30m) 6:15 p.m. CT|
|1st (10 pts.)||Annie Alexander||183-10/56.03m|
|200m Prelims (Regional: 23.96) 7:30 p.m. CT|
|Adv.||Lynne Layne||23.19p! (w: 2.9)/1st, ht. 2 (4th)|
|Adv.||Jeneba Tarmoh||23.31p (w: 2.9)/3rd, ht. 3 (8th)|
|5000m Final (Regional: 16:52.00) 8:10 p.m. CT|
|DNS||Katie Van Horn|
|SATURDAY, MAY 31|
|Shot Put (Regional: 46-11/14.30m) Noon CT|
|4x100m Relay Final (Regional: 45.70) 5:00 p.m. CT|
|Jeneba Tarmoh/Cleo Tyson/LaTonya Loche/Lynne Layne|
|1500m Final (Regional: 4:27.80) 5:20 p.m. CT|
|100mH Final (Regional: 13.92) 5:45 p.m. CT|
|100m Final (Regional: 11.75) 6:05 p.m. CT|
|400m Final (Regional: 54.61) 6:15 p.m. CT|
|800m Final (Regional: 2:09.80) 6:25 p.m. CT|
|200m Final (Regional: 23.96) 7:00 p.m. CT|
# - NCAA Regional Qualifier, * - NCAA Automatic Qualifier, + - NCAA Provisional Qualifier, ! - Personal Record (Outdoors), dnf - Did Not Finish, dnq - Did Not Qualify, dnr - Did Not Run, dns - Did Not Start, dq - Disqualified, f - Facility Record, fs - False Start, h - Hand Times, nm - No Mark, p - Prelims, s - School Record (Outdoors).