June 11, 2007
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- For the third consecutive season, a University of Tennessee woman has been named Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Freshman Runner of the Year. Nia Ali is the latest Lady Vol rookie to earn that distinction, joining 2006 honoree Sarah Bowman and 2007 winner Cleo Tyson.
Hailing from Philadelphia, Pa., and a graduate of Pleasantville (N.J.) High School, Ali is the fourth female UT rookie to earn league acclaim for her first-year prowess over the past four years. In addition to Bowman, Tyson and Ali, Tianna Madison was named the league's Freshman Field Events Athlete of the Year in 2004. After sweeping the SEC and NCAA Indoor and Outdoor titles in the long jump and winning an IAAF World Championship in 2005, Madison departed for the professional ranks. Bowman and Tyson, who are each multi-time All-Americans, just completed their sophomore and junior seasons at UT, respectively.
During the 2007 campaign, Ali won the SEC women's heptathlon in her first career try at that event. She tallied a score of 5,490 points that was just 10 points short of the automatic qualifying standard and earned herself an at-large berth into the NCAA Outdoor Championship field. An injury suffered prior to the NCAA Mideast Regional two weekends ago, however, prevented her from competing in Sacramento at the national meet.
In her first event of her first-ever heptathlon, Ali broke the SEC record in the heptathlon 100m hurdles by running a career-best time of 13.25 seconds. She came back later in the SEC meet and ran 13.25 in the open 100m hurdles to place third and took ninth in the open high jump at 5-7, winding up with 16 overall points in her first SEC Outdoor Championship meet.
Ali won the SEC heptathlon 200 meters in 24.00, and finished second in the long jump (19-6 1/4) and high jump (5-6 1/2). Overall at the league meet, Ali had career bests in the 100m hurdles (13.25), 200 meters (24.00) and long jump (19-6 1/4). She ranks number three on UT's all-time performers list in the 100m hurdles.
Other women's honorees, released by the SEC Office on Monday afternoon, included SEC Women's Track & Field Coach of the Year Dennis Shaver (LSU), SEC Women's Track & Field Runner of the Year Kerron Stewart (Auburn), SEC Women's Field Event Athlete of the Year Britney Reese (Ole Miss) and SEC Women's Freshman Field Event Athlete of the Year Miriam Kevkhishvili (Freshman). Natalie Picchetti and Natasha Hastings are the Co-Scholar Athletes of the Year. All awards were voted on by the league's coaches prior to the NCAA Outdoor Championship meet.