Two Lady Vols qualify for nationals

Lady Vol track stars Toyin Olupona and Janine Tessarzik earned tickets to the NCAA Mideast Regional in the 100-meter dash and shot put, respectively, and Tessarzik brought down the school record in the hammer throw Sunday at the Knoxville Invitational at Tom Black Track.

Olupona, who made her 2003 outdoor 100-meter debut on a brilliant, spring afternoon, sped to a regional qualifying mark of 11.72 in securing first-place honors. Not only was it a strong start for the Orillia, Canada, native, it was also impressive due to the fact that she was able to run fast without anyone in the field pushing her. Former Lady Vol Aoife Hearne was second in 12.14, as the single-heat field ran with a legal wind of 0.8.

Olupona also came back to win the 200-meter dash, clocking a reading of 24.38 with no measurable wind. The race was her first at that distance outdoors as a Lady Vol. She had previously notched a best of 24.34 during the 2003 indoor campaign.

Tessarzik, meanwhile, began the day with a career best and school record in the hammer throw, finishing first among collegians and taking sixth overall with a throw of 175-9/53.57m. The mark, which bested Andrea Pappas's May 12, 2000, school standard of 171-1/52.15m at the SEC Championships in Baton Rouge, La., also topped Tessarzik's previous personal record of 169-3/51.58m. The junior from Altamont, N.Y., had turned in that effort at the SEC Challenge in Columbia, S.C., on April 5, 2003.

Tessarzik, who broke the school mark on her fourth throw, came back on her final effort to bump that standard up a couple more notches. The series was as follows: foul, 161-0/49.09m, 169-6/51.67m, 174-1/53.06m, foul and 175-9/53.57m.

After taking second in the discus at 147-11/45.08, Tessarzik then let loose a PR throw of 46-6.75/14.19m to win the shot put competition. That heave earned "JT" a spot in her third event at the regional meet in Columbus, Ohio, on May 30-31. She will throw the discus, hammer and shot, attempting to earn a shot for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, Calif., on June 11-14.

In the 800 meters, it was a production along the lines of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Make that Hazel Clark and the seven Lady Vols. Clark, a 2000 U.S. Olympian in the half mile and sister of UT Women's Head Coach J.J. Clark, coasted to victory in 2:04.95. Trailing her in almost equidistant succession were junior Erin Anderson (Kent, Ohio) in second at 2:17.34; sophomore Antoinette Gorham (Glenarden, Md.) in third at 2:17.40; freshman Felicia Guliford (Gallup, N.M.) in fourth at 2:19.35; junior Christy Baird (Knoxville, Tenn.) in fifth at 2:20.28; sophomore Elizabeth McCalley (Knoxville, Tenn.) in sixth in a personal-best 2:20.90p; junior Jessica Southers (Ashland, Ky.) in seventh with a career-best 2:22.39; and freshman Caitlin Ward (Gibsonia, Pa.) in eighth with a time of 2:37.66 in her 800 debut.

Ward (Gibsonia, Pa.) was also fourth in the shot put at 36-5.75/11.12m and fifth in the javelin at 76-6/23.33m; while junior Christina Billings (Madison, Wis.) was first in the 400m hurdles in a career-best 62.53; and senior Amber Ayub (Knoxville, Tenn.) was second in the 400-meter hurdles at 65.34, nearly a four-second improvement.

The Lady Vols are back in action on May 3, as they host the Gatorade Classic at Tom Black Track. The meet, which is an open, non-scored meet for men and women but does not include UT's men, will begin with field events at 10:30 a.m., while track activities commence at noon. The event is slated to conclude around 4:25 p.m.

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