J.J. Clark signs stellar athletes

After recently having its 2006 class of newcomers ranked sixth nationally by Track & Field News, the University of Tennessee women's track & field program has added to that haul of talent with another signing class worthy of national attention.

While it won't have the sheer numbers of last year's group, the fall 2006 crop features three prep All-Americans ranked in TFN's high school girls top five in their respective events.

Inking their names on scholarship papers to run for the Lady Volunteers, the 2005 NCAA Indoor champions, are sprinters Brittany Jones of Pompano Beach, Fla., and Jeneba (JEN-uh-ba) Tarmoh (TARR-mo) of Stockton, Calif., and middle distance runner Brittany Sheffey of Bellport, N.Y.

"This is our fourth consecutive year of signing a very strong recruiting class," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "The first year we got Tianna Madison and Leslie Treherne, and we have gotten stronger and stronger ever since.

"This is a very good class, as we continue to add quality and attempt to cover many different events. Last year, we got in Nia (Ali) and Lynne (Layne), along with Jackie (Areson), Kelly (Parrish) and Rose-Anne (Galligan), which is the whole spectrum. We're just trying to cover all the bases with quality, and this group definitely adds to the strength of our program, because they are among the top athletes in the country in their events.

"We feel very good and confident about this group and look forward to getting them here, in orange, and contributing toward helping us be the best team we can be."

Tarmoh, who attends Mt. Pleasant High School in San Jose, has put herself in elite company after only two full years of high school track. As a junior, she uncorked a time of 11.24 in the 100-meter dash. Only two California prep stars have run faster at that age - Olympians Marion Jones and Angela Williams - and only seven other U.S. junior women, period.

To add further perspective, current Lady Vol star Cleo Tyson (11.10) and former standout Kelli White (11.20) are the only athletes in the history of the UT program to run faster than Tarmoh.

In 2006, Tarmoh's previously-mentioned 100m effort ranked second best among U.S high school girls, while her 200-meter clocking of 23.14 rated third. Those times were recorded at the USA Track & Field Junior National Championships in Indianapolis, where she finished third in each event.

Indoors, she stood second on TFN's 200m prep list at 23.66, was third in the 55 meters at 6.86 and stood sixth in the 60 meters at 7.39. All of those readouts would easily rank her among UT's current list of top-10 performers.

After sweeping state titles in the 100m and 200m dashes last spring and earning San Jose Sports Hall of Fame Prep Athlete of the Year acclaim, Tarmoh also fared well on the international scene during the summer. In August, she ran the leadoff leg as the United States 4x100-meter relay team uncorked a time of 43.49 to take the gold medal at the IAAF World Junior Track & Field Championships in Beijing, China.

Jones, who hails from Deerfield Beach High School and was the Miami Herald's Girls Track Athlete of the Year as a junior last season, will join previous Florida prep All-Americans Jackie Areson (Delray Beach/Atlantic Community), Pavi'Elle "Tiki" James (Miami/Northwestern) and Kelly Parrish (Ocala/Vanguard) at Rocky Top.

Also a standout volleyball and basketball player, she won 3A/4A titles in the 200 and 400 meters in 2006 and posted the fastest prep times in the state and fifth quickest in the nation by running season bests of 23.31 and 53.14, respectively.

As a sophomore, in her first year of participating in high school track & field, Jones burst onto the national scene in spectacular fashion, winning the 400m at the 2005 Nike Outdoor Championships in a career-best and meet-record 52.44, taking second in the 200m in a personal-record 23.13 and finishing third in the 100m at 11.63. Her times in the 200m and 400m rated her No. 2 in the U.S. among prep females.

Jones' performances earned her a spot on the U.S. Pan Am Juniors Team, which traveled to Windsor, Ontario, Canada, in July 2005. The young Floridian responded with a 23.16 output to earn a bronze medal in the 200 meters and ran the third leg on Team USA's victorious 4x400m relay to strike gold.

Just as the addition of Tarmoh and Jones will strengthen an already-stout sprint corps, Sheffey's arrival will provide benefit to a deep distance group that aids both the track and cross country programs. The product of Bellport High School in Brookhaven, N.Y., has already accumulated a pair of All-America certificates and six state titles during her prep career. Among her individual accomplishments are state titles indoors at 1000 and 1500 meters and victories outdoors at 800 and 1500 meters.

A year ago, Sheffey ranked number two in the U.S. in the 1000 meters (2:50.26) and fourth in the mile (4:50.10). She claimed a victory in the 1500 meters at the 2006 USA Youth Outdoor Championships in 4:43.14 and took third in the high school mile at the Penn Relays in 4:53.96.

As a sophomore, Sheffey led the nation in the 1500 meters at 4:26.13, ranking ahead of current Lady Vol teammate and 2006 SEC 1500m champion Sarah Bowman, and set a national sophomore record in the 1000 meters at 2:49.48. Thus far in her prep career, she has earned all-state acclaim three times in cross country and four times in track, and has been named Suffolk County Outstanding Athlete twice each in cross country and track.

In other news, the Lady Vols, who won NCAA and Southeastern Conference Indoor national titles in 2005, were among four SEC schools cited by Track & Field News as reeling in top-10 signing classes. The others are No. 3 LSU, No. 5 Florida and No. 9 South Carolina. Also making the upper echelon were No. 1 Southern California, No. 2 Texas A&M, No. 4 Nebraska, No. 7 Stanford, No. 8 Oregon and No. 10 Duke.

Among the top flight newcomers who have already represented the Big Orange are freshman distance runners Jackie Areson (Delray Beach, Fla./Atlantic Community H.S.), Rose-Anne Galligan (County Kildare, Ireland /Newbridge College) and Kelly Parrish (Ocala, Fla. /Vanguard H.S.).

Areson and Parrish were high school All-Americans and multi-time state champions in Florida, while Galligan possesses Irish junior national records in the 1500m and 3000m indoors and was a three-time national champion in the 1500m from 2003 to 2005 and won a national 800m title in 2005 to boot. Areson fared the best of the trio during the fall 2006 cross country season, scoring in all seven meets for Tennessee and earning USTFCCCA All-South Region honors.

Joining the program after transferring from the University of Southern California and the University of Miami, respectively, are jumper Brittany Daniels (Tracy, Calif./Merrill West) and hurdler Pavi'Elle James (Miami, Fla./Northwestern).

Both were high school All-Americans and were recruited by Tennessee during their prep days after five-time state champ Daniels set an American junior record in the triple jump and was the 2005 Gatorade Female Track & Field Athlete of the Year, while James was a two-time 4A state champ in Florida and the 2005 Nike Outdoor national champion in the 100m hurdles.

The rookie class includes a pair of blue chip recruits in hurdler/sprinter Nia Ali and sprinter Lynne Layne. Ali is a national prep champion in the 60m hurdles who hails from Philadelphia, Pa., and attended Pleasantville, N.J., High School. Layne, meanwhile, is a product of New Rochelle N.Y. (New Rochelle H.S.), who won indoor national titles in the 60 and 200 meters during her high school days.

"As a coach, this is the strongest recruiting class I've ever had," Clark said. "Our sprint/distance combination will allow us to have many great and exciting moments here at UT. We look forward to coming together when it is time. That should be a lot of fun."

Tennessee also returns All-America performers in sprinters Courtney Champion (Lawrenceville, Ga.), LaTonya Loche (Bastrop, La.) and Cleo Tyson (Huntsville, Texas) and 800m runner Leslie Treherne (Chesapeake, Va.). It also welcomes back 2006 SEC 1500m champ and NCAA qualifier Sarah Bowman (Warrenton, Va.) and previous NCAA qualifiers Felicia Guliford (Gallup, N.M.) in the distance events and Celriece Law (Denver, Colo.) in the hurdles.

UT will open its 2007 indoor campaign on Jan. 12-13, as it travels to Lexington, Ky., for the Kentucky Invitational at Nutter Fieldhouse.

"We're really happy to have some freshmen and transfers add to the stability and growth of our program," Clark said. "We're a good team on paper and should have the potential to do well in our conference and nationally."

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