UT opens with successful meet

LEXINGTON , Ky. - Junior sprinter Courtney Champion rolled to a pair of victories and headlined a day that saw the University of Tennessee women's track & field team chart one automatic NCAA qualifying mark and collect five other provisionals at the season-opening Kentucky Invitational at Nutter Fieldhouse.

"We had a great start," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said Saturday. "Courtney Champion hit an auto mark in our first meet, which is absolutely fantastic. We had a lot of provisionals and personal bests throughout our whole team, so we are very happy with this effort. It was a great meet and a great opener."

Champion evoked memories of her stellar freshman season, ripping off a victorious 7.26-second readout in the 60-meter dash finals that was worthy of automatic qualification to the NCAA Indoor Championships. Champion, the SEC runner-up and NCAA sixth-place finisher in 2005, also clicked off a 7.29 readout in the prelims. Those two marks by the junior from Lawrenceville, Ga., are the fastest season-opening 60s in program history.

Cleo Tyson, an 11-time All-American, covered the straight sprint in a provisional-qualifying 7.40 to make the finals, but the coaching staff opted not to run the Huntsville, Texas, product in the "money race." Rookie Lynne Layne (New Rochelle, N.Y.) wound up fourth in a 7.45 run that just missed the provisional standard (7.44), while junior LaTonya Loche (Bastrop, La.) was eighth at 7.63.

Champion, who owns facility high school records here in two events, collected her second victory of the meet and added an NCAA provisional in the 200-meter dash later in the day. Her 23.61 readout easily met the "B" mark of 23.90. Layne, meanwhile, grabbed seventh place in a time of 24.43, and Loche was 10th in 24.76.

Freshman Nia Ali (Philadelphia, Pa.) made her presence felt as well, zipping to a second-place time of 8.22 in the 60-meter hurdle finals and registering an NCAA provisional marker. Her readout ranks as the fastest opening-meet 60m hurdles output and the second-best performance in school history behind Benita Fitzgerald's 8.18 in 1983.

Ali, who took runner-up honors behind Georgia Tech junior Shantia Moss (8.17), had company in the finals, as sophomore Celriece Law (Denver, Colo. ) grabbed fourth in 8.52 and sophomore Pavi'Elle "Tiki" James, a transfer from Miami, Fla., was right behind her in 8.55. Ali (second), Law (third) and James (seventh) give UT three hurdlers on the school's all-time performers list.

In the mile run, sophomore Sarah Bowman (Warrenton, Va.) added yet another provisional, covering the distance in four minutes, 46.94 seconds to place second behind Michigan senior Katie Erdman. Bowman, who led until the Wolverine All-American passed her just into the bell lap, logged the second-fastest season-opening mile time in UT annals. Only Brenda Webb's 1979 effort of 4:39.5 was faster this early in the season. To boot, Bowman just missed her PR of 4:46.17, which she recorded in last year's SEC Indoor prelims.

The distance corps also came through with two PR efforts in the 3000 meters. It was a day for Katies, as Katie Van Horn (Glendora, N.J.) knocked 15 seconds off her previous best to place fifth in 9:43.21, while Katie Flaute (Dayton, Ohio) was sixth in 9:44.95. In their UT track debuts, rookies Rose-Anne Galligan (County Kildare , Ireland ) and Jackie Areson (Delray Beach, Fla.) were 10th in 9:50.83 and 16th in 10:02.85, respectively.

In the 800 meters, senior Leslie Treherne (Chesapeake, Va.) led for a good portion of her race before finishing fourth in 2:10.36 and missing the auto cut of 2:09.00 by a little over a second. Freshman Phoebe Wright (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) won her section in 2:15.59 and placed sixth overall.

In the shot put, sophomore Amara McKell (Nashville, Tenn.) registered her second PR of the meet. Her heave of 44-4 3/4 was good for a tie for ninth place. Junior Shanna Dickenson (Cincinnati, Ohio), meanwhile, was 13th with an effort of 42-7.

As part of her first meet success, Ali also added a third-place finish in the long jump, turning in a top leap of 18-11.25. Layne was ninth at 17-9.75.

Tennessee closed out the day by running three different 4x400m relay line-ups, all with an exhibition-style flavor. The lineup of Loche, Treherne, Layne and Wright was the best of the three, finishing ninth in 3:54.20.

On Friday, Dickenson recorded the Lady Vols' first NCAA qualifying mark of the season, doing so with a provisional effort in the weight throw.

Dickenson unleashed a throw of 62 feet, five inches on her fourth attempt of the competition to etch her name onto the NCAA provisional list and finish fourth in the 35-athlete competition. The measurement was the second best of her career, ranking behind only her personal-record heave of 62-7 1/4 at the end of 2006. She stands number two on UT's all-time performers list in that event as well as in the hammer throw outdoors.

Later that evening, Dickenson and McKell took part in the discus throw, an event that is usually contested outdoors and not trained for indoors. McKell responded by popping off four throws that were better than her previous personal best of 139-2. Her top fling of 146-6 stood up for third place. Dickenson, an SEC scorer in that event a year ago, stretched the tape to 145-10 with her peak toss of the night to wind up fifth.

In the triple jump, Law made the finals with the second-best leap of the evening at 40-10 1/4. It was pre-determined by the coaching staff that she would take only three jumps to keep her legs fresh for Saturday's hurdles and long jump action, so she utilized only her tries in the preliminary round. She made her second attempt of the night stand up for second-place overall and would have carded a victory with a measurement in the neighborhood of 42 feet had she not fouled on her third and final effort of the competition.

Sophomore Rebecca Cole, a Farragut graduate who transferred to the Lady Vols this season from East Tennessee State, opened her career in orange by tying her career best at 10-6 in the pole vault. That mark placed Cole 16th. Classmate Alicia Essex (Purcellville, Va.), meanwhile, was unable to clear a bar after entering at a height of 11-5 3/4.

The Lady Vols are scheduled to return to action next Friday at the Notre Dame Indoor Opener.

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