Lady Vols earn six more NCAA provisionals

UNIVERSITY PARK , Pa. - Any way you slice it, the trip to Happy Valley was worthwhile for the 14th-ranked Tennessee women's track & field team. The Lady Vols closed out the final day of competition Saturday at the Penn State National Invitational by clicking off six more NCAA provisional qualifying efforts and bringing their weekend total of national marks to 16 in eight different events.

"Overall, we had a very good meet and had quite a few improvements in a variety of event areas," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said.

"We also put up several more national qualifying marks today as we continue to develop our team both for the Southeastern Conference and NCAA Indoor Championship meets. It was nice to look out there and once again see orange at the front or near the front of many events.

"We came out of this meet healthy, so that's a positive. I am already looking forward to next weekend's meet and trying to qualify more individuals for the national championship meet."

Collecting UT's only victory of the productive day, though, was junior Courtney Champion, who extended Tennessee's streak of 60-meter dash crowns at this meet to three in a row, and a personal victory string to six straight, taking the title in an NCAA provisional time of 7.32 seconds.

Champion, who already had automatically qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships with a nation-leading readout of 7.26 at the season-opening Kentucky Invitational, tacked on a Big Orange victory to triumphs the past two seasons by classmate Cleo Tyson. Tyson and freshman Lynne Layne, who both had qualified for today's final, were spared the wear and tear of another race this early in the season by the coaching staff.

"We all know Courtney Champion is good, and it is great to see her performing more in the manner that we saw from her as a freshman," Clark said. "The key is developing consistency in her performances, and we are happy the way she is striving to do that this season."

In the 60-meter hurdles finals, freshman Nia Ali traversed the obstacles in a career-best reading of 8.21 to snag runner-up distinction behind Hampton senior Yvette Lewis (8.17). Ali lowered her NCAA provisional qualifying time from a previous PR of 8.22 and stands sixth on the NCAA list and owns the second-fastest 60mH clocking in UT annals behind 1984 U.S. Olympian Benita Fitzgerald (8.18).

Sophomore Sarah Bowman delivered the finest mile run of her young career and improved her status on the NCAA provisional list in that event. Her 4:43.08 output was good for second place behind Villanova's Frances Koons, who overtook Bowman on the third lap and held on for the victory in 4:38.98.

Bowman now ranks seventh nationally and first in the Southeastern Conference. She also moved to number seven on UT's all-time performers list with her outing. Freshman Rose-Anne Galligan, meanwhile, just missed her personal best and the provisional cut with a fifth-place result of 4:49.62.

Senior Leslie Treherne added her name to the NCAA provisional list on Saturday afternoon, kicking out a 2:08.82 effort in the 800-meter run that was good for fifth place. She joins Bowman (2:08.18) on the NCAA qualifying list in that event.

In the 200-meter dash, Champion came back in her second event of the day to improve her NCAA provisional stock with a season-best sprint of 23.56 to place fourth.

Tyson, meanwhile, posted an NCAA provisional in her first effort at 200 meters in 2007. The 11-time All-American's 23.65 readout was good for fifth-place honors.

Sophomore Alicia Essex moved herself into company among Tennessee's best all-time pole vaulters, taking third with a career-best clearance of 12 feet, 8 inches. That marked elevated her from 10th on UT's all-time indoor performers list to third behind former Lady Vols Christie Elwin and Jessica Reust.

In the shot put, junior Shanna Dickenson registered her second personal best in as many days. The third-year performer landed a throw of 46-7 1/2 on her first attempt of the competition and made that stand up for an eighth-place finish. Classmate Amara McKell wound up 19th with a best measurement of 42-11 1/2.

During the morning session's very first event, freshman walk-on Phoebe Wright turned in an impressive showing in the open division of the 500 meters. Her 1:15.60 clocking won heat three and placed her second overall among 21 competitors, just 18/100ths of a second behind victorious Lauren McClenney of Syracuse (1:15.42).

Wright's time was less than a second off of Leslie Treherne's 1:14.77 clocking at this meet a year ago. Treherne was an All-American outdoors in 2006 in the 800 meters for the Orange and White.

Elsewhere, sophomore Rolanda Bell turned in a 22-second PR in the 3000 meters, finishing second in the open division in 10:05.33; Layne and junior LaTonya Loche finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the open 200 meters in 24.53 and 24.58; and freshman Jackie Areson was the best of four Lady Vols in the open mile, taking ninth in 5:01.85.

Sophomores Celriece Law and Brittany Daniels lassoed finishes of fourth and fifth, respectively, in the triple jump. Law charted a measurement of 40-7 1/2, while Daniels, in her first appearance as a Lady Vol, moved to number seven on UT's all-time performers list with a leap of 39-7 3/4.

Team Orange closed out the meet by mixing up its 4x400m relay lineups and still nearly hit the provisional plateau. The combination of Loche, Champion, Treherne and Wright put up a time of 3:41.89 to take third in the invitational section, while in the open division, the quartet of Tyson, Layne, Bowman and Galligan fashioned a clocking of 3:48.46 to also grab third place.

Tennessee will return to action next weekend, as the Lady Vols travel to Lincoln, Neb., for the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational.

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