Track & field athletes head to 'Last Chance'

Six Lady Vol track & field athletes will hit the road this weekend, hoping to improve their chances of earning a ticket to the NCAA Indoor Championships. They will try to accomplish that goal on Saturday afternoon, as they compete in the Virginia Tech Last Chance Invitational at Rector Fieldhouse in Blacksburg, Va.

Taking the opportunity to improve their qualifying stock will be junior Shanna Dickenson in the weight throw at noon, sophomore Pavi'Elle "Tiki" James in the 55m hurdle prelims and finals at 12:45 and 2 p.m., respectively, and the 4x400m relay combination of freshman Nia Ali, junior Courtney Champion, junior LaTonya Loche and senior Leslie Treherne.

All own NCAA provisional qualifying marks, but the coaching staff believes a boost in their performances this weekend might solidify their status for the national indoor meet, which will be held March 9-10 at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark.

Dickenson stands 17th nationally in the weight throw with a heave of 65 feet, 2 3/4 inches, James is 25th in the hurdles with a time of 8.35 seconds and the 4x400m relay ranks 14th at three minutes, 38.48 seconds.

Lady Vols who have automatically qualified are Champion in both the 60m (7.15) and 200m (23.10) and sophomore Celriece Law in the 60m hurdles (8.15). Provisional qualifiers who appear to be in solid standing are junior Cleo Tyson in the 60m (7.28), freshman Lynne Layne in the 200m (23.54), Treherne in the 800m (2:06.52), sophomore Sarah Bowman in the mile (4:40.72), senior Katie Flaute in the 5000 meters (16:24.41), Ali in the 60m hurdles (8.18) and the distance medley relay combination (11:11.32) of freshman Rose-Anne Galligan, Loche, Treherne and Bowman.

After winning the SEC Indoor Track & Field Championship over the weekend, Tennessee women rose one spot to sixth in this week's United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Poll and remained seventh in the Trackwire 25 this week.

Arizona State, Michigan, LSU, Georgia and South Carolina all stand in front of UT in the USTFCCCA Poll, while the top three are the same in the Trackwire 25, with Stanford, Georgia and South Carolina filling out the fourth through sixth slots ahead of the Big Orange.

The USTFCCCA poll is generated by a committee of coaches from around the country. The Trackwire 25, meanwhile, projects a hypothetical score for the NCAA Championship meet, factoring in injury reports and other variables supported by information gathered from coaches and NCAA-qualifying competitions across the country. This projection is generated by scoring the Dandy Dozen, a power ranking of the top 12 athletes and relay squads in each NCAA event.

Areas where Tennessee is ranked in the women's Dandy Dozen include the 60 meters (Courtney Champion, 2nd), the 200 meters (Champion, 4th/Lynne Layne, 11th), the mile run (Sarah Bowman, 5th), the 60-meter hurdles (Celriece Law, 5th/Nia Ali, 11th) and the distance medley relay (6th).

INDIA HONORED: Senior outfielder India Chiles was selected as the CAREacter "Star Athlete of the Week" for her efforts both on and off the diamond to benefit the University of Tennessee and the surrounding community.

The CAREacter Program is based on a five-point star system that includes the basic traits of a true champion, whether on or off the field. Those traits are attitude, character, grades, community service and performance.

Every week the coaches from each school and specific sport will select one student athlete as their school's "Star Athlete of the Week" based on these five criteria. As a reward for their accomplishments, these students will be recognized each week by the local media and presented with a T-shirt and a letter acknowledging them as the "Star Athlete of the Week."

Chiles, the top returning hitter in the Southeastern Conference heading into the 2007 campaign, has picked up right where she left off last season by registering a .442 batting average (19-of-43) with 19 runs scored, six RBI and is 11-for-11 on stolen base attempts to lead UT. The Louisville, Ky., native has hit safely in 12 of 15 games this year, tallied two or more hits in six contests and is currently on an eight-game hitting streak.

She also serves as a team captain and provides an example for her teammates each day in practice. Off the diamond, Chiles has been involved in the community in numerous projects including the Habitat for Humanity and is twice an ESPN the Magazine All-District IV choice for her stellar efforts in the classroom.

The Tennessee Lady Vol softball squad is the nation's unanimous No. 1 choice in both major polls this week after Wednesday's release of the Louisville Slugger/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) coaches' rankings. Off to the third-best start in school history at 15-0, the Orange & White were also in the top spot by a unanimous vote in yesterday's new Softball rating.

One of three unbeatens left in the Top 25, Tennessee received all 30 first-place votes to stay No. 1 for the third consecutive week. Arizona State (17-1) remained in second despite suffering its initial defeat of the campaign to No. 8 Northwestern in the Palm Springs Classic. Defending national champion Arizona (11-3) advances a spot to third, replacing new No. 4 Texas A&M (13-2). The Wildcats took two of three games from the Aggies last weekend in Tucson, Ariz., to switch positions in the poll. The Alabama Crimson Tide (16-0) sit at No. 5 after winning its home tournament, the Hampton Inn Crimson Classic.

Other SEC teams included in the listing include LSU (17-1) at No. 7, Florida (14-5) at No. 17 and Georgia (11-6) at No. 21.

Tennessee will head down I-75 this week to Chattanooga for the Frost Classic hosted by the Tennessee-Chattanooga. During its weekend stay at the event, the Lady Vols will face off against Illinois-Chicago, Oakland, Tennessee Tech, Toledo and Austin Peay. Live stats will be provided when possible on and, periodic updates will be provided to the Lady Vol Hotline at (865) 974-8700 ( box #6).

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