Track & field team in 3rd place

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - The University of Tennessee women's track & field team scored in three events on the first day of the 2007 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships, including top-three efforts in the 200-meter dash and distance medley relay, putting the Lady Volunteers in third place Saturday after seven events scored at the Randal Tyson Track Center.

Tennessee tallied 19 points to hold down third place, while No. 1-ranked and meet favorite Arizona State seized the day one lead with 21 points, followed by LSU with 20.

Georgia stands in fourth with 18, followed by Texas in fifth with 14.

The Lady Vols will try to come back on Sunday and register their third top-five NCAA Indoor finish in the past four seasons to go along with a national championship in 2005 and a fourth-place effort in 2004.

"We're scrapping for points," fifth-year UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "This meet is never easy. The highlight of the day was Courtney (Champion) placing third and the DMR taking second. We also scrapped some points out in the hurdles.

"As far as tomorrow, we'll try to go as hard as we can and see what happens. We have a few scoring opportunities in the mile, the 60 and the 4x4. We're going to give what we have and see where that puts us. That's all we can do. Right now, I am excited and pleased with the effort that our team is putting forth."

Tennessee ended the day with an eight-point splurge in the DMR. The combination of freshman Rose-Anne Galligan, junior LaTonya Loche, senior Leslie Treherne and sophomore Sarah Bowman covered the acreage in 11 minutes, 5.92 seconds to grab second-place honors with the number-two effort in school annals.

Despite entering with the fourth-best time of the qualifying squads, UT burst out to a lead after the opening 1200m leg when Galligan came from the back of the pack to put the Lady Vols in the front as she passed the baton to Loche. The junior extended the lead with a strong 400 leg and, along with a 2:06 800m hitch from Treherne, Bowman appeared to be in prime position to deliver UT its second-ever DMR national title.

That accomplishment was not to be on this night, however, as North Carolina's Brie Felnagle uncorked a remarkable anchor leg that gave the Tarheels the victory in an American record time of 10:59.46.

Despite running in the slower heat of a two-section final in the 200-meter dash, junior Courtney Champion rocketed to a school-record and third-place finish in 22.92 seconds.

The mark, which ranks third-fastest in the world this season behind victor Kerron Stewart of Auburn (22.59) and runner-up Kelly -Ann Baptiste of LSU (22.91), bested Champion's 2005 UT mark of 22.98, which she recorded in a third-place NCAA Indoor finish that season. More importantly, Champion's ninth All-America performance of her collegiate career added six huge points into the Big Orange cookie jar.

"Courtney definitely came through," Clark said. "Her development from last year is very good to see. I am not going to say it is unbelievable, because as a freshman she ran very well here in the 200. She has regained her form, plus added the 60. We are just happy to see her moving in the right direction."

Champion made it to the 200m finals by winning heat five in a season-best flash of 23.09 seconds. That mark was then the second-fastest time she had ever run behind her 2005 school best and was fifth quickest of the advancers. Freshman Lynne Layne was not as fortunate, placing fourth in heat one and winding up 18th among the competitors in 23.58.

Freshman Nia Ali and sophomore Celriece Law got Tennessee on scoreboard for the first time at this meet. In the 60m hurdles finals, Ali logged the number-two clocking in her career to snag sixth-place honors in 8.15 seconds. Law was right behind Ali, taking seventh in 8.25 as the two combined to tally five points for Team Orange and collect the first All-America honors of the youngsters' UT tenures.

Their NCAA scoring effort in the hurdles was the first by UT in that event since LaVonna Martin won a national title in 1988. Tonight's two-athlete scoring binge in the hurdles also was a first in Lady Vol track & field history.

Ali and Law had moved along to the finals by turning in the sixth and eighth-fastest times of the prelims. Ali toppled Law's two-week-old school record of 8.15 seconds by churning out an 8.13 effort to place fourth in heat two.

Law, meanwhile, was the final qualifier for the "money race" by a mere 7/1000ths of a second. Her 8.20 readout was good for fifth in heat two and bested the identical time of heat one's Kristi Castlin of Virginia Tech when broken down to one-thousandth of a second, 8.191 to 8.198.

"I am happy to see the hurdlers get in on the scoring and to see the DMR run the second fastest time in school history," Clark said. "It's exciting to see the youngsters run the best they can."

In the 60m dash prelims, Champion also took care of business by winning heat three, charting the second fastest of the qualifying times and moving on to Saturday's 7:15 p.m. Central Time final with an outburst of 7.21 seconds. Only Auburn's Kerron Stewart, who edged Champion in the finals at the SEC Indoor Championships, was faster at 7.20 as the victor in heat two.

Junior Cleo Tyson, meanwhile, pulled up 10 meters before the finish line, grabbing her right hamstring. She managed to finish the race, but her 7.52 report left her at 19th.

Next, it was Bowman's turn in the mile run. Competing in her first individual event at the NCAA Indoor meet, the 2007 SEC champion cruised to a fourth-place finish in heat two with a time of four minutes, 44.17 seconds. With a readout that was faster than the winner of heat one, Bowman will report in at Saturday's 6:15 p.m. Central Time final with the fourth-best reading of the 10 qualifiers.

In the 800 meters, Treherne was unable to earn a lane in the final, finishing seventh in the fastest preliminary race of the evening, heat two. Entering the meet as the 18th-fastest qualifier, her 2:07.91 readout tonight left her as the 13th finisher overall.

In addition to a pair of individual events on Saturday, Tennessee will send its 4x400m relay unit onto the track at 8:05 p.m. Central Time in the final women's event of the meet. The Lady Vols have the 12th-ranked quartet in the field at 3:36.69.

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