UT wins DMR title at prestigious Penn Relays

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - Sarah Bowman's come-from-behind kick on the final lap of the distance medley relay at Franklin Field propelled the University of Tennessee past hometown powerhouse Villanova and delivered the Lady Volunteers their third Championship of America in that event in front of an announced crowd of 23,996 at the 113th Penn Relays.

Set up with a sizeable lead by freshman Rose-Anne Galligan (County Kildare, Ireland), junior LaTonya Loche (Bastrop, La.) and senior Leslie Treherne (Chesapeake, Va.) on the 1600m, 400m and 800m legs, the Warrenton, Va., sophomore's 1600m anchor leg sealed the deal as UT finished in 11 minutes, 9.16 seconds to add a 2007 "relay wheel" to go along with distance medley relay (DMR) titles it won in 2004 and 1983.

Villanova, the defending champion and winner of 10 DMR crowns through the years, settled for second in 11:10.19.

"We ran with confidence, and you could see it in every leg we ran," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "I ran collegiately at Villanova, so I know how much this (winning the DMR at Penn Relays) means.

"These young ladies deserve a lot of credit, because no one thought they would win today. They just went out and executed."

Under Clark 's leadership, the Lady Vols now have won five baton events at the Penn Relays in his first five years at the helm. In addition to the DMR titles in 2004 and 2007, the Big Orange women also have triumphed twice in the sprint medley relay (2004, 2006) and once in the 4x800m relay (2004). In all, Tennessee now owns 13 relay wheels, with the victories coming in the 4x100mR (1984, 1994), 4x400mR (1984), 4x800mR (1981-84, 2004), SMR (2004, 2006) and DMR (1983, 2004, 2007).

Galligan started the proceedings Thursday night by running a 3:26.0 opening hitch. She led most of the way, yielding the lead to Duke briefly before closing out her turn in strong fashion and handing the baton to the awaiting Loche.

"We really wanted this," Galligan said. "It's a great feeling to be able to win my first time as a Lady Vol at this meet."

Loche, who won her very first Penn Relays title this evening, wasted little time in distancing herself from the field. Her 52.9 quarter split enabled her to hand the stick to Treherne with Tennessee running in front of ‘Nova and Georgetown.

"We had a lot of faith in each other that we could get it done today," Loche said. "It was good to get a win for Tennessee and for ourselves. Personally, it is my first victory at the Penn Relays, so it is something very special."

Treherne, the only senior in the foursome, went out a little fast for her coach's liking. Still, she was able to cover her responsibility in 2:08.8 and give Bowman the baton with a head start. All that stood between Treherne and her second career Penn Relays win was an efficient closer from her second-year teammate.

"It feels really good to win the DMR, especially going out as a senior this year," said Treherne, who also led off for UT's victorious 4x800m effort in 2004. "I couldn't ask for anything more than to win a title my last trip to the Penn Relays as a Lady Vol."

Mindful of the NCAA Indoor Championships, where she went out too fast and did not have enough to maintain a large lead as UT settled for second to North Carolina, this time Bowman made sure she had enough in the tank to kick at the end.

Bowman would need that reserve, too, as her more conservative approach allowed Villanova's Frances Koons to creep back into the picture and eventually grab a slight lead, much to the delight of the screaming throng of Wildcat fans gathering en masse on the backstretch. This time, though, Bowman would fill the role of heartbreaker, as she reeled in the VU standout and out-kicked her down the homestretch for the victory.

"Especially after the indoor season, we really wanted to come in here and show we could win," said Bowman, who anchored UT to victory in the sprint medley relay last season as a freshman and twice won the high school mile at this meet. "I knew the Villanova runner was coming, because I could hear their crowd cheering her on. I just stayed with her on the final lap until it was time to go."

Bowman's split time was 4:41.4.

In its only other relay action of the day, Tennessee advanced its 4x100m quartet to Friday's final. The combination of freshmen Nia Ali (Pleasantville, N.J.) and Lynne Layne (New Rochelle, N.Y.) and juniors Loche and Cleo Tyson (Huntsville, Texas) overcame baton-exchange difficulty between the first and second legs to win heat three in 45.29. That mark was the sixth-best of the nine qualifying teams. Auburn was fastest at 44.62.

In the field events, junior Shanna Dickenson (Cincinnati, Ohio) charted a third-place measurement of 190 feet even in the championship division of the hammer throw and came back later to finish eighth in the championship shot put with a career-best heave of 46-1 1/2.

Classmate Amara McKell (Nashville, Tenn.), meanwhile, wound up eight in the college division of the discus at 148-6 and was 18th in the college shot put at 41-7. Pavi'Elle "Tiki" James (Miami, Fla.) had a mark of 17-2 1/4 in the long jump to wind up 18th as well.

The Tennessee women were unable to completely continue the wave of momentum from the DMR win on a soggy Friday that began with heavy thunderstorms and was plagued by event delays of up to 2 1/2 hours for the 39,166 on hand at Franklin Field.

Though there were several unfortunate events during the course of the afternoon for UT, freshman Lynne Layne (New Rochelle, N.Y.) put a positive capper on a challenging day for the Lady Volunteers. She improved her career best from 11.62 to 11.40 in taking fourth in heat two of the 100-meter dash. Layne's effort, fourth-best of the qualifiers, moved her to 10th on UT's all-time performers list in that event. The final is slated for 4:15 p.m. on Saturday.

In the 4x1500m relay, Clark went with a very young lineup and rested two projected entries, sophomore Sarah Bowman and freshman Rose-Anne Galliganm who opened and closed UT's victorious DMR on Thursday. Instead, it was sophomore Rolanda Bell and freshmen Jackie Areson, Kelly Parrish and Phoebe Wright getting the nod, as that quartet finished eighth in 18:13.61, a mark that ranks third in Big Orange annals. Michigan set a collegiate record in that event, winning in 17:15.62.

In two other relays, things did not go Tennessee's way. After overcoming baton exchange problems between the first and second legs on Thursday to advance to the 4x100m relay final, a failure to make the pass between the two and three slots ended UT's hopes of improving its time in that event Friday. The quartet of freshmen Nia Ali and Layne and juniors LaTonya Loche and Cleo Tyson were unable to finish as Layne and Loche came up short in their attempt to move the stick within the zone.

The shuttle hurdle relay also ended prematurely for the women in orange. After Ali and sophomore Celriece Law had staked Tennessee to a lead halfway through the race, sophomore Pavi'Elle "Tiki" James got out of the blocks well and appeared to be extending the advantage. The transfer from Miami, however, clipped the third hurdle, got knocked off balance and had to run off the track to avoid crashing into the fourth barrier. Therefore, UT's bid to record a time in this race at Penn Relays for the first time since 1993 came up short.

Elsewhere, in other individual events, Law soldiered through damp conditions to take sixth in the college triple jump at 39-8 1/2, while in the championship division of the discus throw, junior Shanna Dickenson wound up ninth at 146-1.

Law later ran a 13.68 readout in the prelims of the 100m hurdles, but her fifth-place standing in heat one did not merit advancement to the finals. James also came up short of qualifying for Saturday's money race, taking sixth in heat three with a posting of 13.92.

"Today, we had a mixed bag, I guess you could say," Clark said. "We had some positives, but we had some unfortunate developments with the shuttle hurdles and 4x1. But, we ended up on a good note with Lynne Layne PRing by quite a bit in the 100, and we finished the 4x15 with a young group running competitively. They ran close to their fastest times in each leg, so that was a positive for us.

"We look forward to tomorrow and running the 4x8. We'll see what we can do and where we can finish in the Championship of America."

That race is scheduled to begin at 3:10 p.m.

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