Nia Ali sets SEC meet record in 100-m hurdles

TUSCALOOSA , Ala. - Fueled by a meet-record time in the 100-meter hurdles, University of Tennessee freshman Nia Ali found herself in first place Thursday with 3,470 points after the first day of her first-career heptathlon at the SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Competing in sweltering 90-degree temperatures at Sam Bailey Stadium, the product of Pleasantville, N.J., began the competition in most impressive fashion, winning the 100-meter hurdles in a meet heptathlon record time of 13.25 seconds to garner 1,079 points.

She obliterated the old mark, which was a readout of 13.57 by LSU's Cheryl Wilson back in 1986. Ali also eclipsed her previous personal best of 13.32, which she set in Baton Rouge, La., on April 21 this season at the Alumni Gold meet.

Ali then added 842 more points to her sum by clearing five-feet, 6 1/2 inches in the high jump to take third. That showing increased her point total to 1,929 and kept her atop the leader board ahead of second-place Shaunette Davidson of LSU (1,794) and third-place Marrissa Harris of Mississippi State (1,776) after two events.

Next, Ali landed one fair throw in the second of her three shot put attempts. Her sixth-place mark of 34 feet, 4 1/4 inches, though, was good enough to dump 560 more points into her account and bring her total to 2,489. MSU's Harris moved into second at 2,401, while Davidson dropped to third at 2,383.

The UT multi-eventer closed out the day as she had begun it, unleashing a bookend PR of 24.00 seconds to win the 200-meter dash. By toppling her prior PR of 24.21, which she recorded at the Pepsi Florida Relays in early April, Ali's victorious clocking today earned her another 981 points to wind up the four-event first day.

Harris was second in the 200m at 24.45 to remain in second place with 3339, while Davidson stayed on her heels with 3282.

"It's her (Ali's) first heptathlon, and she's doing a great job," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "Now she has to stay focused and complete the task. This is just half of it - it's a great start, but she has to finish it off with a great second day.

"Obviously, she's in a good position right now. But she's competing in the SEC, and no one is going to concede. She's a very tenacious competitor, and she just has to come back and finish it out tomorrow."

On Friday, Ali and her cohorts will return to the track at 4 p.m. Central Time for the final three events of the heptathlon.

Junior Shanna Dickenson is Tennessee's first competitor on day two, taking part in the hammer throw at 12:30 p.m. CT.

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