Lady Vol rowers get NCAA bid

Tennessee will compete in the event it hosts, as for the second consecutive year, the Lady Volunteer rowing program earned a full-team bid to the 2007 NCAA Rowing Championships, the championship committee announced Wednesday. The regatta will take place from May 25-27 at Melton Hill Lake in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

Tennessee finished third at last weekend's Aramark Central/South Sprints, the squad's highest finish in the event's 11-year history. The Orange and White qualified for every varsity grand final last weekend, another first for the Lady Vols.

UT's Varsity 8+ finished the spring season with a 22-8 mark after a fourth-place showing in the grand final of the Aramarks last weekend. The crew, currently ranked No. 17 in the country, has defeated some of the top shells in the country, downing No. 7 Stanford, No. 14 Washington State, No. 3 Notre Dame, No. 6 Michigan, No. 13 Michigan State and No. 7 Minnesota once each and No. 19 Louisville and No. 11 UCF twice.

The Lady Vols' Second Varsity 8+ holds a 21-7 mark on the spring, finishing fifth in the Aramark Sprints last weekend. The crew was victorious in big races over Ohio State, Michigan, Stanford and Washington State in the sprint season.

The Varsity 4+, who also pulled in a fifth-place result in Oak Ridge last weekend, stands at 18-8 this spring, taking wins over Stanford, Yale and Ohio State.

Tennessee will be joined in the field by Brown, California, Harvard, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Princeton, Southern California, Virginia, Washington and Yale. The four programs that received at-large First Eights bids are Dartmouth, Stanford, UCF and UCLA. Brown, Princeton and Washington continue their streak of competing in every NCAA Rowing Championship.

The 2007 NCAA Rowing Championships begin on Friday, May 25, with the Division I First Eights heats at 8 a.m. A three-day pass to the event costs $25 for general admission or $10 for children or students, while daily tickets are priced at $10 a person or $5 for students and children.

Tickets may be purchased online at ut until May 24.

NIA ALI HONORED: In her first career attempt at that event, Tennessee freshman Nia Ali won the women's heptathlon last Thursday and Friday at the SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Not only was that victory worth 10 points in the meet, the triumph earned Ali the vote of the media relations staff as Lady Vol Athlete of the Week.

Ali, who hails from Philadelphia, Pa., and attended Pleasantville (N.J.) High School, shockingly led the competition wire-to-wire and scored 5,490 points in becoming the first Big Orange woman to capture that event since Marvena Almond in 1996. Her point total met the NCAA provisional qualifying standard and was just 10 points off the automatic mark as the 16th-best score in the nation this season. The effort moved her to number five on the school's all-time performers list.

The UT rookie began the meet in stellar fashion, breaking a 21-year-old SEC heptathlon record in the 100-meter hurdles. Her career-best clocking of 13.25 seconds toppled the 13.57 mark that LSU's Cheryl Wilson set back in 1986. Ali would go on to register career bests in the 200 meters (24.00), long jump (19-6 1/4), javelin (89-2) and 800 meters (2:24.55) en route to her surprise victory in the two-day, seven-event competition that was contested in temperatures soaring into the low 90s.

In addition to her heroics in the heptathlon, Ali also competed in the open 100-meter hurdles and high jump at the meet, producing 16 total points toward the Tennessee cause. She matched her career best in the hurdles in the finals on Sunday, rolling down the track in 13.25 again to place third and grab six points. She just missed adding more in the high jump, taking ninth with a best clearance of five-feet, seven inches.

Ali and her teammates will be back in action on May 25-26, as they travel to Columbia, Mo., to compete in the NCAA Mideast Regional. Top-five finishers in individual events and top-three placers in the relays automatically advance to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, Calif., June 6-9.

Ali is regionally qualified in the 100m hurdles and high jump. She will have to wait and see whether or not her point total in the heptathlon is sufficient to earn a bid to the national championship meet.

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