Track qualifies seven for championships

COLUMBIA, Mo. - On the strength of two runnerup finishes Saturday, the University of Tennessee women closed out their stay at the NCAA Mideast Regional by placing fourth in the team standings and automatically qualifying seven athletes in four events for the 2007 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

On a day that saw action at Walton Stadium halted by thunderstorms at the conclusion of the women's 4x100m relay at 4:16 p.m. Central Time, and resumed an hour and eight minutes later at 5:24 p.m., LSU claimed the team title with 112 points, followed by Arkansas (77), Michigan (63), UT (43) and Auburn (35) rounding out the top five.

"It's good to have some athletes advancing and some bright spots in the 4x1, discus, 1500m and 100m," Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "That's all positive. We expected them to get through, and they did, so we were very happy with that.

"With Courtney getting injured, that was unexpected. It's very unfortunate, but it is part of sports, as I said yesterday. She and Nia will have to go back to Knoxville and evaluate how bad their injuries are and make decisions over the next 24 hours as far as declarations (for the NCAA meet) are concerned. The plan is to regroup and get ready for the NCAA meet with the athletes we have."

As the storm front began to push its way through the Columbia area, the Lady Vol 4x100-meter relay unit punched its ticket to the national meet by overcoming baton exchange problems to finish second in 45.17 seconds. With junior Courtney Champion, freshman Lynne Layne and juniors LaTonya Loche and Cleo Tyson handling the stick, UT worked its way back from seventh place to an NCAA berth after Champion and Layne had lost momentum while attempting to make the pass between the first and second legs. The successful race today means UT will be making its third straight appearance in that event at the NCAA Championships, which will be held June 6-9 in Sacramento, Calif.

Junior Shanna Dickenson charted the second runnerup outcome for Team Orange. The third-year UT performer unleashed a season-best fling of 173 feet, nine inches to nab second-place and guarantee a trip to California. Dickenson's mark, which came on her final throw of the competition, was the best she had ever carded in collegiate competition and second-farthest ever behind her 176-2 effort at the 2005 USATF Junior Championships. Earlier in the day, Dickenson wound up 10th in the hammer throw at 185-3. With a previous season-best toss of 198-3 at the Sea Ray Relays, she appears to be in solid shape for an at-large bid in that event.

"Shanna has come through pretty much in all of the big meets for us, and this is just another time that she has done that," Clark said. "John Frazier coaches her and obviously has done a great job in preparing her for competition. I am very pleased that she has earned a trip to the NCAA Championships."

The first women's event after the hiatus was the 1500-meter run, and the Big Orange women were able to claim a pair of qualifiers. Freshman Rose-Anne Galligan extended her season by registering a career-best time of 4:17.20 to snag third-place, while sophomore Sarah Bowman crossed the line right behind her teammate in 4:17.87, just shy of her 4:17.61 PR, to join the national club. After notching a career-best of 4:23.20 yesterday in the prelims, sophomore Rolanda Bell came up short in her bid for an NCAA berth on Saturday, placing ninth in 4:26.40.

Next, Layne went to work and took care of business in the 100 meters. The rookie cruised down the straightaway to a time of 11.42 seconds to place third and earn her NCAA invitation. She tried to make the field in a third event, but her 23.35 readout in the 200 meters left her in sixth place and just out of the qualifying quintet.

Champion, meanwhile, pulled up halfway through the 100 meters and did not finish, ending her participation in the 200 meters and 4x400m relay later in the day. She suffered an injury to her right hamstring and will be re-evaluated when the team returns to Knoxville.

With Champion incapacitated, Tennessee's lineup of Loche, Tyson, freshman Phoebe Wright and senior Leslie Treherne ran the 4x400m relay in 3:37.96 to place seventh.

Elsewhere, Loche turned in a sixth-place showing in the 400 meters at 53.18, while sophomore Celriece Law zipped to the fastest time of her career to take seventh in the 100m hurdles with a clocking of 13.25 and contribute to the Lady Vol scoring tally. In the 3000m steeplechase, freshman Jackie Areson wound up 10th in 10:43.44, while classmate Kelly Parrish came in 16th at 10:54.85.

Tennessee will now await word from the NCAA Track & Field Sub-committee for its final list of national championship qualifiers. That information is slated to be released by 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday on the NCAA Web site:

LADY VOL ROWING: OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – A third-place finish for the Lady Vols' Second Eight proved to be the top showing from the Tennessee contingent on the second day of the 2007 NCAA Rowing Championships, held on Melton Hill Lake.

The crew of freshman coxswain Katie Ross, freshman Mary Beth Dreusike, sophomore Kate Brownlee, junior Leah Smelser, sophomore Caroline Howell, freshmen Laura Miller and Kate Snider and juniors Kendra Warren and Genevieve Collins had a steady row, staying in the 1:42 range for each of the last 500 meters. That helped the group overtake Southern California, whose 1:46.50 time over the third 500-meter stretch proved to be its downfall. The Lady Vols came in one-and-one-half lengths in back of heat winners Washington, who overtook Minnesota over the last 500m to take the win.

In the First Eights semifinals, the 10th-ranked Rocky Top group ranked fifth, coming in 6.28 seconds behind winners Southern California. The Orange and White shell, manned by senior coxswain Stephanie Davis, sophomore Erin-Monique Shelton, juniors Renee Brittle and Krista Gearing, senior Rachel Mayberry, juniors Jessica Ayers and Nina Dobratz, senior Sarah Hutcheson and junior Mary Jones topped No. 7 Stanford by nearly two lengths. The Trojans won the semifinal, crossing the line two seats ahead of Ohio State. Virginia held the same two-seat advantage over Notre Dame to move into the grand final.

The Fours group of freshman Roshauna Singh, senior Kristen Galloway, freshman Erin Gray, senior Heather Hill and junior Marisa Mohan finished fifth in its repechage, coming in two lengths in back of Harvard. California won the rep, while Princeton ranked second to take the final spot in Sunday's grand final. Tennessee will be joined by Southern California and Harvard in the petite final.

Virginia and Brown put themselves in position to capture the national title, with both teams advancing all three crews to Sunday's grand finals. Ohio State lurks as well, with both of the squad's eights making grand finals.

Sunday's events start at 9:30 a.m. with the Division II Fours grand final and concludes with the awards ceremony at 12:45 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults and $5 for children and students at the gate.

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