Lady Vols conclude successful meet

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Annie Alexander came through with another victory in the shot put, and the 4x400m relay quartet produced the team's fifth NCAA provisional of the day, concluding a productive weekend at the Penn State National for the third-ranked Tennessee women's track & field program Saturday.

All told, the Lady Volunteers won four events during the two-day meet at PSU's Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track and secured 16 marks that met the provisional qualifying standard for the NCAA Indoor Championship meet.

Besides the victories, UT also had eight other top-three finishes on the weekend, including four runner-up performances, at a meet that featured five other teams ranked nationally in the USTFCCCA Poll.

"Overall, our team is making great progress," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "I feel good about the weekend and how we were able to get 16 provisionals on the board and win four events. We look forward to going to Kentucky next Friday and Saturday and continuing our development."

Alexander, a freshman from Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, kept her victory streak alive in the throws, winning her third collegiate competition in as many tries this season. The rookie came up with a heave of 53 feet, 3 3/4 inches on her second attempt to win the shot put title.

Alexander, who just joined the team the first week of January, triumphed in both the shot put and the indoor discus at the Kentucky Invitational two weekends ago. After taking second in the weight throw on Friday night, senior Shanna Dickenson (Cincinnati, Ohio) settled for 24th in the shot on Saturday at 43-1 1/2. Classmate Amara McKell (Nashville) was 26th at 41-7 1/4.

"Annie had a good throw today to win her second shot put competition of the season," Clark said. "I am hopeful that she'll be able to continue to improve and continue these types of performances, because she will be a big part of our program as the season goes along."

Fresh off running a quality 800m leg on Friday evening for Tennessee's victorious distance medley relay, sophomore Phoebe Wright (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) came back Saturday afternoon to cross the line as the top collegiate finisher and take second overall in the invitational 800-meter run. She did so by notching a career best and meeting the NCAA qualifying standard with an effort of 2:08.44 that crushed her previous mark of 2:13.20.

Only former Lady Vol Alisa Harvey was faster, breaking her own American masters 41-44 age group record (2:07.23 in 2006) with a 2:07.08 reading en route to victory.

Wright's teammates, freshman Brittany Sheffey (Bellport, N.Y.) and junior Kimarra McDonald (Lumberton, N.J.) placed third and sixth, respectively, in the 800m. Sheffey's was an NCAA provisional readout of 2:08.85, whle McDonald came home in a personal best of 2:11.03.

In the 200 meters, sophomore Lynne Layne (New Rochelle, N.Y.) delivered her first provisional of the season in that event, taking second in 23.80. Senior LaTonya Loche (Bastrop, La.) and freshman Jeneba Tarmoh (San Jose, Calif.) shared third with matching 23.98 readouts, while rookie Brittany Jones (Pompano Beach, Fla.) was seventh in a career-best 24.32 and senior Cleo Tyson (Huntsville, Texas) came in eighth in 24.35.

In the final event of the day for Tennessee, it was a patchwork 4x4 unit snagging that relay's first NCAA mark of the young campaign. The foursome of Loche, Wright, junior Rolanda Bell (Laurelton, N.Y.) and Jones navigated the distance in 3:39.85 to narrowly dip under the 3:40.00 provisional threshold. Host Penn State was able to hold off the Big Orange, winning in 3:38.21.

Earlier, junior Alicia Essex (Purcellville, Va.) came up with a fourth-place result in the invitational division of the pole vault. She did so with a clearance of 12-4 and now has finished in the top five at four of her past five indoor meets.

Head Coach J.J. Clark's wife and pupil, five-time Olympian Jearl Miles-Clark, joined Harvey in setting an American masters division (age 40-44) record. Miles-Clark did so in the 400m dash, covering the distance in 57.09 to topple Lesia Batiste's 2003 mark of 57.40. JMC is training for an attempt to make her sixth U.S. Olympic Team in 2008.

On Friday, senior Courtney Champion (Lawrenceville, Ga.) closed out a successful first day by zipping down the straightaway in 7.39 seconds to capture her second consecutive straight sprint title at this meet and give Tennessee its fourth victory in a row in that event at this competition.

She had to make it through two preliminary rounds to do so, which she did easily by winning her opening heat in a season-best 7.36 (tying her for seventh best in the NCAA ranks this season) and her semifinal race in 7.37. All three times met the provisional standard.

Four other Lady Vols joined Champion in the 60m finals, but only three of them ran. Lynne Layne collected third-place honors by clicking off a 7.42 effort in the final, while Jeneba Tarmoh was fourth at 7.45 and LaTonya Loche was seventh in 7.62. Tarmoh (7.38) and Loche (7.49) logged season-bests and provisionals in the opening round, as did senior Cleo Tyson (Huntsville, Texas), who did not run in the final after carding a season-topper of 7.36 in the prelims.

Running together for the first time ever, the Lady Vol distance medley relay quartet of junior Sarah Bowman, freshman Brittany Jones sophomore Phoebe Wright and freshman Brittany Sheffey turned in an impressive performance. The foursome delivered UT its fourth DMR crown at this meet in the past five seasons, easily winning in an NCAA provisional readout of 11:13.64 that wasn't far off the auto standard of 11:09.00.

Bowman and Jones staked the Big Orange to a slight lead over West Virginia through the 1200m and 400m legs. It was Wright, the former walk-on from Red Bank High School, though, who balloned the lead to 70 meters with a 2:07 800m hitch. Sheffey then took care of business on the anchor leg and pushed for the NCAA auto envelope until crossing the line in provisional fashion with a DMR reading that ranks number five all-time in Lady Vol history.

Junior Katie Van Horn charted the Lady Vols' first victory of the meet, winning the invitational 5000-meter run title for the second year in a row. The product of Glendora, N.J., covered the distance in an NCAA provisional qualifying readout of 16 minutes, 41.72 seconds to become the first woman to claim two invitational 5K crowns at this meet. With Sharon Dickie's triumph in 2004, UT women now have won three of the past five.

The Lady Vols will be back in action next weekend, as they make their second trip up Interstate 75 this season. They will be in Lexington, Ky., to compete in the Rod McCravy Memorial on Feb. 1-2.

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