Sarah Bowman, Cleo Tyson get NCAA qualifiers

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Junior Sarah Bowman and senior Cleo Tyson recorded automatic NCAA qualifying times Saturday afternoon, headlining a productive showing by the second-ranked Tennessee women's track & field team on the final day of the Rod McCravy Memorial at Nutter Field House.

Bowman, from Warrenton, Va., made her 2008 individual debut by crushing the field in the mile run and earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Indoor Championships in the process.

Her career-best readout of 4:37.86 was good enough for a victory margin of more than 10 seconds over her nearest competitor and it ranks her No. 1 in the NCAA this season, supplanting the previous 4:38.22 mark of Michigan's Nicole Edwards.

The effort by Bowman also was the fastest mile time by a Lady Vol in 21 years. Only Alisa Harvey ran faster, logging efforts of 4:35.25 and 4:36.99, respectively, in 1986 and 1987.

Bowman is the defending SEC champion in both the mile and 3000 meters and with UT's distance medley relay quartet.

Two other Lady Vols also took part in the mile run and registered career bests. It was freshman Brittany Sheffey (Bellport, N.Y.) taking fifth, just off the provisional mark of 4:48 in 4:49.07, while junior Rolanda Bell (Laurelton, N.Y.) was 10th at 4:53.40.

Tyson, meanwhile, rocketed down the straightaway in a fleet 7.25 seconds to win heat one and post the fastest time in the nation in the prelims of the 60m dash. After the Huntsville, Texas, product punched her ticket to the NCAA meet in Fayetteville, Ark., on March 14-15 with that performance, the UT coaching staff opted not to run her in the final.

Florida's Lakecia Ealey clocked a 7.27 in the final to claim victory, but Tyson's time stood as the fastest of the meet as well as in the collegiate ranks this season.

Along with Tyson's showing, sophomore Lynne Layne (New Rochelle, N.Y.) pushed her body down the track in a provisional 7.38 to scrap for fourth place against a very talented 60m field. Freshman Jeneba Tarmoh (San Jose, Calif.) was a respectable sixth in a provisional 7.42, while senior LaTonya Loche (Bastrop, La.) was 11th in 7.55 after logging a season-best 7.47 in the prelims. Layne also leaped 19 feet, 1 1/4 inches to snag runner-up honors in the long jump.

"It's very good to see Cleo on track with a great mark in the 60," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "She looked very good and put a mark on the board to contend with at the NCAA meet. Sarah was trying to get in the 4:40 range today and did so very convincingly from wire to wire. She also posted a time that will stack up favorably in Fayetteville."

Junior Katie Van Horn (Glendora, N.J.) came through with the top performance of the day in the 3000 meters, winning the race in a career-best 9:35.97. Van Horn came up just shy of the NCAA provisional barrier of 9:34.

Bowman came back later in the day to notch a provisional, finish as the second collegian and take fourth overall in the 800m in 2:07.32. Her debut mark left her third in the nation in that event. Sheffey was 10th at 2:10.77.

After taking sixth in the 60m earlier in the day, Tarmoh returned later with a third-place showing in the 200m. Her season-topping 23.91 report was just off the provisional mark of 23.90. Loche came in fifth at 24.12.

In the 60m hurdles, junior Celriece Law (Denver, Colo.) came up just shy of the provisional standard, carding a fifth-place finish with a season best of 8.45. Sophomore Leigh Ann Burton (Atlanta), meanwhile, charted back-to-back PRs, improving to 8.71 in the final to wind up 10th.

For the first time in her brief collegiate career, UT freshman Annie Alexander (Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago) was not the victor. After winning her first two shot put competitions this season, the Big Orange rookie came out fifth against the field at this meet with an NCAA provisional heave of 51-11 1/4. Senior Shanna Dickenson (Cincinnati, Ohio) was 14th at 44-11 1/2, while classmate Amara McKell (Nashville) was 15th at 43-9 3/4.

In the 400 meters, middle distance runners sophomore Phoebe Wright (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) and junior Kimarra McDonald (Lumberton, N.J.) worked on their speed and posted career-best clockings. Wright improved her PR from 58.08 to 55.80 and wound up 12th, while McDonald lowered her mark from 57.82 to 56.57 to snag 17th.

"We had several PRs and provisionals today, and we made the first step of taking provisionals to autos," Clark said. "We still have a lot of work to do. We're just going to keep moving ahead and staying on task."

On Friday, Alicia Essex's runner-up finish in the pole vault was the top performance. Essex, from Purcellville, Va., cleared the second-best height of her career, 12 feet, 7 1/2 inches, on her second attempt to finish behind only Florida's Lori Bowen. The Gator vaulter also cleared the same measurement, doing so on her first try to give her what proved to be the winning edge.

The SEC rivals each missed on their three stabs at an NCAA provisional height of 12-11 1/2. They now are tied for the fourth-best clearance this season among league vaulters.

Two other Lady Vols also were in action in the pole vault. Sophomores Katie O'Connell (Collierville, Tenn.) and Jennifer Lewellen (Kernersville, N.C.) placed 14th and 15th, respectively, with clearances of 10-8 and 10-2. O'Connell's effort was a personal best, improving upon her previous indoor PR of 10 feet even.

In the weight throw, Dickenson was Tennessee's top finisher, winding up fourth at 60-8 3/4. Freshman Taylor Rotella (Knoxville) also was in action, placing 21st at 41-4 1/2.

Tennessee returns to action next weekend, as the Lady Vols travel to Blacksburg, Va., to compete in the Virginia Tech Challenge at Rector Field House on Feb. 8-9.

FROSH OF WEEK: Tennessee rookie Annie Alexander was a big hit in her first two collegiate meets. As a result, the Lady Vol thrower has been chosen for the second time this season as the Southeastern Conference Track & Field Female Freshman of the Week.

Alexander, from Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, earned the distinction after claiming victory in the shot put last Saturday at the Penn State National in University Park. The UT standout won the competition with a toss of 53 feet, 3 3/4 inches, which easily met the NCAA provisional qualifying standard.

Also the SEC's Frosh of the Week on Jan. 15, after picking up two wins at the Kentucky Invitational on Jan. 11-12. There, she claimed the shot with a put of 53-9 1/4 and walked away with the indoor discus title at 164-3.

Alexander ranks second in the SEC and fourth nationally with her shot put mark at the UK meet. She stands at number two on Tennessee's all-time indoors performers list in that event and owns the seventh, ninth and 12th-longest marks in program history. She is the school's record-holder indoors in the discus, an event that is usually contested outdoors due to space constraints at indoor facilities.

NO. 2 RANKING: After a strong showing in its first two meets, the women's track & field team has moved up from third to second place in the first regular-season edition of the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association NCAA Division I Rankings.

The Lady Vols, who were coming off a weekend in which they won four events, took second in four others and charted 16 NCAA provisional qualifying marks at the Penn State National in University Park, tallied 133.57 ranking points this week to stand in second place. LSU, the preseason No. 1 squad, remains atop the heap with 201.99 points. UT moved past defending NCAA Indoor champ Arizona State, which fell from second to 21st this week.

Texas A&M (99.80), Arkansas (86.77) and Michigan (84.64) round out the top five. SEC schools joining LSU, Tennessee and Arkansas in the top 25 include Mississippi in seventh at 70.57, South Carolina in 10th at 54.03, Florida in 11th at 52.54.

The 2008 USTFCCCA Division I Rankings are compiled strictly from the NCAA descending order qualifying lists by Tom Lewis, assistant sports information director at Missouri.

The 2008 NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships will be held March 14-15 in Fayetteville, Ark.

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