Lady Vols sign speedsters

Chanelle Price, who owns the fastest 800-meter time by a high school girl in the past 25 years, and Ramzee Fondren, ranked sixth in the 800m among the prep ranks in 2007 and already a three-time state champ in that event, comprise a small, but sensational, 2008 signing class for the Tennessee women's track & field program, Head Coach J.J. Clark announced Tuesday.

"The fastest person I have ever signed has been Hazel (Clark) at 2:05," said Clark, who will coach the U.S. women's middle distance contingent at the 2008 Olympic Games. "One of them (Price) is under that, and the other is right at it.

"With a year of high school remaining, they both can be better than anyone I have ever signed. That speaks volumes, because Hazel was undefeated in SEC competition during her career and went on to win NCAA Championships and make Olympic Teams. Hopefully, we can be on that same track with these two young ladies."

Price, from Easton (Pennsylvania Area High School, posted the third-fastest girls prep 800m clocking in U.S. history as a junior, logging a readout of two minutes, 2.38 seconds to place seventh in the finals of the 2007 USA Track & Field Outdoor Championships in Indianapolis last June.

Running in that meet instead of the age-appropriate USA Junior Championships, Price followed in the fleet footsteps of previous American high school half-mile phenoms Mary Decker and Kim Gallagher, who each developed into Olympians during their careers.

As a result of that showing, Price qualified for the 2007 IAAF World Youth Championships, where she represented her country and placed sixth last July in the Czech Republic. Other accolades a year ago include winning the 800m at both the Nike Indoor and Outdoor National Championships, posting the No. 4 all-time prep mark of 2:02.76 at the outdoor version of that meet and snaring four gold medals at the Pennsylvania state indoor meet, including a U.S. high school indoor leading time of 2:04.96. Outdoors, she claimed her second straight 800m state title after finishing second in 2005.

Thus far in 2008, Price ranks No. 1 on the U.S. prep lists in the 800m (2:07.3), the 1000m (2:45.76) and the 500m (1:10.30), with the latter mark setting a high school record at the 2008 New Balance Games in New York.

, Illustrating just what kind of special range Price has, the middle distance runner also rates third thus far in 2008 in the 400m at 54.7. She used that speed to break a meet record at the 34th-annual Colgate Women's Games at Madison Square Garden on Feb. 2, running 2:09.35 en route to victory.

Fondren, a product of Renaissance High School in Detroit, is a top-notch recruit in her own right. She is a perfect three-for-three in winning Michigan Division 2 800m titles, setting a state meet record in 2006 at 2:11.08.

She also won the 1600m run a year ago in 4:59.85 and anchored the RHS 4x400m relay unit to first in 3:56.48, while running the anchor leg on the school's victorious 4x800m unit in 2005 and coming in second in the 1600m in 2006 with a career-best time of 4:58.23. Also blessed with speed, she has a career best of 55 seconds in the 400m.

In national competitions, during the warmer months, she has posted her fastest times in the 800m. Her top mark ever came at last year's USA Junior Championships in Indianapolis, where she ran 2:06.8 in the prelims before finishing seventh in the final at 2:08.64.

Additionally, she has participated in three Nike Indoor National Championships meets, placing third in the 800m in 2007 and taking sixth in 2005 and 10th in 2006.

Running for summer club teams such as Cheetah Track Club and Motor City Track Club, Fondren also swept the intermediate girls titles in the 800m and 1500m at the 2005 AAU Junior Olympics in New Orleans. She ran 2:11.59 and 4:41.72, respectively, to do so and actually owns a faster PR of 4:38 in the longer of those events.

Obviously, they will help us in a lot of different ways," Clark said of his signees. "Chanelle is the top prep coming out and is someone who will arrive here and have an immediate impact. She will help us individually and on relays. She can run the 800m, the 4x4 and, if needed, she could run the 1200m leg on the distance medley relay. She comes with a lot of different weapons.

"The same can be said for Ramzee. She has great range, can cover a lot of different distances and is one of the top high school athletes coming out. We are very happy to have her sign and look forward to her doing good things here at Tennessee."

Clark indicated that both runners also have enjoyed great success in cross country during their prep days. Price's accolades on the trails include all-state honors as a state finalist from 2005-07 and district championships in 2005 and 2006. Fondren, meanwhile, has been the city cross country champion in Detroit four years in a row.

"Neither specializes in cross country, but they have both run it in high school," Clark said. "We will welcome their arrival in the fall."

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