Relay quartet to run in NCAA final

DES MOINES, Iowa - The eighth-ranked Tennessee women advanced to the finals in one event Wednesday, the semifinals in another and suffered some heartbreaks, too, on the first day of the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Drake Stadium.

The Lady Vols' 4x100m relay quartet got the day off to a positive start. Running in lane six in heat two, the lineup of freshman Jeneba Tarmoh (San Jose, Calif.), senior LaTonya Loche (Bastrop, La.), senior Cleo Tyson (Huntsville, Texas) and sophomore Lynne Layne (New Rochelle, N.Y.) moved the baton around the track in a season-best 44.15 seconds to advance to Friday night's final.

The foursome tied for the fifth best readout of the prelims and is one of four SEC schools filling lanes in the eight-team championship race.

"The 4x1 advanced to the finals, and it was very pleasing to see that," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "They ran at their season best today, and we look forward to seeing what they can get done on Friday."

Sophomore Phoebe Wright (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) followed the plan in UT's second event and advanced to Thursday's semifinal round of the 800 meters. Running in heat one, Wright ran near the back of a tight pack before making her move with 200 to go. Charging hard down the home stretch to make sure she had secured one of the three automatic berths in the next round, Wright moved into the lead group and hit the finish line first in 2:06.10. Her mark was the fastest of the 16 advancers.

"Phoebe winning her heat and having the fastest time of the day was very nice," UT Head Clark said. "It was good to see her advance and move on to the next round."

Freshman Annie Alexander (Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago), who was slated to open the day for UT, instead closed it after inclement weather forced a rescheduling of the discus throw and other field events. Unfortunately, the curtains on her collegiate discus season came to a close, as well, as she was unable to advance out of the qualifying round. Entering the competition ranked second with a best of 187-6, Alexander wound up 23rd today with a toss of 155-1.

"Annie did not have her typical day," Clark said. "That was very unfortunate. She has the shot put qualifying round tomorrow, and we are very optimistic that she can rebound from what just happened."

The SEC and Mideast Regional champion had been expected to compete at 4 p.m. Central Time (5 p.m. ET), but adverse weather conditions earlier in the day affected the schedule. The meet was delayed at 10:20 a.m. CT following the conclusion of the decathlon 100m because of lightning in the area. The thunderstorms that followed forced a two-hour and 40-minute halting of competition before action resumed at 1 p.m. Flooding in downtown Des Moines had no impact on the meet, other than re-routing some teams' trips to the track.

In the 100-meter dash semifinals, the Big Orange women came up just short of advancing both of their sprinters to the final. Finishing sixth and seventh in heat two, Layne and Tarmoh placed in ninth and 10th overall, respectively, in times of 11.62 and 11.64. The top eight run in the final.

Clark protested the race after he and his coaching staff clearly saw what they believed was a false start. Meet officials convened but did not overturn the results of the race, much to the disappointment of Clark and his staff.

Layne and Tarmoh had automatically advanced to the semis by running 11.69 and 12.05, respectively, to finish among the top three in their first round heats. Layne had negotiated against a head wind of 3.2 mps to place second in heat four with the fourth-best readout of the qualifiers. Tarmoh, meanwhile, faced a gale of 6.4 mps and survived as the 16th of the 16 advancers by grabbing third place in heat two.

"We started out well in the 100, with two qualifying for the semis," Clark said. "That was nice, but then we ran into a little difficulty at that point. Clearly, it was a false start in the race and that offset the result of the finish.

"We filed a protest, and that's all we can do. We have to go with what comes from that and move forward."

In the 400-meter first round, Loche saw her individual season and career come to a close. Her time of 54.22 left her fifth in heat five and 20th overall.

Thursday's slate for UT begins at 4:30 p.m. CT (5:30 ET). In addition to the 4x1 and Wright in the 800m, UT will have junior Celriece Law (Denver, Colo.) in the first round of the 100m hurdles, Layne and Tarmoh in the first (and potentially second) round of the 200m dash, junior Sarah Bowman (Warrenton, Va.) in the 1500m semifinals and Alexander in the shot put qualifying round.

ACADEMIC HONORS: A pair of Tennessee women's track & field and cross country standouts, including two-time honoree Sarah Bowman, have been named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District IV Women's Track & Field/Cross Country Team.

Bowman, a junior from Warrenton, Va., and sophomore Phoebe Wright of Signal Mountain, Tenn., were each voted to the first team. Both will be candidates for ESPN The Magazine Academic All-America distinction, and that team will be announced on June 25.

The owner of a 3.85 grade point average in human resource management, Bowman is the recipient of first-team accolades after garnering second-team acclaim in 2007. The 2008 SEC Outdoor Track & Field Scholar Athlete of the Year, Bowman is a three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll selection and a USTFCCCA Track & Field/Cross Country All-Academic Team choice.

On the track, the Fauquier High School graduate is a five-time All-American, anchoring UT to a national title in the distance medley relay (DMR) in 2008 and placing third in the mile at the NCAA Indoor Championships. She was the runner-up in the 1500m at the NCAA Mideast Regional and enters the NCAA Outdoor Championship meet ranked fifth in the field in that event in 4:14.06. Among her awards in 2008 are USTFCCCA Indoor All-American and USTFCCCA Indoor Track Athlete of the Year.

At the SEC level in 2008, Bowman won the mile, 3000m and DMR indoors and claimed the 1500m crown at the league outdoor meet. For her work, she was a first-team All-SEC selection indoors and out and a two-time SEC Female Runner of the Week.

Also a standout in cross country, Bowman is a three time All-SEC performer (2005-07) and has twice garnered All-South Region kudos (2006-07). She helped UT claim SEC and NCAA South Regional cross country titles in 2005 and make NCAA appearances in 2005 and 2006.

Wright, meanwhile, is making her first appearance on the academic all-district squad. The former walk-on from Red Bank High School owns a stellar 3.97 GPA in ecology and evolutionary biology. She is a two-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member and also a USTFCCCA All-Academic Team member.

On the track, Wright is a two-time All-American, having won a national championship with the UT distance medley relay and placing eighth on the 4x400m relay at the 2008 NCAA Indoor Championships. She qualified for the NCAA Outdoor meet in the 800m and entered the event ranked 12th in the field at 2:04.92.

Additionally this season, Wright finished third in the 800m at the SEC Indoor Championships and ran the 800m leg on UT's victorious DMR unit for the second season in a row. Outdoors, she placed third in the 800m at the SEC Championships and came in fourth at the Mideast Regional to earn her first individual event bid to an NCAA meet.

Wright also runs cross country for the Big Orange. She posted career-best times at 4K, 5K and 6K in 2007 and contributed to the team's scoring cause on three occasions during the fall, including at the NCAA South Regional.

"As a coach, it is very gratifying to see two student-athletes have the character as Sarah and Phoebe do, to be able to balance both their academic and athletic worlds," Coach J.J. Clark said. "That is very difficult and very challenging. To be able to be on top of your game like they are is something I believe their teammates look at and say, ‘Wow, they've done this, and I know it can be done.' I congratulate them and wish them continued success."

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