Teammate Jackie Areson gave a memorable performance of her own, charting a career-best time of 9:24.34 to deliver a surprising runner-up finish and help UT collect 18 huge points in the final event of day two.
With that outburst, the Lady Vols, ranked second in the nation, will head into the final day on Sunday with 25 points. Twentieth-ranked Arkansas stands in first with 45 points, followed by No. 9 LSU with 32 and host Kentucky with 25. The Lady Vols, Razorback and Tigers all have plentiful scoring opportunities, as does No. 24 Florida, which ended Saturday in sixth with 18.
For most of the 3K, Bowman jostled for the lead with Georgia's Sarah Madebach and a trio of Arkansas runners. With two laps to go, Bowman made her move and never looked back en route to a runaway victory. Areson seemed to make her push when she saw her teammate kick it into a higher gear. The junior from Delray Beach, Fla., worked her way up from fifth past the pack Bowman left behind and sprinted home in impressive fashion to aid the Big Orange cause.
"Sarah winning this race three times in a row, when it's never been done before, shows you the quality athlete she is," UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "We expected her to do well here, and she's doing it, but she's doing it with a lot of poise. She really showed her talents tonight, and I'm proud of her, but she still has a few more things to do tomorrow.
"Jackie was unbelievable. She showed great heart and great character out there. She wasn't expected to take second in this race, but she got into the team spirit and gave us some very valuable points. It was a great run for her."
Bowman, who now has won a program best seven SEC Indoor titles, said her move with two laps to go wasn't predestined.
"I really go on feel, which is exactly what he (coach J.J. Clark) tells me," Bowman said. "I usually don't even think about it; it's just what happens. In this race, I started getting clipped from behind, and that's what actually made me decide to move. I didn't think about it until after the race, but that's why I moved.
"Certain things in a race just trigger it, and when you've been racing a while, it's good to have that kind of responsiveness to what's going on and the situation. Being flexible and having the ability to respond is reflective of your maturity as a runner, I think."
She was genuinely happy, though caught off guard a bit, to make history.
"To put yourself in the history books in any kind of way is always a good feeling," Bowman said. "I didn't really know that I had done that, so it is kind of a surprise to me. It's my senior year, and I just wanted to go out with a bang and have fun."
Elsewhere, in the weight throw, sophomore Annie Alexander started the day for Tennessee by securing two points for a seventh-place finish in her first SEC try at that event. She landed a crucial toss of 52 feet, eight inches on her third attempt to get her into the final and in contention for points. She was unable to better that measurement in her final three tries. Freshman Laquoya Kelly, meanwhile, finished just out of scoring range in 10th with a best toss of 50-8.
Junior Lynne Layne added a point in the long jump. Her mark of 19-2 1/2 was good for eighth place. Senior Celriece Law was 11th at 18-9 1/4.
Senior Alicia Essex came up a bit short of scoring in her third straight SEC Indoor meet. Her clearance of 12-9 1/2 was only stout enough to take ninth in the competition, leaving her one position out of point production. Essex had finished fifth in 2007 and sixth a year ago at this meet.
"We scored in the weight and long jump," Clark said. "Any and every point is a necessity and valuable. We did a good job of getting those points, and I appreciate the effort the team is giving to scratch and fight for everything it can get."
Tennessee put itself into position to score a plethora of points on Sunday, with eight entries in five events earning lanes in the finals, including the 60m hurdles, 60m and 200m dashes, 800m and mile. The Lady Vols also will have six other scoring opportunities on day three, with competitors in the high jump, triple jump, shot put, 5000m, distance medley relay and 4x400m relay.
In her first race of the day, Bowman efficiently handled matters in the mile run prelims, running conservatively before kicking on the last lap to win heat one in 4:49.46. She put herself into position to become the first woman in SEC history to post three-straight wins in the both the 3000m and mile.
Senior Rolanda Bell was right by Bowman's side for the entire mile prelim, finishing with the second fastest time of the heat and trials overall in 4:50.94. Areson became UT's third qualifier in the second heat, taking third in that section and ranking fifth overall among the qualifiers in 4:53.13. Freshmen Elizabeth Altizer and Ally Colvin, meanwhile, did not make the final and finished 13th and 17th, respectively, with career-best times of 5:06.19 and 5:12.07.
Freshman Chanelle Price and junior Phoebe Wright each won their heats in the 800m prelims, setting up Tennessee nicely in that event as well. Price won heat three in a season-best NCAA provisional of 2:07.16, holding off two-time defending SEC champion LaTavia Thomas (2:08.03) for the second best mark of all the qualifiers. Wright, meanwhile, won heat three in 2:07.16 to post the number three readout of those advancing. Freshman Ramzee Fondren had the nicest showing of UT's other five entrants, missing a spot in the finals by three places with her 12th-place effort of 2:12.08.
In the 60-meter hurdles prelims, Law took care of business in the first women's race of the day. She moved on to Sunday's money race by winning heat three in 8.30. That mark was the fourth-fastest of the qualifiers. Junior Jená Murphy also ran in heat three, finishing fifth in 8.98 and placing 16th overall.
Layne followed Law's example, dutifully moving along to her second straight final in the 60m dash. A career-best and NCAA provisional outburst of 7.29 from lane two was fast enough for her to take second in heat three of the prelims and rank fifth among the qualifiers. Freshman Ashley Harris wasn't as fortunate. Even with a career-best readout of 7.65, she wound up seventh in heat one and 18th overall.
Layne came back during the evening and made the finals in her second event. Her 23.83 effort in the 200m prelims earned her a victory in heat two and stood as the third best reading of the qualifiers. Harris matched her career best of 25.08, but that left her third in heat six and 21st overall.
"It's a nip and tuck meet," Clark said. "We advanced some people, but, of course, we always want to advance more. We're in a position to do well, but so are two or three other teams. It's just going to come down to who wants it most and who is going to come out here and show that they want it and get it done. We look forward to trying to do that tomorrow, and we'll see what happens."
Freshman Ellen Wortham, who finished fifth in the Pentathlon on Friday night, begins Tennessee's final day of action, competing in the high jump at 11 a.m. The meet is scheduled to conclude around 5 p.m.