Lady Vols shatter DMR world record

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - No one on the planet has ever run a faster women's distance medley relay than the Tennessee Lady Vols, who delivered a world-record-setting performance Friday night at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Running in front of a crowd of 4,315 at Texas A&M's Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium, the Tennessee lineup of Phoebe Wright, Brittany Jones, Chanelle Price and Sarah Bowman covered the 4000-meter distance in 10 minutes, 50.98 seconds to top the previous world and collegiate record of 10:54.34, set in 1988 by Villanova.

The mark also crushed UT's month-old American and school record of 10:56.40, which it had run at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York City on Feb. 6, as well as UCLA's 10:58.19 NCAA meet record from 2002.

"You know, it's very gratifying when you break a world record, American record and collegiate record; I'm not going to say it's not," an elated UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. "I just tip my hat to the young ladies, because they really put it out there, and they did a great job of holding it together. We're very excited that they are doing such a great job.

"When you come through and do what you are supposed to do, it's very exciting. What's on paper is not always what happens, and this time it happened. Sarah looked great, Phoebe was tough as nails, Chanelle looked fantastic and Brittany Jones went and got it done and got us into closer contention.

"No one in the NCAA has ever run faster. No one in America has ever run faster. No one in the world has ever run faster. That is something that should truly be recognized, and I'm just extremely happy for them, because they put a lot of work into it."

After Wright bumped and banged her way through a tightly-packed opening 1200m leg in 3:23, Jones took the baton and used a speedy 53.31 400-meter hitch to move the Big Orange from a close fourth to second behind BYU. Price's season-best 800m turn of 2:03.19 kept the Lady Vols on the Cougars' tail as the baton moved to Bowman for the 1600m anchor leg.

The relaxed Bowman remained in pursuit of BYU's Agela Wagner for nearly two laps before dropping the hammer and leaving no doubt about whether Tennessee would win its second consecutive NCAA DMR title and its third crown since 2004. As she raced around the oval for her final 200 meters, the track announcer provided the details and the crowd cheered Bowman on to a 4:31.11 split and UT to a place in history. North Carolina would overtake BYU for second in a 10:56.19 readout that also was faster than the previous meet and collegiate records. The Cougars settled for third in 10:56.73.

With the 10 points generated by the event victory, Tennessee heads into the final day tied for seventh. BYU stands in first with 18, followed by Texas in second with 15, Texas A&M, Penn State and Oregon in third with 13, and Arizona State in sixth with 11. The Lady Vols will have five scoring opportunities on Saturday, including a trio of Big Orange performers who advanced through the preliminary rounds.

"The idea is to get to the finals, and we got three to the finals today," Clark said. "We had a couple of mishaps, but we got three to move on. I'm happy with them all, and we're just going to take it one event at a time and get as many points as we possibly can on Saturday."

In the first preliminary event of the meet, Bowman took care of business in the mile run, winning the first section in 4:39.22. The senior from Warrenton, Va., hit the throttle with about 250 meters to go to free herself from the pack and breezed to the finish line with a time that stood up as the fastest of the 10 qualifiers. The six-time All-American, who came into the competition with the third best readout, will run in her third NCAA mile final on Saturday at 6 p.m. Eastern Time. She was third in 2008 and sixth in 2007.

Wright did the same in the 800 meters, getting a good start and leading wire to wire en route to a first-place clocking and a facility record of 2:03.71 in section two. The junior from Signal Mountain, Tenn., jostled early with Boston College's Caitlin Bailey and held off BYU freshman Lacey Cramer down the home stretch to win her heat. Wright, who entered the night with the fastest clocking in the field at 2:02.39, also posted the best readout of the eight finalists. She will compete in her first NCAA Indoor individual championship race on Saturday at 7:20 p.m. ET.

Senior Celriece Law advanced to her third NCAA final, as well, in the 60-meter hurdles. Law finished third in heat three in 8.27 and was the sixth fastest of the qualifiers. Her time actually tied her with Central Florida's Jackie Coward and Tiki James, who ran in heats one and two, respectively.

Coward, of Knoxville, got the nod for fifth place out of the qualifers at 8.262 when broken down to one thousandth of a second, while Law was next at 8.266 and James, a former Lady Vol, was seventh at 8.268. Law, who, finished seventh at this meet in 2007 and was 11th a year ago, will run at 6:20 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Tennessee suffered two big blows in the sprints, where junior Lynne Layne did not make the final in the 60-meter dash despite entering the meet with the third fastest time at 7.22. The product of New Rochelle, N.Y., had a 7.39 effort in heat two that left her third in that race and 11th fastest overall. She was 14th a year ago in her only other national appearance in this event.

An hour later, Layne was unable to advance in the 200 meters, logging a second-place time of 24.09 in heat three that left her 14th overall. She had entered the competition ranked ninth in the field with a career best of 23.53. Layne finished 12th a year ago in this event and also participated in the 2007 NCAA meet in the 200m.

In addition to the trio of Big Orange competitors advancing to Saturday from Friday's prelims, the Lady Vols will have sophomore Annie Alexander in the shot put at 4:45 p.m. ET and Bowman in the 3000m run final at 7:40 p.m. ET.

"We're looking forward to getting Annie into the mix and possibly Sarah in the 3K tomorrow," Clark said. "It's just an exciting meet."

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