May 31, 2008
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. -- The 14th-ranked University of Tennessee women’s track & field team automatically qualified seven athletes for the national championship meet and used a terrific final day to wind up second in the team standings at the NCAA Mideast Regional at John McDonnell Field on Saturday.
Head Coach J.J. Clark’s squad grabbed four runner-up finishes and three thirds on the afternoon, and it charted seven NCAA qualifiers in six different events. The beneficiaries will enjoy the fruits of their labor June 11-14, as they take part in the NCAA Outdoor Championships at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa.
While not quite as important to coaches as how many athletes make the national meet, the Lady Vols tallied 66 points to fashion their most impressive showing at regionals since winning it in 2005. With their second-highest tally in the six-year history of the competition, UT came in second to team champion LSU (119). Rounding out the top 10 behind the Big Orange were Mississippi (49), Michigan (41), Illinois (40), Purdue (32), Arkansas (27), Louisville (26), Alabama (23) and Ohio State (22).
“It was a really good meet for us,” Clark said. “We had some people start peaking and stepping up at the right time, and that was very good. It looks good for the future if we keep our heads on straight.”
Clark agreed that the performance in Fayetteville bodes well as Team Orange turns its attention toward its trip to Iowa. It appears Tennessee is set up for the possibility of having it finest outdoor NCAA meet since 2005, when the Lady Vols finished fourth.
“Absolutely, you have to say that; it’s just the reality of the situation,” the sixth-year skipper said. “We’re just going to take it one day at a time, stay focused, have fun out there (in Des Moines) and see what happens.”
The 4x100-meter relay unit began the track events for UT in strong fashion, taking runner-up honors at this meet for the second year in a row and earning a spot at the NCAA meet. The quartet 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 oval in a season-best 44.16 seconds to place the Big Orange second only to LSU (43.60). The Lady Vol mark ranks seventh in the NCAA ranks this season.
The sprint contingent shined brightly in the 100m dash as well. After bolting to a wind-aided 11.09 output a day earlier, Layne returned to the McDonnell Field straightaway clad in all white and zipped down the track in 11.11 to snare second-place accolades and break up an expected 1-2-3 run by LSU. Tarmoh, adorned like her teammate, also joined in the fun, rocketing to third in a season-best time of 11.21 that was bolstered by a helpful tailwind of 3.5 meters per second.
Tarmoh and Layne closed out the most impressive weekend of the outdoor season for the sprint corps by crossing the finish stripe one-two once more. This time it was the rookie with the advantage, as Tarmoh cruised through in a career-topping 22.94. Her sophomore teammate was right behind her, registering a career-best of her own in 23.12. The performance by Tarmoh tied her with Sue Walton (1994) as the third-fastest Lady Vol in that event in school history. Layne, meanwhile, moved to eighth on the list.
“Obviously, the sprint group performed very well,” Clark said. “Jeneba and Lynne Layne were outstanding today. Jeneba ran really well in lane one in the 200 meters and Lynne was running PRs the whole meet. The 4x1 also got the stick around and ran a seasonal best.”
Junior Sarah Bowman also booked her ticket to Des Moines, carding a second-place showing in the 1500 meters. The product of Warrenton, Va., pushed herself to a career-best readout of 4:14.06 to make way for her third-straight NCAA Outdoor appearance. She was third at this meet in 2006 and fourth a year ago.
Charting a readout that ranked her sixth all-time at UT and fourth among collegians in 2008, Bowman took command and led for the first three laps of a race that basically was between four runners. Over the final 250 meters, however, the five-time All-American was unable to hold off Dacia Barr of Arkansas, who defended her home track in 4:13.16. Just two weekends ago, Bowman had come from behind to out-kick Barr for her second SEC 1500m crown in the past three seasons.
“You know she’s going to put good marks out there, and she went out today to do that,” Clark said. “It was very windy earlier in the day, and we decided to go and run (aggressively, from the front) for a number of reasons. We did it for a faster time for seeding at the NCAA meet, to help get her to the Olympic Trials and to just go out and run. We had nothing to lose.”
After winning the discus competition on Friday night and advancing to the NCAA meet, freshman Annie Alexander (Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago) came back on day two and earned a bid to the national meet in the shot put. The school record-holder and SEC champion came up with a heave of 55 feet, five inches on her fourth throw of the competition to place third and earn UT six more points to go with the 10 she contributed to the squad’s team score on Friday night.
Securing her first career NCAA Outdoor berth was sophomore Phoebe Wright (Signal Mountain, Tenn.). The former walk-on from Red Bank High School came from the back of the pack over the first 400 meters and kicked hard over the final 300 to earn a fourth-place finish in 2:06.26. Wright, who earned All-America honors indoors with the distance medley and 4x400m relays, will be competing in her first individual event at NCAAs when she runs in Iowa.
“Annie was Annie, just being very consistent,” Clark said. “Phoebe Wright making the NCAA meet as a sophomore -- it’s just outstanding stuff. It was a very good meet for us.”
In the 400 meters, UT suffered one of only two misfortunes on the day. Loche chipped in a point for an eighth-place showing, but she did not get the necessary top-five outcome needed for an automatic berth in that event. The senior turned in a time of 53.67 in scoring for UT in the quarter at the regional meet for the fourth consecutive season. She will wait to see whether her 52.78 mark at the SEC meet is good enough to garner her an at-large bid. The good news for her, though, is she is already in the meet via the 4x1.
Freshman Brittany Sheffey (Bellport, N.Y.) was the other Lady Vol to finish out of the auto crowd. Her 4:38.04 readout was only good enough for 12th in the 1500m.
FRIDAY, MAY 30
Hammer (Regional: 177-8/54.15m) 11:00 a.m. CT
11th Shanna Dickenson 11th
4x100m Relay Pre. (Regional: 45.70) 3:00 p.m. CT
Adv. Jeneba Tarmoh/Cleo Tyson/LaTonya Loche/Lynne Layne 44.71p/1st, ht. 2
Pole Vault (Regional: 12-7.50/3.85m) 3:15 p.m. CT
15th Alicia Essex 12-6/3.81m
1500m Prelims (Regional: 4:27.80) 3:30 p.m. CT
Adv. Sarah Bowman 4:27.12p/4th, ht. 2 (4th)
Adv. Brittany Sheffey 4:27.58p/2nd, ht. 1 (6th)
13th Rolanda Bell 4:30.30p/6th, ht. 1
100mH Prelims (Regional: 13.92) 4:10 p.m. CT
9th Celriece Law 13.26pw (w: 2.6)/2nd, ht. 3
100m Prelims (Regional: 11.75) 4:50 p.m. CT
Adv. Lynne Layne 11.09pw (w: 4.7)/2nd, ht. 2 (2nd)
Adv. Jeneba Tarmoh 11.38pw (w: 2.1)/2nd, ht. 4 (6th)
400m Prelims (Regional: 54.61) 5:30 p.m. CT
Adv. LaTonya Loche 52.91p/1st. ht. 2 (4th)
800m Prelims (Regional: 2:09.80) 6:10 p.m. CT
Adv. Phoebe Wright 2:06.05p/2nd, ht. 1 (3rd)
Discus (Regional: 155-2/47.30m) 6:15 p.m. CT
1st (10 pts.) Annie Alexander 183-10/56.03m
22nd Amara McKell 151-8/46.24m
27th Shanna Dickenson 143-11/43.86m
200m Prelims (Regional: 23.96) 7:30 p.m. CT
Adv. Lynne Layne 23.19p! (w: 2.9)/1st, ht. 2 (4th)
Adv. Jeneba Tarmoh 23.31p (w: 2.9)/3rd, ht. 3 (8th)
5000m Final (Regional: 16:52.00) 8:10 p.m. CT
DNS Katie Van Horn
SATURDAY, MAY 31
Shot Put (Regional: 46-11/14.30m) Noon CT
3rd (6 pts.) Annie Alexander 55-5/16.89m
4x100m Relay Final (Regional: 45.70) 5:00 p.m. CT
2nd (8 pts.) Jeneba Tarmoh/LaTonya Loche/Cleo Tyson/Lynne Layne 44.16
1500m Final (Regional: 4:27.80) 5:20 p.m. CT
2nd (8 pts.) Sarah Bowman 4:14.06!
12th Brittany Sheffey 4:38.04
100m Final (Regional: 11.75) 6:05 p.m. CT
2nd (8 pts.) Lynne Layne 11.11w (w: 3.5)
3rd (6 pts.) Jeneba Tarmoh 11.21w (w: 3.5)
400m Final (Regional: 54.61) 6:15 p.m. CT
8th (1 pt.) LaTonya Loche 53.67
800m Final (Regional: 2:09.80) 6:25 p.m. CT
4th (5 pts.) Phoebe Wright 2:06.26
200m Final (Regional: 23.96) 7:00 p.m. CT
2nd (8 pts.) Jeneba Tarmoh 22.94! (w: 1.9)
3rd (6 pts.) Lynne Layne 23.12! (w: 1.9)
# - NCAA Regional Qualifier, * - NCAA Automatic Qualifier, + - NCAA Provisional Qualifier, ! - Personal Record (Outdoors), dnf - Did Not Finish, dnq - Did Not Qualify, dnr - Did Not Run, dns - Did Not Start, dq - Disqualified, f - Facility Record, fs - False Start, h - Hand Times, nm - No Mark, p - Prelims, s - School Record (Outdoors).