Lady Vols finish 13th at NCAA Track & Field Championships

June 14, 2008

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Sarah Bowman had been looking for a breakout race this season, and now she has it. The University of Tennessee junior raced to the fourth-fastest 1500-meter time in collegiate history Saturday afternoon at Drake Stadium, finishing third in school-record fashion on the final day of the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

Thanks to contributions by Bowman, as well as a sixth-place 800m finish by sophomore Phoebe Wright (Signal Mountain, Tenn.) and a seventh-place outcome in the 100m hurdles by junior Celriece Law (Denver, Colo.) on day four, UT wound up 13th in the final team standings with 15 points. LSU took the national championship trophy with 67, followed by Arizona State with 63.

Bowman, who entered the meet with a season best of four minutes, 14.06 seconds, shattered that mark by running 4:07.50 to record the best NCAA 1500m finish by a Lady Vol since Jasmin Jones was second in 1991. That readout also toppled the 22-year-old Lady Vol record of 4:08.95, which had been held by Alisa Harvey since June 21, 1986.

The now six-time All-American did the job by running aggressively from start to finish. She positioned herself in the top three for the duration of the race and was among a trio of runners who had the only chance of winning the sprint to the finish. When Texas Tech’s Sally Kipyego decided to move, Bowman went with her, as did Florida State’s Hannah England. In the end, it was the Seminole who had just enough to hold the others at bay.

In terms of the all-time collegiate list, Bowman’s performance stands behind only today’s first- and second-place finishers, England (4:06.19) and Kipyego (4:06.67), and previous collegiate record-holder Tiffany McWilliams of Mississippi State (4:06.75).

With this being an Olympic year, also worth noting was the fact that Bowman moved to third on the U.S. women’s 1500m list this season. Her mark ranks her behind only Shannon Rowbury (4:01.61) and Christin Wurth-Thomas (4:04.88) as the U.S. Olympic Trials approach at the end of June.

“Obviously, I am very happy as her coach,” UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. “You know it is there; you see it in practice. The weather conditions haven’t been good this season, and she’s had to lead in very windy races, so it’s good to have somebody else take her through, finally, and allow her to do what she is capable of doing.

“I believed she could do it, and it was good to see it happen. The fourth fastest college time, the third-best U.S. time this season and the school record -- these are all very good things, and she’s been training very hard to get to this point. It’s just very gratifying to see her do it, and have it happen at this meet.”

Bowman’s middle distance colleague, sophomore Phoebe Wright (Signal Mountain, Tenn.), capped off a remarkable sophomore season by taking sixth in the 800 meters in 2:06.56. A former walk-on, the Red Bank High School product arrived on campus two years ago with a career-best half-mile time of 2:15.95 and has blossomed into a three-time All-American this season. In addition to earning All-America acclaim today, Wright ran on UT’s national champion distance medley relay and eighth-place 4x400m relay teams at the 2008 NCAA Indoor Championships.

Wright, who ran 2:06.10 in the first round on Wednesday and a career-best 2:04.38 in the semifinals on Thursday, came through the first 400m today in about 62 seconds. During the final quarter, she moved from eighth to sixth on the back stretch and held on down the home straightaway while running into a strong headwind.

“What I saw in Phoebe is that she learned about five or six years worth of experience this season,” Clark said. “She really improved and did some things technically right, and now she has a goal. I’m just proud to see her stick her nose in there and do the best that she could.

“She has a goal now of being on top, and this idea wasn’t even in her mind last year. It just gives us more targets to shoot for. She’s done a great job, and my hat’s off to her.”

Junior Celriece Law (Denver, Colo.) chipped in two points with a seventh-place outcome in the 100m hurdles. Law scooted down the track in 13.57 seconds into a 2.8 headwind to collect her first individual All-America honor outdoors and the fourth overall of her career.

Law had not previously advanced out of the first round at this meet. In Des Moines, she put together times of 13.31 (a career best), 13.38 and 13.50 to make her way onto the awards stand.

“She made it to the finals and placed seventh,” Clark said. “Look at her times; she’s just been so consistent all year. It’s just nice to see her get in there and get an individual All-America award outdoors for the first time. With the sprint coaching situation, she kept her head on straight and did a great job”

Annie Alexander’s first season as a Lady Vol came to a close in a different fashion from what she envisioned. The product of Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago produced a throw of 51 feet, 6 1/2 inches in the shot put to wind up 10th. The indoor and outdoor school record-holder in that event will now turn her focus toward her country’s Olympic Trials.

“We’ve had a tough year,” Clark said. “The sprint group has been trying to find its rhythm. We have had some ups and downs and some rollercoaster rides. This meet was a little up and down, but we just stuck in there all year and had some successes.

“Most teams would be elated to be in the top 13. For us, we just made it through a very difficult year. We had some youngsters who didn’t return to school and some bumps along the way. We we were still one of the top teams in the country, but we look to do even better. I am very proud of what this team has done, though, because it has stuck together and it has made us stronger as a unit.”

(utladyvols.com)


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