Lady Vols finish big weekend
Tennesse comes home with wins and personal record marks
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The Tennessee track & field teams closed out a strong weekend of development Saturday afternoon, winning three events and adding 16 more personal-record marks on the final day of the Hokie Invitational at Virginia Tech's Rector Field House.
During the course of the two-day meet, UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark's men's and women's squads combined to produce four event victories, 17 other top-five finishes and a total of 33 personal records against a field that included several Atlantic Coast Conference schools as well as South Carolina of the SEC.
In the women's 800 meters, junior Chanelle Price led a Big Orange parade, as six Lady Vols crossed the finish line before any other team's runner. After finishing second at this meet a season ago, Price returned in 2011 to take the title in two minutes, 7.93 seconds, which ranks second in the NCAA this year. Sophomore Nijgia Snapp carded her second 800m runner-up effort in as many weeks, covering the distance in 2:10.96. Sophomore Ramzee Fondren was third in a career-best 2:11.39, while senior Liz Costello was fourth (2:11.72) and freshmen Brittney Jackson (2:12.27) and Ty-Vonna Johnson (2:15.72) were fifth and sixth.
"It was nice to see Chanelle open up with a win in the 800 and lead it wire to wire," Clark said. "Obviously, she'll need to get some more races in, but it was a good start. Actually, today was more like a time trial than a race with us sweeping the field."
Vol senior Peter Sigilai, making his 2011 debut, gave Tennessee a monopoly of the 800 meters, winning the men's race here for the second straight season in 1:53.60. To do so, he held off 2008 U.S. Olympic 400m hurdles bronze medalist Bershawn "Batman" Jackson, who checked in at 1:54.42. Sigilai's teammate, redshirt freshman Breon Dixon, was fourth in 1:55.17. Sigilai and Dixon rank fifth and seventh in the SEC, respectively.
"It was a good start for Peter, but it looked like he could have gone a little faster," Clark said. "George Watts does a good job getting the guys ready, and we feel like there is a lot more there for Peter in the future."
Junior Joe Franklin added to UT's middle distance dominance, capturing the 1000m run in a career-best readout of 2:26.88. That mark, the fastest by a Vol since 2004, moves Franklin to No. 5 on UT's all-time performers list in that event. He currently leads the SEC in the 800 with his 1:51.61 mark from last weekend.
"Joe looked very, very good in the 1000," Clark said. "He ran one of the smartest races we've seen him run. We'll start from there and see where we can go this season."
After setting a UT freshman record and landing an NCAA automatic qualifying mark in the long jump last weekend, Vol Justin Hunter turned his attention toward the high jump at this meet. The result was a third-place finish, coming via a career-best-tying leap of 6-10 1/4. That mark, which currently ranks him sixth in the SEC, wasn't far off the UT rookie record, which is 7-0. The NCAA standard for the high jump is 7-4 1/4.
The Lady Vols had a quartet of fourth-place performances. Earning those were redshirt freshman Aslynn Halvorson with a PR and the SEC's No. 3 mark in the shot put (48-6), junior Elizabeth Tiller with a PR in the 5000m (18:46.46), the distance medley relay (11:55.36) and the 4x400m relay (3:42.40). Handling the baton for the DMR unit, which posted the NCAA's No. 8 mark this year, were junior Brittany Sheffey, senior Kim White, sophomore Elizabeth Altizer and freshman Amber Zimmerman. The 4x4 tandem included junior Ellen Wortham, sophomore Martinique Octave, Snapp and freshman Kianna Ruff.
"We are continuing to set personal records," Clark said. "The environment is tough at this meet, because it's not a big building and there isn't much room to maneuver, so it's good to come away with 33 PRs for the weekend and some good national and conference marks. That is a sign that we are moving in the right direction."