KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee and UCLA battled in a pair of track & field dual meets Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles, and the Big Orange walked out of Drake Stadium with a split.
The 15th-ranked Lady Vols won nine events, including a school-record performance in the shot put from Annie Alexander, to edge the Bruins 82-81 in a thrilling women’s competition that saw the lead change hands on multiple occasions. Scoring was awarded on a 5-3-1 basis for the top three individual finishes and on a 5-0 basis for relays.
The Vols, meanwhile, won six events, but it wasn’t enough in a 111-50 defeat at the hands of the No. 24 Bruin men. UT fell for the 11th time in 12 head-to-head meetings vs. UCLA in a series that began in 1971 and had been on hiatus since 1983.
Alexander, a junior coming off a redshirt season, was one of three Tennessee women to card a pair of victories. She chalked up her first win in impressive fashion, toppling her 2008 school best of 57-3 with a blast of 57 feet, 9 3/4 inches that ranks No. 2 in the nation this season. She came back later in the day to fling the discus 179-8 for her second triumph. That mark stands third in the country.
Ellen Wortham had a terrific day in the hurdles and jumps. The junior turned in a career best and nation-leading time of 56.62 to hit the line first in the 400m hurdles in a narrow victory over Turquoise Thompson (No. 2 nationally) and added a win in the long jump at 18-10. She also contributed a runner-up finish in the 100m hurdles in a career-best 13.84 and ran the third leg on UT’s runner-up 4x400m unit that was second in 3:43.49. Joining her were freshman Kianna Ruff, junior Ashley Harris and freshman Brittney Jackson.
Brittany Sheffey was the third Lady Vol two-event winner, leading a one-two-three finish in the 1500 meters with a personal-best 4:22.16 readout that puts her sixth on the national list. The junior also took the 800m crown, winning in 2:09.09.
The Vols also boasted a pair of double-winners, including redshirt freshman Dentarius Locke and junior Terry Benson. Locke, who tied a meet record in the 100-meter dash, also had a hand in a runner-up relay effort.
Running a career-best time in the 100 that stands No. 8 nationally, Locke’s 10.29 outburst matched the 1983 meet record set by UT great Willie Gault. The first-year performer also took the 200m crown in 20.81, which is seventh on the national list, and ran the second leg on Tennessee’s 4x100m relay unit, which took second by 2/100ths of a second in 40.21. Joining Locke were redshirt freshman Reggie Juin, freshman Jarael Nelvis and senior Nathan Grace.
Benson continued his improvement this season, collecting first-place points for the 400m hurdles, where he ran a career best of 52.14, and in the 110m hurdles, where he logged a 14.63 readout.
The Lady Vols added victories in the javelin throw, where senior Holly Kane had a mark of 136-9; in the 400 meters, where sophomore Martinique Octave ran a career-best 54.45; and in the 4x100m relay. The quartet of Harris, sophomore Kia Jackson, junior Brittany Jones and Octave captured the meet’s first running event, producing a 44.97 readout to win by 40/100ths of a second.
“Obviously, we did some good things on the women’s side,” UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. “We had some nice, two-win efforts from Annie Alexander, Ellen Wortham and Brittany Sheffey today and PRs by everyone from Elizabeth Altizer to Martinique Octave with several scattered in between. We became the first team besides USC to beat UCLA in a dual meet, so it was a good team effort all the way around.”
The Vols collected their other two wins from junior Desmond Brown in the long jump, where he had a season-best mark of 24-7 that stands eighth nationally; and in the 400 meters, where junior Varick Tucker circled the track in 47.88.
Elsewhere, junior Joe Berry finished second in the men’s pole vault against a very talented UCLA contingent and moved himself into sixth place nationally with a vault of 17-0 3/4.
“We had some individual successes from the guys,” Clark said. “Dentarius and Terry had PRs in one event each and got a pair of wins for us, and we had victories from Desmond and Varick as well. We simply need to add more depth and more quality to this team, and we need to work very diligently to reach that goal. Still, it was a good meet for us, and we’re only building from here.”
The teams will be idle next weekend as they gear up for their lone home meet of the 2011 campaign, the Sea Ray Relays on April 13-16 at UT’s Tom Black Track at LaPorte Stadium.