April 30, 2009

 

By Brett Hess

Special to NCAA.com

 

Twice this past weekend Chanelle Price handed the baton to Sarah Bowman. The result was two victories for Tennessee distance relay teams in the Penn Relays.

 

t would have been more fitting if Bowman, a senior all-American, had handed the baton to Price, a freshman. Because in essence, that is what's happening with the Vols every day so far during this magical spring.

 

In all, Bowman and Price helped Tennessee sweep all three distance relay races at Penn.

 

The Vols set a world record in the 6,000-meter relay (17:08.3) Friday and an American record in the 3,200-meter relay (8:17.9) Saturday. They also won the DMR (distance medley relay) in 11:02.1 on Thursday.

 

"It really couldn't have been any better," Bowman said of the weekend in Philadelphia. "To finally win some pennies (Penn Relay awards), to breaking records, to just winning. It was all very exciting."

 

Bowman anchored the DMR with a 4:40 1600 but inherited a solid lead. It was in the 6,000 that the Vols won in dramatic fashion. She took the baton from teammate Rolanda Bell in fourth place and didn't take the lead until the final turn. The trio of Price, Phoebe Wright and Bell each ran 4:19 before Bowman blazed to the finish with a 4:10 leg.

 

"That race was special because we weren't even favored to win," Bowman said of the 6,000. "And to step up and break the NCAA and world records, it was perfect."

 

The race also exorcised some demons for Bowman who anchored three runner-up finishes at Penn last year. Tennessee lost the three races by a combined 2 seconds.

 

"That was a turning point for her. Sarah likes to win and she wanted to come here this year and win," said Tennessee coach JJ Clark. "She's focused on winning, not necessarily running fast, but winning."

 

It's been a track season of winning for Bowman, that's for sure. She out-leaned favorite Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech to win the mile in 4:29 at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Tennessee won two events at those championships and Bowman crossed the finish line in both: she anchored the victorious DMR.

 

"When you lose races like that, it definitely gives you a lot of motivation," Bowman said of the three second-place finish at Penn last year. "We have such a great team and I love the girl's on our relays. You just don't want to waste an opportunity (to win)."

 

If it sounds like Bowman has been on a mission, well, Clark offers an affirmative.

 

"She's a great leader and a fine example for all our younger runners," Clark said of Bowman. "Not just in the way she competes at meets, but how she practices, studies, goes about doing everything. I've been very fortunate to work with someone so gifted physically and scholastically. But she doesn't take those gifts for granted, she works really hard, too."

 

Clark pointed out that Bowman has won the NCAA Division I Scholar Athlete of the Year.

 

So then it is an obvious match for Clark to match up Bowman with Price as much as possible. But no introductions were necessary as Price took the hint.

 

"Sarah, just as a person, is great to be around," Price said. "She doesn't talk much, but if you just watch her, notice her attitude and her behavior every day, you can see how it's supposed to be done."

 

Price recalled a moment during indoor season when she suffered and injury.

 

 "Sarah was the first to come to me and tell me that it would fine, that I'd be okay," Price said.

 Said Bowman: "It's a tough transition to college and to college training and competing. In high school, I'm sure, Chanelle never had anyone to train with and when she raced, she was all alone out front."

 

Bowman did say that Price has been a very quick learner.

 

"She has a really high maturity level for a freshman," Bowman said. "I admire her for toughness. She's so determined, dedicated, so focused. It really is amazing considering she is just a freshman."

 

Case in point was Clark putting Price in the lead-off spot of the 6,000 relay.

 

"I'm an 800 runner, not a miler," Price said. "I haven't even been training for anything other than the 800. But coach told me everything would be fine."

 

Judging by her 4:19 Clark was right.

 

"I didn't get too excited (the first lap) and just waited for the last two laps and used my speed," said Price, who is from Easton, Penn., just an hour from where the Penn Relays were run. "I had a lot of support in the stands."

 

The Vols' American-record breaking 3,200-meter relay team consisted of Kimarra McDonald (2:09.1), Price (2:02.4), Bowman (2:03.8) and Wright (2:02.6).

 

The Vols' winning DMR consisted of Wright in the 1,200 (3:22.2), McDonald in the 400 (:54.7), Price in the 800 (2:04.5) and Bowman in the 1,600 (4:40).