University of Tennessee sophomore 800m runner Kameisha Bennett turned in the race of her life when it counted, claiming a victory at the Alex Wilson Invitational on Saturday and putting herself into position to receive a bid to next weekend's NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark.
Bennett, from Dayton, Ohio, covered the distance in a career best 2:07.09 to win the race and vault her ranking in that event from No. 37 to number seven in the nation. Usually the top 17-19 athletes in the 800 meters are invited to nationals. The announcement will be made late Monday night or early Tuesday, March 5 or 6.
Her NCAA provisional clocking makes her the fourth-fastest Lady Vol 800m runner ever indoors, passing such UT greats as Alisa Harvey, Valerie Bertrand and Kathi Harris with her big improvement. Her prior PR was a 2:09.31 reading in the prelims of last weekend's SEC Championships.
The race came down to the wire with Bennett leaning to edge Sarah Hamilton, who checked in at 2:07.11 as an unattached competitor. Stanford's Lindsay Hyatt was third at 2:08.24. Amazingly enough, it was the initial first-place finish in two years at UT for Bennett.
I am very happy for her, because now she's taking her growth as an individual and applying it to her athleticism, said UT assistant coach Rodney Rothoff. That is starting to produce results for her. I'm excited that it appears she will get a chance to compete in an event (NCAAs) which is befitting of her talent level.
Known as a better outdoor runner because of her tall build, the 6-foot Bennett has matured greatly this season and become a standout indoor performer. After posting a season and career best of 2:17.94 a year ago, she cranked out three prior PR performances this season. She ran a 2:12.29 in the prelims of the Pepsi/Walker Invitational in Johnson City, Tenn., on Jan. 26, a 2:12.28 at the Cannon IV Classic in Indianapolis on Feb. 10 and then the SEC effort last Saturday.
Another Lady Vol appears to be assured of a bid when the NCAA extended. Sophomore Sharon Dickie, who is stationed at 10th on the qualifying list in the 5000 meters, notched a victorious provisional time of 16:28.67 at the Cannon meet on Feb. 10 in her first race ever at that distance and put herself into contention for her second trip to indoor nationals. She went in 1999 as a freshman with UT's distance medley relay, running the opening leg.
The Grand Blanc, Mich., native has had a phenomenal season thus far, bouncing back better than ever after missing all of 2000 with an inflammatory hip condition. She took fourth in the 3000m at the SEC Championships last weekend and anchored the distance medley relay to a third-place finish. In cross country during the fall, she placed third at SECs, won the NCAA South Regional and went on to earn All-America accolades at the NCAA Championships.