After finishing second a year ago in the sprint medley relay, the 10th-ranked University of Tennessee women's track & field team returns to the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, Pa.
Tennessee will assemble lineups in the distance medley relay on Thursday, the sprint medley relay on Friday and the 4x800m relay on Saturday, and all three quartets appear capable of bringing UT its first baton event title since the 4x100m relay claimed victory in 1994 under the direction of current men's sprint coach Vince Anderson.
All four members of UT's 2003 Penn Relays runner-up SMR unit return, including juniors Toyin Olupona, Antoinette Gorham, Dee Dee Trotter and Nicole Cook. That group clocked in at 3:44.97, just 29/100ths of a second behind LSU's 3:44.68 a year ago, and logged the third-fastest performance in school history.
In the DMR, Tennessee enters with an impressive resume in 2004 after claiming both the NCAA and Southeastern Conference indoor championships in that event. After charting a school record of 11:03.42 at the Penn State National Meet in January, the Lady Vols went on to seize the SEC title in a meet-record time of 11:16.61 and followed up by taking the national crown in 11:06.07. The quartet at both the Penn State and NCAA meets consisted of sophomore Brooke Novak, Trotter, freshman Leslie Treherne and senior Lindsay Hyatt.
Tennessee, which picked up its only Penn Relays DMR victory in 1983, took fourth at Franklin Field a season ago with Novak, Trotter, Cook and Sharon Dickie toting the baton to an 11:13.38 count that rated fifth in school annals. In 2004, UT already has an 11:14.09 result to its credit, which was achieved on April 10 by Cook, Gorham, redshirt freshman Mindy Sullivan and Hyatt in a second-place run at the Sea Ray Relays. That mark, which rates sixth all-time for the Lady Vols, was the fastest outdoor DMR clocking by a UT quartet that early in the season.
The 4x800m relay represents the most storied event by Tennessee at Franklin Field. The Lady Vols own a quartet of titles and capped off a string of four-consecutive 4x8 victories at the Penn Relays in 1984 by setting the collegiate and meet records with a sizzling 8:20.22 performance. The time produced by Karol Davidson, Kathi Harris, Cathy Rattray and Joetta Clark still sits atop both record lists 20 years later, and J.J. Clark's 2004 squad will pursue both a victory and the possibility of eclipsing that lofty mark.
"The idea is to go up there and try to win everything we enter," Clark said. "It's an exciting event to be a part of, and we're going to go to Franklin Field, put our best forward and make something happen. Last year was a start, and we did the best we could, but we look forward to elevating our performance this time around."