Jan. 7, 2005
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- About a dozen members of the Vols' track and field team got the 2005 indoor season underway Friday night at the Tennessee All-Comers Meet on the home lanes of Stokely Athletics Center. Returning All-America hurdler Aries Merritt fired the first shot of the season with a strong NCAA indoor provisional qualifier in the 55-meter hurdles, and three Vols won their events.
Assistant coach Norbert Elliott, the newest member of Tennessee's staff, and his sprinters and hurdlers provided the highlights of the meet as youngsters Merritt and Williams took aim at the NCAA indoor championships.
Merritt showed few signs of rust following his freshman All-America outdoor campaign. He notched the Vols' first NCAA provisional qualifier with a career-best time of 7.19 seconds to take runner-up in the 55 hurdles. Merritt's 7.19 clocking stands just two-hundredths of a second off the NCAA automatic qualifying standard. His 7.19 time ties Anthony Hancock's 1980 55 hurdles effort for seventh on Tennessee's all-time list. He trails only Willie Gault, Jabari Greer, Richmond Flowers, Bill High, Dawane Wallace and Jerome Wilson on the school 55 hurdles list.
Wallace, now one of the top professional hurdlers in the U.S., put on a show to win the 55 hurdles. Wallace cleared the hurdles in 7.16 in the finals and 7.15 in the preliminaries, just an eyeblink slower than his 7.13 facility record set four years ago to the day.
"My prelims felt shaky," Merritt said. "My foot placement and approach were horrible. In the finals, of course, I had to get out running against Dawane [Wallace]. It helped running with Dawane because he's the type of hurdler who knows how to control a race. I just tried to run with him and adapt to the race. I'm happy with my time. This is the first time I've really run since August."
In the 55, Williams flirted with an NCAA provisional qualifier in winning his first collegiate race. Williams won the 55 in 6.28, just four-hundredths of a second off the provisional cutoff. Jeremy Burton, a 400 hurdler by trade, took fourth in the 55 final with a respectable 6.41 effort.
Tennessee took the top two spots in the high jump. Halls alum Chris Wilson won the high jump with a 6-7 ½ clearance in his first meet following a 2004 redshirt season. Freshman Drew Brunson followed just behind in a tie for second with a 6-6 ¾ jump.
After sitting out last season, Eric Pierce won the long jump with a lifetime-best leap of 23 feet, 2 ½ inches in his first meet donning the orange. Pierce also took silver in the triple jump with a 48-10 measurement to round out his workday.
Knoxville Central grad Jim Sexton opened his season with a 54-4 heave in the 35-lb. weight throw, good enough for silver.
Decathlete Jangy Addy contributed a pair of lifetime-best performances in the pole vault (third, 13-0 3/4) and shot put (sixth, 45-6 1/4).
Tennessee returns to the track with a larger squad Friday and Saturday at the Kentucky Invitational in Lexington, Ky.