Jan. 9, 2003
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee's track and field squad eased into the 2003 indoor season Thursday evening with some solid performances on the home track in Stokely Athletics Center. The orange and white speedsters got the season off to a fast start with a provisional qualifier from rookie Jonathan Wade and a near-provisional miss by hurdler Karl Jennings.
"We're just glad to get everybody back," head coach Bill Webb said. "It's good to have this early season opportunity. It looks like people have been working out over the holiday and taking it seriously. It's good to see a couple of football guys (Jonathan Wade and Jabari Greer), Karl (Jennings) and Rocky (Danners) get off to a good start. Plus, the decathletes always get a lot out of this meet. It's always a big plus to get through any meet with no injuries, especially because we have two big meets coming up."
Tennessee's sprint corps provided the biggest spark of the day by sweeping the top four spots in the 55M dash prelims and finals. Newcomer Wade notched a provisional qualifier and the win in his first race as a Vol. Wade broke the tape in 6.26 down the indoor straightaway to fire the first shot in Tennessee's NCAA Indoor qualifying race. Sean Lambert took second in 6.38, while Jabari Greer and Dwayne Bell Jr., opened up with a 6.40 and 6.50, respectively.
In another encouraging sign on the short track, Jennings, an indoor All-America selection last year in Tennessee's title run, just missed the provisional cutoff with a runner-up finish to former Vol great and current pro Dawane Wallace in the 55M hurdles. Jennings showed few signs of race rust by clocking in at 7.43, just .04 of a second off the provisional standard, in his first competitive race since spring break 2002, when he suffered a hamstring injury that kept him off the outdoor track last year. Newcomer Damond Campbell, a Clarksville native, took a fourth-place, 7.74 time in the 55M hurdles in his first outing in orange.
"I think it went really well," Jennings said. "I know there's still a lot to improve on. I'm really excited about this season, especially if this is an indicator of things to come. I thought my technique was good for the first meet back."
Though not quite scraping All-America heights again yet, senior Rocky Danners finished second to former Vol great and current pro Tim Mack. Danners made a few heights in his return to Knoxville with a 16-8 3/4 clearance in his first competition since the 2002 NCAA Outdoor Championships in June. Meanwhile, Stephen Harris won the decathlon section of the pole vault with a 14-9 clearance. Harris concluded with a made bar and saved his attempt at the next height, which would have been a career-best, for a day when the Vols needed the points more. Vol Alex Hritcu earned runner-up with a 12-10 clearance in the event.
The Vols made their presence felt in the shot put. In a decathlete-dominated affair, Kevin Thompson led the Vols with a 46-10 1/4 offering to earn second. Decathlete Blake Sabo finished fourth with a 43-11 1/4 mark.
Meanwhile, Knoxville Central product Jim Sexton continued to show improvement following his redshirt season last year. Sexton took runner-up honors with a 47-3 personal-best measurement.