Jan. 25, 2003
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Tennessee's fourth-ranked track and field squad chalked up
its first victory of the season with a 139.5-point effort to claim the
Southeastern Conference Eastern Division Challenge Saturday night at
Kentucky's Nutter Field House. Third-ranked South Carolina took runner-up
honors with 124 points, followed by host Kentucky's 105-point offering to wrap
up the top three.
The Volunteers relied on depth, but also accumulated some style points with
the victory to top the six-team field with a NCAA automatic qualifier, six
NCAA provisional marks and eight lifetime bests.
"I'm proud of our guys," head coach Bill Webb said. "We
competed well in a
tough, six-team SEC meet. We backed a few people off to be cautious and still
came away with the win. I thought we had a good meet. We're making progress
toward where we want to be in the SEC."
Tennessee's most impressive time of the day didn't come attached
with the win.
However, 2002 NCAA Outdoor 400m champion Gary Kikaya proved he hasn't lost a
step with a runner-up, 46.26 time to secure Tennessee's first NCAA automatic
time of the season.
Pole vaulter Rocky Danners continued his soaring ways with a strong
provisional and season-best clearance of 17-8 ½. Danners' clearance left him
with gold honors.
Meanwhile, freshman sprinter Jonathan Wade posted two NCAA provisional marks
on the day and led the Volunteer scoring attack with 18 points. Wade won the
200m dash with a 21.18 effort in his first collegiate race in the event. Wade
also took second in the 60m dash with a 6.72 time, just .02 of a second off
his lifetime best last week.
In the 60m hurdles, Karl Jennings improved his provisional qualifier with a
fifth-place, 7.84 clocking.
Tennessee middle distance and distance corps didn't disappoint in its
unveiling. In fact, sophomore Frank Francois posted a provisional-qualifying
1:50.17 time in Tennessee's first 800m run of the season. In a testament to
the SEC talent pool in the 800m run, Francois' provisional time of 1:50.17
took seventh in the meet.
The Vol 4x400m relay team improved its craft to the tune of a
provisional-qualifying 3:10.28. The season-best time by the Tennessee quartet
of Dwayne Bell Jr., Damond Campbell, Kikaya and Stephen Harris ranked second
on the day.
Tennessee's distance medley relay ran to first place in the first time
Vols have contested the race this season. The foursome of Kenny Schappert,
Jennings, Francois and Rob Cloutier broke the tape in 10:14.21, not a
provisional qualifier but good enough for the win.
While he didn't notch a qualifier or win an event, captain Harris contributed
16 points to the Vol effort, second-most on the squad. Harris took second in
the long jump (23-8), third in the high jump (6-10 ¼) and anchored the
Tennessee 4x400m relay home in second.
As previously noted, Tennessee took the SEC East Challenge title because of
its depth. Saturday night the Vol distance corps piled up points in a
hard-fought way. A perfect example of this point-garnering approach can be
found in the Vol 3,000m run. Eric Bell finished second in 8:26.80, while
Patrick Gildea took fourth in 8:35.88, a valuable 13-point accumulation.
In the 5,000m run, Tennessee went 3-4 on the strength of lifetime bests by
Davis, 15:12.03, and Steve Klein, 15:15.14.
Tennessee also placed double high scores in the sprints. Wade's second-place,
6.72 in the 60m dash combined with Sean Lambert's third-place, 6.78 proved
critical for the Vol team title hopes.
The smothering Vol presence showed its face again with a 2-4 finish in the
long jump. As previously mentioned, Harris took runner-up honors. However,
Jabari Greer nailed down fourth with a 23-6 ¼ leap to keep the scoreboard
moving and the pressure on.
Tennessee takes next weekend off for training. In two weeks, the Volunteers
split the squad. Tennessee's distance men return to Nutter Field House for
the Kentucky Invitational. The remaining Volunteers head south for the
Florida Invitational to scout out the site of the SEC Indoor Championships.