Feb. 12, 2005
Members of Tennessee's track and field squad competed like they knew SEC berths were on the line during a sharp opening night Friday at the Virginia Tech Challenge in Blacksburg, Va. Despite a light schedule, Tennessee added two new faces to its list of NCAA indoor provisional qualifiers at Rector Fieldhouse.
Zach Sabatino led the charge with a 14-minute, 13.43-second winner in the 5,000, his first time running the event for Tennessee. Sabatino's lifetime-best time stands as a provisional qualifier for the NCAA indoor meet. Sabatino becomes the first Vol to break the 14:20 barrier indoors since Doug Ellington in the late 1990s, according to assistant head coach George Watts. Excluding other new marks authored around the conference this weekend, Sabatino's time jumped to the SEC lead.
"We had a good day," head coach Bill Webb said. "Zach Sabatino ran the leader down and was impressive in the 5,000. Putting two hurdlers in the finals without Aries Merritt is strong. Matthieu Pritchett's 6.41 in the 60 is solid. We had three good performances in the weight throw. We had a limited amount of events tonight, but we're looking forward to a full slate Saturday."
In his first time throwing the 35-lb. weight for Tennessee this season, school record holder Garland Porter launched the implement 67 feet, 1 1/4 inches. Porter's 67-1 1/4 mark stands as a strong NCAA provisional qualifier and lands less than seven inches off Auburn's Cory Martin's conference lead. Excluding other marks from this weekend's meets, Porter moved to 13th on the NCAA list, according to Webb.
Tennessee got more production in the weight throw from Knoxville Central grad Jim Sexton and Josh Whisman. Sexton rewrote his lifetime best with a 60-7 1/4 measurement in the weight throw to place seventh. Sexton has improved his season-best mark in each of the six meets in which he's competed this indoor season, a remarkable streak of improvement in any event in track and field. In his first weight throw of the season, Whisman flirted with the 60-foot mark with an eighth-place, 59-10 1/4 mark.
Eric Pierce contributed a season-best triple jump of 50-0 to nab silver, missing gold by just three-fourths of an inch.
With team leader Merritt sitting out the meet, true freshman Drew Brunson, co-captain Robert Boulware and Clarksville's Damond Campbell all measured progress in the 55 hurdles. Brunson will compete in Saturday's final after running matching lifetime-best 7.40s in the prelims and semifinal. Brunson's prelim time ranked third and semifinal time ranked fourth. Boulware also qualified for the finals with a fifth-place, season-best time of 7.45. Campbell qualified for the semifinals with a fifth-place, 7.53 prelim time, just one-hundredth of a second off his lifetime best. However, Campbell's 11th-place, 7.57 time in the semifinals didn't make the cut for the final.
With team leaders Rubin Williams and Jonathan Wade concentrating on other events, true freshman Pritchett safely qualified through two rounds to reserve a finals lane. Ranking eighth in both the prelims and semifinals, Pritchett clocked in at 6.44 in the prelims and 6.41 in the semifinal.
The Vols conclude the Virginia Tech Challenge Saturday evening.