Merritt Hurdles to NCAA, American Lead and Stokely Record at Tennessee Classic

Feb. 18, 2005

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn.- Aries Merritt enters the SEC indoor championships with a healthy dose of confidence after charging to the NCAA and American lead and a Stokely Athletics Center record in the 55 hurdles Friday night at the Tennessee Classic. Tennessee's throwers also authored a dominating effort in the weight throw and shot put to prime the unit for a sizeable point haul at the SEC meet.

Merritt ran the fastest time of his life in his pre-SEC tune-up, becoming the first Vol this season to secure a NCAA automatic qualifier. Merritt's 7.12-second winner in the 55 hurdles broke the Stokely Athletics Center record of 7.13 set by professional hurdler Dawane Wallace, also a former Vol, in 2001. Wallace sat in the stands tonight and saw his record nipped by the sophomore from Marietta, Ga. Merritt also jumped to second on Tennessee's all-time list in the event, passing such notables as Jabari Greer and Richmond Flowers and trailing only Willie Gault's 6.95 effort in 1983.

More importantly, when converted to the NCAA 60-meter hurdles standard, Merritt leapt from third to the NCAA lead with his 7.12 time, which converts to 7.64. At any rate, the race sets up a thriller at the SEC indoor championships next week, as Mississippi's Antwon Hicks now stands No. 2 on the NCAA list with his 7.65 time and Florida's Josh Walker ranks third with a 7.69.

Merritt's time stands as the fastest 55 hurdles time by any American, collegiate or professional, in 2005, according to USA Track and Field. In an interesting side note to Stokely Athletics Center's venerable history, the facility's straightaway has been the site of the two fastest 55 hurdles times by Americans in 2005. Wallace's 7.15 at the Jan. 7 Tennessee All-Comers Meet ranks second.

"My prelims were a little shaky," Merritt said. "It wasn't sufficient. I thought it was sluggish. In the final I focused on what I needed to do. I knew running with Karl (Jennings) I needed to run crisp because he's always crisp over the hurdles. I'm pleased with the time. There's still more I need to do before SECs, but it gives me more confidence going into the SEC meet."



Freshman Drew Brunson finished third in the 55 hurdles final with a 7.38 lifetime best, good enough to meet the NCAA indoor provisional-qualifying standard. In the 55 hurdles prelims, freshman Cade Liverman authored a lifetime-best 7.50, the day's fourth-best qualifying time. Liverman took fifth in final in 7.60.

Tennessee opened the meet on a high note in the weight throw. The Volunteers swept the top three spots and notched two NCAA indoor provisional marks in the process. Garland Porter won the weight throw with a 64-feet, 10 ¾-inch mark, meeting the provisional standard but not quite matching his season-best mark from last week.

Knoxville Central grad Jim Sexton continued his remarkable streak of improving his weight throw season best in seven consecutive meets this season, an extremely rare feat in any event in track and field. Sexton finished second with a lifetime-best mark of 62-8, his first NCAA indoor provisional mark of his career. While he fouled his sixth and final throw, the Knoxvillian put on a show for the hometown crowd by improving his lifetime-best mark in each of his first three throws, another impressive feat. In a tribute to consistency, all of Sexton's first five throws surpassed his previous lifetime best, set last weekend at the Virginia Tech Challenge.

"This is my fourth year throwing the weight at Tennessee, and every year you get more accustomed to the weight of the implement," Sexton said. "My technique has improved. Plus, we were at home so I'm used to the feel of the circle and the facility. I've got friends and family here cheering for me, so that helps a lot. Last year I improved my PR in the hammer every meet but two. I don't worry about getting national marks, I just want to throw farther."

Josh Whisman neared his season best after bookending the top three with a 59-7 ¾ measurement in the weight throw. In his first time competing in the event, Ell Ash took fifth with a 52-10 mark.

Tennessee's shot putters also impressed. Whisman won the shot put with a 56-8 ½ heave. Porter took silver in the shot put with a season-best 56-0 mark. Ash placed third with a 51-9 ¾ effort.

Freshman Matthieu Pritchett also looked sharp in the 55, taking second to 2004 Olympian and former Vol Gary Kikaya. Pritchett tied his lifetime-best 55 time of 6.31 in the final. Jonathan Wade finished third in the prelims with a 6.39 time to qualify for the finals, but he didn't run the final.

In the high jump, Halls grad Chris Wilson took second with a 6-6 ¾ leap. Brunson followed in fourth with a 6-4 ¾ height. In the pole vault, Andy Lane and co-captain Jeff Trembley tied for second with 15-7 clearances. Former Vol Rocky Danners won the event with an 16-8 ¾ effort. Danners wasn't the only other former Vol of note in the house Friday night, as the Tennessee Classic counted Olympic record holder and 2004 gold medalist Tim Mack in attendance. In the pole vault 'B' section, Chris Helwick earned second with a 14-11 leap. Alex Hritcu finished fourth with a 13-11 1/4 jump. Jangy Addy tied for ninth with a 12-5 1/2 effort.

Heptathlete Addy took second with a 44-4 heave in the 'B' section of the shot put. Helwick followed with a third-place, 43-1 ½ measurement.

Tennessee returns to action next Friday through Sunday at the SEC indoor championships in Fayetteville, Ark.

Tennessee Classic, Knoxville, Tenn.
Friday, Feb. 18, 2005

55 preliminaries
1.Gary Kikaya, Unatt.6.28 Q
2.Matthieu Pritchett, Tenn.6.36 Q
3.Jonathan Wade, Tenn.6.39 Q
15.Cade Liverman, Tenn.6.75
24.Chris Helwick, Tenn.7.06
55 final
1.Gary Kikaya, Unatt.6.20 *
2.Matthieu Pritchett, Tenn. 6.31 PR
1.Greg Spencer, Ky. St.54.17
1.David Osborne, Ky. St. 2:01.16
55 hurdles preliminaries
1.Aries Merritt, Tenn.7.17 Q, **
3.Drew Brunson, Tenn.7.41 Q
4.Cade Liverman, Tenn.7.50 Q, PR
7.Damond Campbell, Tenn.7.56
11.Alex Hritcu, Tenn.8.05
55 hurdles final
1.Aries Merritt, Tenn.7.12 PR,FR,**
3.Drew Brunson, Tenn.7.38 PR, *
5.Cade Liverman, Tenn.7.60
4x400 relay
1.Morehouse 3:26.50
High jump
1.Keith Moffatt, Morehouse7-0 ½
2.Chris Wilson, Tenn.6-6 ¾
4.Drew Brunson, Tenn.6-4
Pole vault
1.Rocky Danners, Unatt. 16-8 ¾
2t.Andy Lane, Tenn.15-7
Jeff Trembley, Tenn.15-7
--Michael Hogue, Tenn.No height
Pole vault 'B' section
1.Jeremy Longshore, Gardner-Webb14-11
2.Chris Helwick, Tenn.14-11
4.Alex Hritcu, Tenn.13-11 ¼
9t.Jangy Addy, Tenn. 12-5 ½
Long jump
1.Randell Flimmons, Morehouse22-11
Triple jump
1.Carjay Lyles, Unatt.49-9 1/4
Shot put
1.Josh Whisman, Tenn.56-8 ½
2.Garland Porter, Tenn. 56-0 SB
3.Ell Ash, Tenn.51-9 3/4
Shot put 'B' section
1.Matt Knippen, Gardner-Webb46-10 ¾
2.Jangy Addy, Tenn. 44-4
3.Chris Helwick, Tenn.43-1 1/2
Weight throw
1.Garland Porter, Tenn. 64-10 ¾ *
2.Jim Sexton, Tenn. 62-8 * PR
3.Josh Whisman, Tenn.59-7 ¾
5.Ell Ash, Tenn.52-10

Q-qualified for event final, SB-season-best mark, PR-personal record/career-best mark, FR-Stokely Athletics Center facility record, *-NCAA indoor provisional qualifier, **-NCAA indoor automatic qualifier.



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