Feb. 28, 2003
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Tennessee's track and field squad raced out to the first day lead with 18 points in the pentathlon at the SEC Indoor Championships Friday at Florida's O'Connell Center. Stephen Harris claimed the first championship title of his career with a 4,277-point effort, the second-best total in Tennessee history. Every bit as importantly, four of five Volunteers scored to get the scoreboard rolling for Tennessee.
"We got a good jump start to the meet today," head coach Bill Webb said. "We competed really well. I'm really proud of Stephen Harris and his world-class effort. None of the other guys put together a complete meet, but I'm proud of the way they scrapped and competed in the last event."
Harris' 4,277-point total stands as his lifetime best and falls a mere eight points behind Olympian Tom Pappas' school record from 1999. Harris beat runner-up Maurice Smith of Auburn by a whopping 199 points. Harris fueled his SEC title with three wins in the five-event spectacle. He took top honors in the long jump (24-5), high jump (6-11 3/4) and 1,000m run (2:40.82). His overall score and 1,000m run stand as a lifetime bests for the senior from Norcross, Ga. Harris also registered season bests in the shot put (45-0 1/2) and high jump. Harris becomes the first Vol to win the SEC Indoor pentathlon since Aric Long won in 1991 with a 4,081 total. However, the pentathlon was not contested from 1993-2001.
"I've never really had a title to my name," Harris said. "You realize that all things come together. It's kind of nice how things work out. The first title is a good feeling and special to me. Our decathlon squad is the best in the country. My teammates are top of the line. We work together to push each other to the limit."
Meanwhile, Kevin Thompson pieced together a fourth-place finish to score valuable points despite coming off an injury. Thompson's highlight came with a 45-0 1/2 mark for a shot put winner. Thompson didn't notch any personal bests, but shaking the rust off for points pleased Webb.
"I'm proud of our guys and the way we competed," Thompson said. "My goal at this meet was to finish and get points for my team. Since I missed the last three weeks with an injury, I didn't know what to expect."
Meanwhile, Farragut native Kevin Yeager finished seventh with a season-best score of 3,728 points. Yeager contributed lifetime bests in the shot put (41-6 1/2), high jump (6-6) and closed hard for a runner-up finish in the 1,000m run (2:42.02).
Alex Hritcu found his way into the scoring column in eighth place with a season-best 3,727 points. Hritcu established a career best in the 1,000m run to finish strong in fourth with a 2:42.49 time.
Blake Sabo took 11th, but put together a strong first four events before a tough 1,000m run to close the day. Sabo's 3,632 total still stands as a season-best. Sabo made his mark with a runner-up finish in the shot put, a lifetime-best 44-4, and third place in the high jump, a season-best 6-7.
The SEC Indoors get underway in earnest Saturday with a full slate of preliminary and final action.