March 1, 2003
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Tennessee's track and field squad pieced together a decent second day with some impressive highlights to stand sixth with 20 points at the SEC Indoor Championships in Florida's O'Connell Center Saturday. The trouble is that decent doesn't move the scoreboard much in America's finest track and field conference. Arkansas leads the event with 38 points.
Several Volunteers offered up fine qualifying efforts Saturday, but a handful of instances of hard luck tempered the successes. On one hand, Tennessee qualified someone in every event the Vols contested. However, the Volunteers hoped for more events in the finals featuring two qualifiers in orange Sunday. As night closed in on Gator Country, Tennessee prepared for Sunday's final-day showdown without as many weapons as the Vols had hoped. Conversely, the Vols still have 16 scoring opportunities on Sunday.
In the 3,000m run, the last event of the day, Farragut native Eric Bell became the only Vol to score on the day with his seventh-place finish. Bell peaked at the right time to score two points for the Vol cause with his lifetime-best time, a 8:16.15.
"You can't complain about a PR (personal best), but this race is about surviving," Bell said. "I finished seventh, but I think I could have been top five. I didn't finish my race like I wanted. This is the first time I've scored at SECs for Tennessee, but I'd rather have done it better than that."
The 200m dash stands as the only event where the Vols went perfect in qualifying. Sean Lambert and Jonathan Wade reserved two finals lanes for the men in orange and white with a pair of provisional times and the fifth and sixth-best prelim times, respectively. Lambert's 21.47 stands as a season-best time, his previous season best also came on Florida's blue oval, and an improvement on his provisional qualifier. Meanwhile, freshman Wade made his first SEC final courtesy of a 21.48 prelim effort.
The 55m dash brought mixed news. Lambert qualified on time with the day's eighth-fastest 55m prelim time, a 6.29. However, Wade's 6.31 left the freshman one-hundredth of a second out of the finals.
Jabari Greer's 7.19 lifetime best in the 55m hurdles stands out as a bright spot. Greer's 7.19 stands as the fastest qualifier of the day and tied for the sixth-fastest 55m hurdles time in Tennessee history. Greer's name now sits beside another track/football athlete in Anthony Hancock (1980) on the school's all-time list. The last Vol to run the 55m hurdles faster was current pro Dawane Wallace, who clocked in at 7.18 in 1999. However, the Vols were hoping for at least two finalists in the hurdles and Karl Jennings' 7.45 and Robert Boulware's 7.51 didn't make the cut.
"I think I had a performance to build on today," Greer said. "I accomplished some of my goals. This week's preparation put me in position for a good race. Coach Anderson put a lot of faith in me. I still have a long way to go." Gary Kikaya's 46.89 to easily win his 400m dash heat stands as one of the day's highlights. Kikaya's 46.89 stood as the day's third-fastest qualifier overall and reserves the senior a lane in the finals. However, senior Dwayne Bell Jr., just as he was making his move to advance into the pack at about the 215 meter mark, got tripped up after some contact up front jolted another runner into him. Bell crashed to the track surface and didn't finish the race.
Rob Cloutier provided another high point with his gutsy qualifier in the mile. Cloutier,. despite not even ranking in the SEC top 10 entering the meet, ran his lifetime-best time, 4:08.27, to nab the sixth-best qualifier. However, fellow miler Kenny Schappert didn't make the cut in his first SEC championship meet.
Sophomore Frank Francois fulfilled his end of the deal with an 800m run qualifier, the eighth-best of the day. Francois ran a 1:50.71 with a late charge to reserve his finals lane. While Joakim Daun didn't qualify in his first SEC meet, he did post a season-best time and indoor lifetime best of 1:52.26 to give him momentum as the outdoor season approaches.
However, the Vols just didn't have a whole lot go right in the field events. Leaping on dead legs after claiming the pentathlon title Friday night, Stephen Harris gamely attempted to scrap for points in the long jump, but took 12th with a respectable 24-2 1/4 effort. Meanwhile, Josh Whisman fouled all three of his attempts in the shot put. Additionally, there were no friendly skies over Gainesville for the Vols in the pole vault. All three Vols entered the meet banged up to some degree. Rocky Danners and Chandler Rice attempted jumps, but Jeff Trembley was held out by the training staff after a practice injury earlier this week prevented his competing. Meanwhile, after a strong indoor season, Danners and Rice weren't really themselves in no-height efforts on the floor of the O'Connell Center. Danners came in at 16-8 3/4. Rice made his attempts at 15-9, the opening height.
The SEC Indoors conclude Sunday with a full slate of 12 finals and the avalanche of points that comes with them. Tennessee fields a representative in 11 of those finals with 16 scoring opportunities.