Steady Vols Make Headway in Season's Second Weekend

March 29, 2003


PALO ALTO, Calif. and GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Tennessee continued to pile up lifetime bests and postseason qualifiers at a rapid pace as the second weekend of the outdoor season wound down at the Stanford Invitational and Florida Relays Saturday. The measure of the weekend's success wasn't measured in wins as much as Vols improving on previous bests in events across the spectrum, a verification of progress in fitness levels.

Patrick Gildea put together the best day for the Vol distance corps. Late last night on Cobb Track at the Stanford Invitational, Gildea lopped a full 75 seconds off his lifetime-best 10,000m run time with a 29:09.53 effort in what assistant head coach George Watts called "unbelievable conditions for distance running." Gildea, who placed 13th in an elite field, ran to a strong provisional qualifying time for the NCAA Championships. The 10,000m run and decathlon are the only events still using the old provisional/automatic qualifying system for nationals. The remainder of the events must qualify at a regional meet. Gildea ran the fastest 10,000m time by a Vol since 1995, when Stewart Ellington topped out at 29:04.03.

"We had a decent amount of success for our first time at the Stanford Invitational," Watts said. "I'm very pleased with Patrick Gildea's performance. He had a huge PR which will give him a good chance to get into the NCAA meet. That 10,000m field was as good a collegiate field as you'll see until nationals."

Meanwhile, Farragut native Eric Bell pumped out a 14-second improvement on his lifetime best in the 5,000m run. Bell's 14:23.76 stands as a regional qualifier and placed 18th. The only Vol racing Saturday at Stanford, Marc Sylvester pieced together a solid debut in the 1,500m run, clocking a 3:49.53 and meeting the regional standard in his first crack at the race. In the 'B' section of the 10,000m run, Scott DeFilippis ran to a 30:13.96, 20th-place finish, just eight seconds slower than his PR. Meanwhile, after sitting out the indoor season, Tim Kelly continued to knock the rust off with a 13th-place, 9:24.84 finish in the steeplechase.



"It was good to see Eric Bell run a 14-second PR, but he knows he can run faster," Watts said. "Marc Sylvester's debut in the 1,500 was successful, especially considering his lack of experience in that race. Scott DeFilippis will run the 10,000m run at the Penn Relays, and I feel certain he'll improve. Tim Kelly's still a little rusty after missing the indoor season, but I feel confident he'll get back to form."

The southern Vol contingent made the most improvement in the field events at Florida's Percy Beard Stadium, as four Vols posted season bests in five events.

"We had several improvements again today," head coach Bill Webb said. "Josh Whisman had a big PR in the hammer. Leigh Smith had a season best in the javelin. Rocky Danners had another season best in the pole vault. He had a near miss at 18-0.5. We think he'll be clearing that height in the near future. We look forward to getting back home, training and getting ready for the scored meet in Columbia next weekend."

Whisman contributed the best day of his young career with a big lifetime-best throw in the hammer and season-best shot put effort. In a groove this weekend, Whisman posted a lifetime best in the hammer Friday. However, Saturday the Columbus, Ohio native added nearly six feet to Friday's mark to move his career best to 188-2 to earn 10th. The mark moved Whisman to fifth on Tennessee's all-time list in the hammer. The last person to throw the hammer farther was school-record holder Wes Boudreau (222-7) in 1996. Meanwhile, Whisman also moved his season-best shot put mark to 51-7, placing eighth.

Danners took runner-up honors in the pole vault after clearing 17-8.5, a season-best and easy regional qualifier. Danners cleared the same height as winner Paul Condron of Florida, but took second on misses. Meanwhile, javelin thrower Leigh Smith also took runner-up honors, throwing the spear 218-10 for another easy regional qualifier and season best. Triple jumper Rondell Mershon also cracked the regional standard by six inches. Mershon posted his season-best effort of 49-6.5 to earn seventh.

The Vols also contested three relays at the Florida Relays. Probably, the second-place finish in the shuttle hurdle relay stands out as the most noteworthy effort. Tennessee, the most dominant shuttle hurdles relay team in Penn Relays history, took second to homestanding Florida with a 55.53 time, a fraction faster than last year when the Vols could still rely on the services of Justin Gatlin, Hassaan Stamps and Matt Rush. Saturday's Vol quartet included Robert Boulware, Karl Jennings, Damond Campbell and Jabari Greer. Meanwhile, Florida's 54.78 proved plenty fast, just 0.38 of a second off Tennessee's world record time of 54.40 in 1983.

In the 4x400m relay, the only relay of the three run by the Vols Saturday contested at the NCAA Outdoor meet, Tennessee finished sixth in a season-best time of 3:09.86 to up its regional qualifier. Dwayne Bell Jr., Jennings, Gary Kikaya and Campbell passed the stick on the 4x400m relay effort. Tennessee also took ninth in the distance medley relay, contested at the NCAA Indoor meet, with a time of 10:12.74. A new lineup of Frank Francois, Jonathan Wade, Joakim Daun and Kenny Schappert passed the baton on that one.

The Vols take on their first outdoor scored meet Saturday at the SEC Triangular in Columbia, S.C., versus South Carolina and Florida.



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