April 10, 2003
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- And then there were five. The second day of the Sea Ray Relays read more like Agatha Christie than Grantland Rice as competitors kept dropping one by one. After another chilly, windy and rainy afternoon on Tennessee's Tom Black Track Thursday, the Scott Hartman Decathlon field dwindled dramatically down to five hearty finishers after beginning the event Wednesday with 10 competitors. Connecticut's Mark Jellison gutted it out for the win by compiling 7,198 points, an NCAA provisional qualifier.
For the first time coaching the Vols, Tennessee mentor Bill Webb pulled his Vol trio out of the decathlon as a precautionary measure because of the conditions. Webb vowed to have his unit spitting fire and gunning for NCAA-qualifying marks at the SEC decathlon next month, but couldn't justify taking the chance of getting a possible SEC scorer hurt five weeks before a potentially close conference clash. Tennessee's Kevin Yeager led the decathlon after the first day, while Blake Sabo stood third. Alex Hritcu stood sixth after the opening stanza.
Meanwhile, the decathlon pole vault, a treacherous event anyway and even more so in the rain, was moved into the dry confines of Stokely Athletics Center for safety's sake. Because of a rule passed last year by the coaches, a decathlete can still count a qualifying score if only the pole vault is moved indoors because of weather conditions.
The theme of attrition continued as the invitational 5,000m run was canceled because not enough runners declared.
In the biggest news of the day for the Volunteers, Matthew Lapp wrapped up his first 10,000m run with a sixth-place, 31:26.58 finish. Lapp pieced together a good opening race for the longest event contested at the NCAA Outdoors, but lost a little ground in the last six laps. Assistant head coach George Watts said he was confident Lapp would trim some time off his opening 10,000m effort the next time he laces up his spikes in the event.
Friday offers a full plate of Sea Ray Relays action from 9 a.m. through 9:15 p.m. The Sea Rays continue all day Saturday. Admission is free.
KIKAYA RECEIVES DUAL ATHLETE OF THE WEEK NODS
Tennessee sprinter Gary Kikaya earned track athlete of the week acclaim by two organizations Thursday. Nationally, Kikaya earned Mondo NCAA Division I Athlete of the Week honors by virtue of the U.S. Track Coaches Association vote. Meanwhile, the senior from Kinshasa, Congo also won track athlete of the week honors from the Southeastern Conference.
Kikaya led the Volunteers to a one-point win in the SEC Triangular Saturday in Columbia, S.C., by contributing 15.75 points. Kikaya entered and won three events, all with regional-qualifying times. Kikaya's winning 200m dash time of 20.73, a lifetime best, currently stands second in the NCAA. His winning 400m dash time, 45.94, also stands second in the NCAA. Kikaya also took the second leg of Tennessee's winning 4x100m relay, a 39.56 time.
Kikaya's recognition marks the second time this outdoor season a Vol secured Mondo National Athlete of the Week and SEC Track Athlete of the Week honors the same week. Decathlete Stephen Harris also pulled the sweep after posting the current world-leading decathlon score of 8,103 at the College Station Decathlon in late March.
VOLS OPEN TRACKWIRE RANKINGS IN EIGHTH
After finishing the indoor season tied for fifth, Tennessee's Volunteers open the first update of the Trackwire 25 in eighth with 32 projected NCAA Outdoor Championships points. Tennessee traditionally adds points in the outdoor season because of the different events contested. The Vols scored 23 points in the recent NCAA Indoor Championships.
Auburn leads the Trackwire 25 rankings, available on www.trackwire.com, with 50 points. LSU stands second with 48 points. Arkansas and Mississippi State follow close behind in third and fourth with 46 and 44 points, respectively. South Carolina follows seventh-place Tennessee in eighth with 30 projected points to give the Southeastern Conference six of the top eight teams in the nation.