April 16, 2005
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- There's a reason the Vols' biggest annual home meet is named the Sea Ray Relays. As the Vols' 39th spring classic concluded Saturday at Tom Black Track, Tennessee backed up the "Relays" part of the title with an exclamation point after winning five relays at the meet for the first time since 1991.
Tennessee won five of the six relays it contested during the meet and went three for four Saturday. The Volunteers won the shortest relay, the 4x100 meters, and the longest relay, the 4x1,500, while also seizing gold in such traditional strengths as the shuttle hurdle relay, 4x800 relay and 4x200 relay.
"Other than the first day (Wednesday), this has probably been the best weather we've had for Sea Rays," head coach Bill Webb said. "Aries Merritt had an outstanding meet being part of four wins. We really did a good job of being competitive and winning five relays. We were consistent again in the 4x100. All in all, I'm pretty pleased with it. I think it moved us along to where we wanted to be for SECs. This was a good boost for us as we move into the heart of the schedule. We're a little bit closer to knowning where we are."
Merritt won the coveted Tony Wilson Memorial Award for most outstanding track athlete at the Sea Ray Relays. Merritt was a part of four wins. His Friday win in the 110 hurdles courtesy of a 13.60-second time marked the best wind-legal time by any American this year--collegiate or professional. Merritt also ran on the victorious shuttle hurdle relay, 4x100 relay and 4x200 relay.
"I've never run this many races," Merritt said. "I didn't really expect to run as fast as I did. I'm happy I was able to compete as well as I did. The people who've won this award before me are excellent. It gives me confidence that maybe one day I can be an Olympic champion, as well."
Former Vol Rocky Danners won the corresponding Tony Wilson Memorial Award for most outstanding field athlete. Danners won the pole vault with an 18-0 1/2 clearance, the second-best mark by an American and tied for sixth in the world this year.
In the Volunteers' most thrilling race of the day, Tennessee won its fifth consecutive Sea Ray 4x800 relay with a 7:24.16 time despite competing shorthanded. Tyler DeVault, Kenny Schappert, Karns grad Yarrick Kincaid and Paul Cross carried the stick for the Vols. DeVault dropped down in distance and filled in on the leadoff leg. He passed the baton to Schappert in fifth place. Schappert picked off a competitor over the next two laps to hand off to Kincaid in fourth. In the grittiest race of his young career, the freshman Kincaid put Tennessee into position to secure the win by pulling the Vols into second when he turned duties over to Cross on the anchor. Cross made his move on the leading Illinois runner on the final curve, but the Illini fought off the charge. Cross tried again on the final straightaway and the Vol and Illini raced neck and neck. Cross leaned at precisely the right moment to secure the unprecedented fifth-consecutive win by only seven-hundredths of a second. Tennessee has won eight Sea Ray 4x800 relays since 1979.
Tennessee defended its 2004 4x100 relay title with new faces and a faster time. The victorious Volunteers moved the baton around the track in a regional-qualifying 39.54 in the most volatile of all relays. Freshman Matthieu Pritchett, junior Jonathan Wade, sophomore Merritt and freshman Rubin Williams secured Tennessee's 10th 4x100 relay title since 1978.
There was no such drama to be found in the shuttle hurdle relay as Tennessee's high hurdlers won the event running alone. The Volunteers clocked in at 56.83 as the only entrants in the race. Co-captain Robert Boulware, Drew Brunson, Damond Campbell and Merritt gave the Vols a preview of a likely Penn Relays contender. Long a haven for fine hurdlers, Tennessee's shuttle hurdle relay victory marked its 22nd title in the event at Sea Rays.
Tennessee won the 4x200 relay Friday with a time of 1:21.75, the third-fastest in the world this year, behind Pritchett, Wade, Merritt and Williams. The Vols also took the 4x1,500 relay Friday with a time of 15:38.78 thanks to Chris Platt, Jeff Day, Zach Sabatino and DeVault.
On Saturday, Tennessee finished sixth in the 4x400 relay with a time of 3:11.69, its second-fastest time of the season. Jeremy Burton, Brunson, Cross and Schappert moved the stick around the track for the last event of the 39th Sea Ray Relays.
In the invitational 100, Williams nabbed fifth with a 10.41 regional qualifier. Wade's 100 opener resulted in a sixth-place, 10.43 regional qualifier. In the invitational 200, Williams took fourth in a regional-qualifying 20.95 to take over the team lead in his opener. Pritchett finished 10th in 21.39 in the invitational 200.
Sabatino ran to third-place honors with a regional-qualifying time of 8:54.61 in his first steeplechase of the season. Also running in the invitational section, Doug Brown finished eighth in the steeplechase with a time of 9:17.51, lopping off nine seconds from his season best. Day finished ninth in the invitational steeplechase with a 9:21.11 effort. Platt finished 11th with a 9:35.65 time. In the 5,000, Ben Lukowski earned 11th in the 5,000 with a 15:10.20 clocking.
Knoxville Central grad Jim Sexton took fourth in the hammer with a measurement of 189-6.
The Volunteers take their show to the state capital next with a Friday and Saturday date at the Vanderbilt Invitational. Tennessee will get its first look at the new track set to host the SEC outdoor championships May 12-15.
Sea Ray Relays, Knoxville, Tenn.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
1. Jacob Korir, Eastern Ky. 14:34.60
11. Ben Lukowski, Tenn. 15:10.20
Distance medley relay
1. Villanova 9:52.98
(Ryan Hayden, Patrick Gazzini, Mark Korich, Michael Kerrigan)
Pole vault (invitational)
1. Rocky Danners, Unatt. 18-0 ½ *
1. Ciaran McDonagh, Doyle Mgmt. 24-11w *
Shot put (invitational)
1. Sven Hahn, Va. Tech 58-6 ¾ *
1. Esko Mikkolo, Unatt. 255-7 *
1. Joe Schroeder, S.C. 198-1
1. Wil Fleming, Unatt. 213-1 *
4. Jim Sexton, Tenn. 189-6 *
SB-season-best mark, PR-personal record/career-best mark, *-NCAA regional qualifier.