May 3, 2003
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Tennessee's track and field Volunteers fought off cold and windy conditions en route to a handful of lifetime-best times to open the 18th Jesse Owens Classic Friday night at Ohio State. A cold northwest wind whipped the Big 10 school flags flying high above Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium as Vols Rondell Mershon, Leigh Smith and Damond Campbell took home titles in their specialties, the triple jump, javelin and 400m hurdles, respectively, on a leaden day in Buckeye Land. On the whole, Tennessee's performances were a much prettier sight than the weather as the Vols aimed to peak as the championship season rolls around.
Mershon, who's been on the sidelines for more than a month with a heel injury, took top honors in the triple jump with a slightly wind-aided 50-8.25 measurement down the sand pit. The senior's effort betters his regional-qualifying mark and stands as a season best, just about six inches less than his lifetime-best mark. The mark also just misses by half an inch the Jesse Owens Stadium Record set last year.
"I think it was very encouraging as far as what I can do for the next couple of meets," Mershon said. "Even though I only got one mark in, I was pretty happy considering I haven't jumped in about five weeks (heel injury). I think I'll be very productive when SEC comes, if nothing else just with the added training I'll be able to do when I get healthy. It has to benefit me a lot."
Smith won the javelin with a 227-3 regional qualifier, nearly four feet better than his previous season best. Smith's heave of the spear beat the runner-up by about 15 feet.
Clarksville native Campbell notched his first win as a Vol with the 400m
hurdles victory in a lifetime-best 52.74, a full second faster than the
runner-up. Campbell's time falls just .04 of a second short of the regional
qualifier in the event. Campbell began to make his move after he passed the
Tennessee contingent in the stands past the second curve at the 100 meter
"I'm just surprised I ran so fast because of the conditions and schedule delays," Campbell said. "We started about an hour late, and we were sitting in the cold trying to stay loose. It's kind of like Coach Anderson said about you have to feel your way along as you go. You can't just say 'I'm a freshman' and expect to be in the back. I'm finally beginning to feel comfortable in the transition from 300m hurdles [high school] to 400m hurdles [college]. It really helped having my teammates cheering for me. It was cold. I can finally say I can run in any conditions because of tonight and the rain at the Penn Relays."
Hammer thrower Josh Whisman once again upped his lifetime-best effort with a 189-3 measurement to earn third, easily beating the regional standard by 10 feet.
Meanwhile, a couple of middle distance Vols also achieved the best times of their lives in the challenging conditions. In the 800m run, Kenny Schappert took bronze in a personal-best 1:53.39, nearly half a second faster than he's ever run the event. Meanwhile, Jimmy Judge offered up his second lifetime-best 1,500m run in six days. Judge took eighth in the event after clocking a 4:02.19, about a second faster than his winner Sunday at the Knoxville Invitational.
Meanwhile, Tennessee's decathletes used the open sections of the 100m dash and 110mhurdles for training. Blake Sabo, third in a wind-aided 14.82w, and Alex Hritcu, ninth in a wind-aided 15.34w, both ran their fastest times of the season.
Tennessee scheduled a full slate of action to close the meet Saturday night.