Vols Maintain Lead after Third Day of SEC Championships

May 14, 2005

Photo Gallery

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-- Tennessee sauntered out to a slow start but closed the night on a strong note Saturday at the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Vanderbilt Track in Nashville, Tenn.

Though the race has tightened considerably throughout the top four, the Volunteers still hold the lead with 48 points after the third day of the nation's toughest conference championships. Favorite Arkansas stands second with 44 points. Florida has nestled close in third with 40 points. Auburn remains within striking distance in fourth with 32 points.

"We had a nice finish with Eric Pierce's lifetime best in a tough long jump competition," head coach Bill Webb said. "Jeff Day had a huge lifetime best in the steeplechase. He really stepped up and filled the bill there. Chris Wilson scrapped for a point in the high jump.

Jeff Day contributed the best race of his life to help Tennessee counter the loss of additional points in the steeplechase. Day finished third after running the 3,000-meter test of hurdles, water and pain in 8:56.29, about a seven-second improvement to his lifetime best and a regional qualifier. With six laps left to go Day ranked eighth. With just one lap to go Day still hung back in seventh, but the sophomore mounted a final charge to take third. Day's finish netted six points and helped the Volunteers maintain the team lead entering the final day.

"It was the gutsiest and smartest race I've run at Tennessee," Day said. "I stayed back farther and slowly progressed. My goal was to get top five, but my strategy worked really well. Coach (George) Watts said to go out smart and not too hard to slowly get into a groove. I was coming through each split faster than I had planned. I was in eighth at one point and slowly they came back to me. Coach Watts said to leave something for the last 600 (meters), and I sure did that. I'm ecstatic about my performance.



However, the other three Vol steeplechasers had a tougher go of it. Team leader Zach Sabatino took 11th with a 9:24.56 time. Doug Brown finished 12th with a 9:27.22 effort. Tyler DeVault earned 15th with a 9:36.78 time.

Eric Pierce stood as the Vols' second-highest scorer on the day with his fourth-place, five-point performance down the sand pit. Pierce rode his first of six jumps to a lifetime-best leap of 24-10 ½, also a regional qualifier.

"I feel good about my PR (personal record)," Pierce said. "Going almost 25 feet was my goal before the season, and I'm about there. I had two big fouls at the end, but fouls don't count. I had a little cramping problem, but I feel good now and am ready for the triple jump.

Halls grad Chris Wilson scored a point in the high jump after finishing eighth. Wilson matched his season-best 6-8 ¾ clearance on his third and final attempt to scrap for the point and post his best SEC finish. Drew Brunson placed 10th after clearing 6-6 ¾.

While both Wilson and Brunson had finished their competition, a severe weather delay, a longstanding SEC outdoor championships tradition, arrived at 2:37 p.m. CT., during the high jump. Before competition was suspended, the SEC member flags flying outside the track's curve rippled at attention as the wind picked up and whipped through the tulip poplars separating the track from the warm-up field. Shortly after the delay torrents of rain and lightning confirmed the wisdom of suspending the meet. Athletes, coaches, officials and fans waited through a four-hour, four-minute delay. At 6:41 p.m. CT, the high jump resumed. During the national anthem at 7 p.m. the sun made its welcome reappearance hanging low in the western sky.

The weather delay forced a juggling of the schedule, in which the postponement of the men's pole vault from Saturday until Sunday affected Tennessee the most.

In prelim action, Aries Merritt posted the day's fastest 110 hurdles qualifier with a blistering 13.45 personal-best performance. Merritt's time ranks third this year in the NCAA, eighth among all Americans (collegiate and professional) and 10th in the world. Merritt improved his hold on the fourth spot on Tennessee's all-time 110 hurdles list. Only Willie Gault (13.26), Jabari Greer (13.32) and Justin Gatlin (13.41) have ever run faster while donning the orange.

After a disappointing high jump, Brunson evened out his day by finishing eighth in the 110 hurdles prelims and reserving a lane in the final. Brunson's time of 14.03 stands as his lifetime best and a regional qualifier. Clarksville's Damond Campbell finished 12th in the 110 hurdles prelims with a 14.18 regional qualifier. Co-captain Robert Boulware ranked 13th with a 14.21 regional qualifier. Cade Liverman finished 16th in the 110 hurdles prelims after running a 14.45 time.

True freshman Rubin Williams followed a splendid 200 on Friday with a solid 100 prelim Saturday. Williams finished sixth in the prelims with a regional-qualifying 10.47 time to reserve a lane in the finals. Jonathan Wade finished 14th with a 10.62 time. Freshman Matthieu Pritchett finished 21st in 11.31.

Chris Platt lopped nearly six seconds off his previous lifetime best to survive the 1,500 prelims. Platt finished 11th with a time of 3:50.29 to qualify for Sunday's final. Kenny Schappert offered up a personal-best 3:53.31 to finish 13th, but only the top 12 advanced to the final.

In the discus, the first event of the morning, Jim Sexton finished 11th with a 156-8 fling. Garland Porter took 14th with a 151-7 mark.

The SEC championships close Sunday with 14 finals and an avalanche of points on the line.

SEC Outdoor Championships, Nashville, Tenn.
Saturday, May 14, 2005


Team standings (after third day)
5.Mississippi State24
11.South Carolina5

Tennessee Individual Scorers

Friday--36 points
Chris Helwick, 10 points, first place, decathlon, 7,780
Garland Porter, eight points, second place, hammer, 214-10
Chris Martland, five points, fourth place, decathlon, 6,938
Jim Sexton, five points, fourth place, hammer, 204-0
Josh Whisman, four points, fifth place, hammer, 199-2
Kevin Yeager, three points, six place, decathlon, 6,502
Ben Lukowski, one point, eighth place, 10,000, 31:04.88

Saturday--12 points
Jeff Day, six points, third place, steeplechase, 8:56.29
Eric Pierce, five points, fourth place, long jump, 24-10 1/2
Chris Wilson, one point, eighth place, high jump, 6-8

100 prelim.
1.Steve Mullings, Miss. St. 10.18 Q, *
6.Rubin Williams, Tenn.10.47 Q, *
14.Jonathan Wade, Tenn.10.62
21.Matthieu Pritchett, Tenn. 11.31
400 prelim.
1.Terry Gatson, Ark.45.57 Q, *
1,500 prelim.
1.Adam Perkins, Ark.3:47.08 Q, *
11.Chris Platt, Tenn.3:50.29 Q, PR
13.Kenny Schappert, Tenn.3:53.31 PR
1.Peter Kosgei, Ark.8:36.73 *
3.Jeff Day, Tenn.8:56.29 PR, *
11.Zach Sabatino, Tenn.9:24.56
12.Doug Brown, Tenn. 9:27.22
15.Tyler DeVault, Tenn.9:36.78
110 hurdles prelim.
1.Aries Merritt, Tenn.13.45 Q, PR, *
8.Drew Brunson, Tenn.14.03 Q, PR, *
12.Damond Campbell, Tenn.14.18 *
13.Robert Boulware, Tenn.14.21 *
16.Cade Liverman, Tenn.14.45
High jump
1.Michael Morrison, Fla.7-3 ¾ *
8.Chris Wilson, Tenn.6-8 ¾ SB
10.Drew Brunson, Tenn.6-6
Long jump
1.LaChristopher Lewis, Miss. St.25-1 ¼ *
4.Eric Pierce, Tenn.24-10 ½ PR, *
1.Edis Elkasevic, Auburn190-7 *
11.Jim Sexton, Tenn. 156-8
14.Garland Porter, Tenn.151-7

Q-qualified for event final, SB-season-best mark, PR-personal record/career-best mark, *-NCAA regional qualifier.



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