Overachieving Vols Take Third at SEC Championships

May 15, 2005

Photo Gallery

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-- Tennessee's track and field team busted the pre-meet form charts and predictions Sunday to take a close third-place finish, topping more heralded teams at the SEC outdoor championships at Vanderbilt Track in Nashville, Tenn.

The Volunteers accumulated 109 points, just seven behind Florida's 116. Arkansas won the event with 169 points, though the meet was tight until the 5,000, the next to last race, when the Razorbacks pulled away from the Vols and Gators. In a promising sign for the future, Tennessee's freshmen and sophomores scored 70 of the Vols' 109 points. Tennessee's seniors scored 23 points.

"I'm very pleased with our meet," head coach Bill Webb said. "This is one of the most competitive teams we've ever had here. We had a huge number of lifetime bests and great competitive efforts. It was a world-class meet, and we were in it the whole time. I thought if we had a really good meet we could score 109 points, and we did. Nobody picked us to do anything here, but we almost got second against some of the top-ranked teams in the U.S. These guys just competed and competed and competed. I really think this bodes well for the future. I think we've improved our position for nationals greatly."

Aries Merritt joined decathlete Chris Helwick on the list of Tennessee SEC champions by striking gold in the 110-meter hurdles. Competing in a conference known for its hurdling excellence, Merritt won his first SEC title with a blistering 13.38-second time. Merritt nabbed the 15th SEC outdoor 110 hurdles title by a Volunteer since Pat Pomphrey first won 40 years ago. Merritt jumped Justin Gatlin to move to third on Tennessee's all-time list in the event. Now he trails only former Vols Willie Gault and Jabari Greer. Merritt's 13.38 time jumps to the top of the NCAA list this year, ranks fourth among all U.S. hurdlers and eighth in the world this year.



"In the prelims I ran more relaxed," Merritt said. "I could run freely. In the finals I had national champions on my left and right. I told myself to stay calm and execute even though I was more apprehensive with them beside me. I ran in as hard as I could. I've never been that tired after a 110 hurdles race. It means a lot to me to join the list of Tennessee SEC champions. The SEC title is special. It's an impressive list of people who've won an SEC title in the hurdles at Tennessee."

Tennessee's 110 hurdlers contributed 12 points to the Vols' cause. In addition to Merritt's points, Drew Brunson finished seventh with a 14.26 regional-qualifying time. Merritt finished as the Vols' second-leading scorer with 11 1/4 points, after he won the 110 hurdles and ran the third leg on Tennessee's fourth-place 4x100 relay.

Taking direction from volunteer coach Jim Bemiller, also the coach of 2004 pole vault gold medalist Tim Mack, Tennessee's vaulters also contributed 12 points to the Vols' coffers to increase the team lead early in the day.

Redshirt freshman Michael Hogue carried on Tennessee's strong pole vault tradition with a runner-up, 16-feet, 10-inch finish in his specialty. Hogue, who also finished second at the SEC indoor championships after jumping a career-best 17-3 ½, is making something of a habit of peaking at the SEC meet. Tennessee vaulters hold the Vanderbilt Track record (Clint Binder, 2002), SEC meet record (Lawrence Johnson, 1994) and NCAA record (Johnson, 1996). Jeff Cook, who vaulted for the Volunteers in 1983, was on hand to watch Tennessee's newest vault corps.

"I'm definitely glad to be able to help the team out," Hogue said. "I'm pleased with my freshman year and scoring at the meets that count the most. Even though it's an individual sport, it's really a team victory because Coach Bemiller, (Andy) Lane and (Jeff) Trembley help me out so much. (On leading the cheers for champion Brad Smith of Georgia after Hogue lost his chance at the title) Tim Mack says it's a camaraderie thing. You're competing against the guy, but you're also for the other guy. That's the way I was brought up. That's the way Tennessee should be viewed, as great competitors but also great sportsmen."

Hogue cleared 16-10 with a considerable amount of tension along the way. Germantown's Hogue opened at 15-11 3/4 and needed two attempts to clear the height. The next bar provided even more tension as Hogue needed his third and final attempt to clear 16-3 1/2. He needed two jumps to clear the next bar at 16-6 3/4. With precious points on the line, Hogue brushed the bar, but it remained aloft on his third and final jump at 16-10. He took three jumps at the next bar and took three misses, though his first and third attempts were very close.

Knoxville West grad Andy Lane pieced together his best and smartest vault of the year at the SEC meet. Lane finished with a season-best leap of 16-3 1/2 to take fifth and add four points to the team total. Lane jumped cleanly on his first attempt on his first three bars at 15-5 3/4, 15-11 3/4 and 16-3 1/2. Co-captain Jeff Trembley finished tied for 10th with a 15-5 3/4 jump, which he cleared on his first attempt.

Paul Cross finished second in the 800 after a dramatic photo finish. Cross and Arkansas' James Hatch leaned at the line for times that were only three-hundredths of a second apart. Cross took second in 1:47.38, a season-best time and regional qualifier. Cross' 1:47.38 ranks sixth in the NCAA. Third-place Sherridan Kirk of Auburn leads the NCAA with an earlier 1:46.44 effort.

"Coach Watts just wanted me to stay behind Sherridan and make whatever moves he made," Cross said. "I'm happy I ran a good time and nearly pulled it off (the SEC title) again. It's good to see the sophomores pulling our weight again like we did as freshmen."

Chris Helwick served as Tennessee's high scorer after summing 15 points, 10 for his decathlon championship and five for his fourth-place, 204-7 heave in the javelin. On dead legs after competing in the decathlon Thursday and Friday, Helwick again peaked for a lifetime-best 204-7 throw in the open javelin Sunday. Decathlete Chris Martland also entered the open javelin and threw 178-10 to finish 10th. Tennessee's 4x100 relay team took fourth in a regional-qualifying 39.58. Despite subbing Jeremy Burton for injured sprinter Matthieu Pritchett on the first leg, Tennessee didn't miss a beat and ran its second-fastest time of the year. Burton, Jonathan Wade, Merritt and Rubin Williams passed the baton for the Vols.

In the 4x400 relay, Tennessee finished sixth despite competing in the first and slower heat with a season-best 3:10.26 time. Burton, Jacob Dennis, Cross and Williams safely got the baton around the track four times for the Vols.

Williams went to the well four times Sunday for the Vols in an exhausting few hours that netted Tennessee nine points, tied for the fourth-best total on the team and the best by a freshman. In addition to running anchor on both relays, Williams finished fifth in the 100 with a 10.39 regional-qualifying time. He later took sixth in the 200 after completing the half lap in 20.79 in the middle of a stacked field.

Eric Pierce led the Vols' jumpers by contributing nine total points in the long jump and triple jump. After finishing fourth in the long jump Saturday, Pierce nabbed fifth in the triple jump with a regional-qualifying, season-best leap of 50-2.

Garland Porter added three more points in the shot put to up his total contribution to 11 for the meet. Porter's season-best, regional-qualifying mark of 57-2 3/4 took sixth place. Porter arrived at Tennessee as a junior last year. In his four SEC meets (2004 SEC indoor and outdoor, 2005 SEC indoor and outdoor), Porter has scored 11 points three of those four meets, with the exception being the 2004 SEC outdoor meet. Josh Whisman placed 10th in the shot put with a regional-qualifying 54-6 measurement. Knoxville Central grad Jim Sexton finished 13th with a 50-11 1/2 mark.

In addition to his service on both relays, Burton finished seventh in the 400 hurdles with a 51.46 regional qualifier.

Chris Platt finished 12th in the 1,500 after clocking a 4:00.26. In the 5,000, Jeff Day led the Vols with a 17th-place, 14:37.61 lifetime-best time. After taking eighth in the 10,000 two nights before, Ben Lukowski finished 24th with a 14:52.40 time doubling in the 5,000. Tyler DeVault placed 25th in 14:55.65. Platt took 31st in 15:20.62.

Tennessee will evaluate its list of regional qualifiers and spend the next week and a half training for the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships in Bloomington, Ind., May 27-28.

SEC Outdoor Championships, Nashville, Tenn.
Sunday, May 15, 2005


Team standings (final)
7.Mississippi State57
9.South Carolina29

Tennessee Individual Scorers
Friday--36 points, Saturday--12 points, Sunday--61 points
Chris Helwick, 15 points, first place, decathlon, 7,780; fourth place, javelin, 204-7
Aries Merritt, 11.25 points, first place, 110 hurdles, 13.38; fourth place, 4x100 relay, 39.58
Garland Porter, 11 points, second place, hammer, 214-10; sixth place, shot put, 57-2 3/4
Eric Pierce, nine points, fourth place, long jump, 24-10 1/2; fifth place, triple jump, 50-2
Rubin Williams, nine points, fifth place, 100, 10.39; sixth place, 200, 20.79; fourth place, 4x100 relay, 39.58; 4x400 relay, sixth place, 3:10.26
Paul Cross, 8.75 points, second place, 800, 1:47.38; sixth place, 4x400 relay, 3:10.26
Michael Hogue, eight points, second place, pole vault, 16-10
Jeff Day, six points, third place, steeplechase, 8:56.29
Chris Martland, five points, fourth place, decathlon, 6,938
Jim Sexton, five points, fourth place, hammer, 204-0
Jeremy Burton, four points, seventh place, 400 hurdles, 51.46; fourth place, 4x100 relay, 39.58; sixth place, 4x400 relay, 3:10.26
Andy Lane, four points, fifth place, pole vault, 16-3 1/2
Josh Whisman, four points, fifth place, hammer, 199-2
Kevin Yeager, three points, six place, decathlon, 6,502
Drew Brunson, two points, seventh place, 110 hurdles, 14.26
Jonathan Wade, 1.25 points, fourth place, 4x100 relay, 39.58
Ben Lukowski, one point, eighth place, 10,000, 31:04.88
Chris Wilson, one point, eighth place, high jump, 6-8 ¾
Jacob Dennis, .75 point, sixth place, 4x400 relay, 3:10.26
1. Steve Mullings, Miss. St. 10.15 *
5. Rubin Williams, Tenn. 10.39 *
1. Xavier Carter, LSU 20.16 *
6. Rubin Williams, Tenn. 20.79 *
1. Kelly Willie, LSU 45.51 *
1. James Hatch, Ark. 1:47.35 *
2. Paul Cross, Tenn. 1:47.38 SB, *
1. Simon Ngata, Ga. 3:46.00 *
12. Chris Platt, Tenn. 4:00.26
1. Peter Kosgei, Ark. 13:56.12 *
17. Jeff Day, Tenn. 14:37.61 PR
24. Ben Lukowski, Tenn. 14:52.40
25. Tyler DeVault, Tenn. 14:55.65
31. Chris Platt, Tenn. 15:20.62
110 hurdles
1. Aries Merritt, Tenn. 13.38 PR, *
7. Drew Brunson, Tenn. 14.26 *
400 hurdles
1. Kerron Clement, Fla. 48.29 *
7. Jeremy Burton, Tenn. 51.46 *
4x100 relay
1. Florida 39.10 *
4. Tennessee 39.58 *
(Burton, Wade, Merritt, R. Williams)
4x400 relay
1. Florida 3:02.23 *
6. Tennessee 3:10.26 SB
(Burton, Dennis, Cross, R. Williams)
Pole vault
1. Brad Smith, Ga. 16-10 *
2. Michael Hogue, Tenn. 16-10 SB, *
5. Andy Lane, Tenn. 16-3 ½ SB
10t. Jeff Trembley, Tenn. 15-5 3/4
Triple jump
1. Jaanus Uudmae, Ark. 53-4 1/4 *
5. Eric Pierce, Tenn. 50-2 SB, *
Shot put
1. Edis Elkasevic, Auburn 68-4 ½ *
6. Garland Porter, Tenn. 57-2 ¾ SB, *
10. Josh Whisman, Tenn. 54-6 *
13. Jim Sexton, Tenn. 50-11 ½
1. Trevor Snyder, Ga. 248-9 *
4. Chris Helwick, Tenn. 204-7 PR, *
10. Chris Martland, Tenn. 178-10
SB-season-best mark, PR-personal record/career-best mark, *-NCAA regional qualifier.


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