May 15, 2010
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The University of Tennessee broke into the scoring column in the men's team competition Friday, and the Vols and Lady Vols combined to advance 10 athletes to the finals in just five events on day two of the Southeastern Conference Track & Field Championships at UT's Tom Black Track at LaPorte Stadium.
On an evening that saw lightning force a 59-minute delay in the action, Michael Spooner gave the home fans their first opportunity to cheer a scoring performance. The junior kept pace in the 10,000 meters with a lead pack of 10 runners that broke away from the field midway through and stayed in close enough contact with the leaders to gut out his second sixth-place finish in a row at this meet. This time, he covered the distance in a time of 29 minutes, 57.24 seconds to snare three points for the Big Orange.
"We knew it was possible for Michael to score in the 10K, but we also knew it would be a very difficult task," UT Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark said. "We're very happy to see him place again in that race. Every point we generate is very significant at this level."
After three events scored, Auburn stands in the lead with 28 following a 22-point surge in the 10K. LSU and Georgia are tied for second with 20, followed by South Carolina (14), Florida (13), Arkansas (8), Mississippi (6), Tennessee and Mississippi State (3) and Alabama (2).
Georgia leads the women's field with 29 points, followed by Kentucky with 26. The Lady Vols have yet to score, having no luck in the hammer throw today with no entries in the heptathlon or 10K.
In preliminary action, Tennessee looked strong in the women's and men's 800 meters, loading up for Sunday's finals by advancing three Lady Vols and a trio of Vols to the championship races. UT senior Phoebe Wright started things off on the right foot, winning heat one in a time of 2:05.74, which was the second best mark of the evening. She will try to win her fourth SEC 800 title on Sunday and accomplish back-to-back seasons of indoor/outdoor conference sweeps. Also advancing were senior Kimarra McDonald, who was third in heat three and seventh of the qualifiers in a career-best 2:07.69, and sophomore Ramzee Fondren, who placed third in heat one and was eighth-best of the advancers in a season best of 2:09.72.
"Kimarra made her first SEC final, Phoebe advanced as expected and Ramzee squeezed in with a season best and her top mark as a collegian. It was exciting just getting them all in (the final). We look forward to them all doing well Sunday by executing their plan."
The youthful Vol trio of freshman Terrance Livingston and sophomores Joe Franklin and Emerson Peacock moved along as well with the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-best marks of the qualifiers. Livingston charged hard over the final 200 and held on for second in heat three in a career-best readout of 1:49.81. Franklin and Peacock, who each made the finals last season, moved on again in 2010 by finishing third in heat one (1:48.55) and third in heat two (1:49.15), respectively.
"It was very good to qualify three men for the finals as well," Clark said. "We know that they are very talented. It's just a matter of them executing and getting it done, and they did. That advanced them to the final, and we look forward to them to scoring well on Sunday."
Tennessee also moved two along in the men's 200m prelims, and advanced a Lady Vol and Vol to the 400m hurdles finals. SEC 200m leader Evander Wells took care of business, winning heat four to advance with a time of 20.95 while running into a head wind of -1.3 meters per second. Competing in a faster heat with a lighter head wind of -0.1 mps, classmate Kyle Stevenson earned a lane on Sunday by clocking in third in heat one and fourth best overall at 20.87.
"It was nice to get Evander and Kyle into the final," Clark said. "We're off to a better start compared to indoors, and we just have to keep it rolling from this point on.
"It's still early. Getting to the final is part of it. Getting in the final and executing is the rest."
In the 400m hurdles, Lady Vol sophomore Ellen Wortham made her second straight SEC final, navigating the barriers in 58.48 to win heat four and post the number four time of the prelims. Vol senior John Hewitt followed suit, earning his lane in the championship race by also nabbing the No. 4 readout, doing so with a runner-up effort of 51.88 in heat two.
"I am pleased that both Ellen and John made the finals in the 400 hurdles," Clark said. "It was a continuation of a good first day, where we moved several people along. They have to recover now and try to come back on Sunday and see if they can achieve a season or personal best against a very tough field."
In the men's hammer throw competition, Tennessee's Drew Thomas matched his career best with a toss of 176 feet, 11 inches. That mark left the redshirt freshman in ninth place in his first SEC Outdoor Championships.
In the women's hammer, freshman Jessie Harrison was the best of three Lady Vol competitors, none of whom made the finals. She placed 10th with a toss of 168-2.
On Saturday, Lady Vols will be in action in the long jump and discus throw finals as well as the prelims of the 1500m, 100m hurdles, 400m and 100m. The Vols, meanwhile, have finals in the javelin throw, long jump, shot put and pole vault