May 18, 2003
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee stands third with 40 total points entering the final day of the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Championships after notching 11 points Saturday. Danners hobbled to runner-up honors in the pole vault in a performance in the greatest tradition of the Volunteer.
Tim Kelly added the remainder of the points with a sixth-place finish in the steeplechase. Meanwhile, Tennessee's Jabari Greer and Gary Kikaya gave the fans their money's worth in 110m hurdles and 400m dash preliminary action, respectively. While some of the action on the track and in the field was electrifying, unfortunately the skies proved to be as well for the third consecutive day. Storms caused a two-hour and 50-minute severe weather delay to mar the day's action.
Arkansas had an even better day than Tennessee as the Hogs inched closer to the top of the awards stand. Arkansas leads with 51 points. Georgia stands second with 48 points. The Vols' 40 points stand five points ahead of fourth-place Auburn.
"The way the SEC goes you have ups and downs and you have to deal with that,"
head coach Bill Webb said. "You've got to avoid the huge highs and lows.
Jabari Greer and Gary Kikaya looked spectacular. Jonathan Wade's qualifier
squeaked by. Rocky had the most gutsy performance of the meet so far. He
somehow willed his body to clear 17-2.75. He told me afterwards 'That was for
the team.' Tim Kelly did a nice job getting sixth. All three hurdlers had
lifetime bests. Arkansas qualified very strongly. Tennessee never throws in
the towel, but it's their (the Razorbacks) meet to lose now.
Danners, who's not vaulted since he injured his hamstring leading off the 4x100m relay at the Sea Ray Relays in mid-April, was obviously slowed but still took second in the pole vault with a 17-2.75 effort. His height matched winner Paul Condron of Florida, but rated second because of previous misses. The pole vaulters had the longest day of all as they were warming up when the severe weather hit early in the competition. They were the last men on the track after a long competition got longer while the runway had to be prepared after the storm delay. Danners nearly took an early exit, clearing his opening height of 16-4.75 on his last chance. Because of his physical condition, Danners passed the next height and came back in at his final height of 17-2.75. On his last chance, the senior from Killeen, Texas went up and over to nab eight points for the Vols.
"I think that was by the grace of God and by the fans that were out here," Danners said. "My hamstring is still pulled, and hasn't gotten better since indoors. But I just came out here and tried to score points for my team. That's what drove me to clear it on my third attempt. I gave it everything I had today, and came out second, but NCAAs are just right around the corner. Paul (Condron) is a really great jumper. I'm progressing. I didn't hurt it (hamstring) any worse than it was, so it's just a matter of getting better and taking a little rest and I'll be all right.
Kelly's sixth-place, 9:11.85 finish in the steeplechase added three points to the Vol pot. Kelly has missed a lot of conditioning earlier in the year but his time still met the regional standard, although he has run faster this season.
In preliminary action, Greer's lifetime-best 110m hurdles time of 13.46 not only led all qualifying times but also puts him in a tie for the NCAA lead. The time is the third-fastest in Tennessee history behind such luminaries as Willie Gault and Justin Gatlin. Meanwhile, all three of Tennessee's 110m hurdlers posted lifetime-best times under sprint coach Vince Anderson's direction. Karl Jennings also qualified with a 13.72, the sixth-best time of the day. Robert Boulware didn't qualify with his 10th-place, 14.00, but was fast enough to continue his season at the NCAA Regionals in a couple of weeks.
"I'm feeling pretty positive going into the final," Greer said. "It's just a step in the right direction. I'm not going to dwell on tonight. I'm cheering on my teammates tonight. I need to stay and support them.
Meanwhile, Kikaya, like Danners, hasn't run since the Sea Ray Relays. His results were just as impressive. The senior led all qualifiers with a 45.65 season-best time to again surpass the regional standard.
"I felt good, considering this is my first race since Sea Rays," Kikaya said. "I'm happy about my time-I'm coming around. I just did what I had to do. Tomorrow is the big day. My main point is to get to the final. I'm happy I have the fastest time going into the final. I felt good, coming off an injury. I did exactly what my coach told me to do and everything worked out. I also keep up with my teammates. Seeing the hurdlers qualifying kind of gave me confidence going into my race. It's like a team spirit.
In the 1,500m run prelims, Tennessee won't send anyone into the finals. However, Rob Cloutier's 10th-place, 3:49.62 time stands as a season best and regional qualifier. Kenny Schappert also posted yet another lifetime best with his 14th-place, 3:54.17 effort.
Josh Whisman missed out on scoring with a 10th-place, 50-0.5 mark in the shot put. Also, after one fouled jump, Stephen Harris, who won the decathlon yesterday, passed on his other two remaining jumps because he has a better chance to help the team with fresh legs in the high jump Sunday.
An avalanche of points arrives with Sunday's final day of the SEC Outdoor Championships. The men's and women's victors will be crowned in a ceremony following the women's 4x400m relay, which starts at 9:40 p.m. The men's discus opens the final day's slate at 2:30 p.m.