Track Vols Rally for Fifth at NCAA Mideast Regional

May 28, 2005

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.-- After a lukewarm Friday, Tennessee's track and field squad turned up the octane Saturday to place fifth with 45 points to close the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships at Indiana's Robert C. Haugh Track and Field Complex in Bloomington, Ind. The 45 points scored by the Vols rate as their best score and the fifth-place finish ties for their best finish in the three NCAA Mideast Regional Championships (2003-05).

Tennessee's Garland Porter won the hammer title while Aries Merritt topped the 110-meter hurdles field. While Tennessee won't be able to play its full deck, for the most part the Volunteers made the most of their opportunities and strengthened their hand for the NCAA championships Saturday. When the meet went into the books Saturday night, five Volunteers and the 4x100 relay earned airtight bids for the NCAA championships in two weeks. Those five include Chris Helwick in the decathlon, Rubin Williams in the 100, Merritt in the 110 hurdles, Porter and Josh Whisman in the hammer. A couple more will likely qualify from the at-large pool.

Arkansas won the meet with 94.5 points. Auburn took second with 58 points. LSU finished third with 50 points. Wisconsin took fourth with 49 points. The SEC boasted four of the top five schools. Mississippi State took eighth (33.5 points) and Mississippi finished ninth (24 points) to give the SEC six of the top nine schools at the Mideast Regional.

"We certainly competed much better (Saturday)," head coach Bill Webb said. "We had a good, strong day. We had two wins by Garland Porter and Aries Merritt. I'd name Garland field event man of the meet. Even though Aries won, I'd give Rubin track man of the meet. He qualified for nationals in three events with great efforts. Zach Sabatino, Jeremy Burton and Jim Sexton all competed strong even though they didn't get into the NCAA meet. We accomplished a lot of our goals. We got a lot of people in the meet. We're looking forward to the NCAA championships in two weeks.



A strong suit all season, the Volunteer hammer throwers piled up 16 points to lead all other events. Seniors Porter and Josh Whisman locked down NCAA qualifiers with first- and fourth-place finishes, respectively. Porter earned the most acclaimed title of his career when he secured the Mideast Region championship on his sixth and last throw of the competition. Porter's final winning heave measured 216 feet, 8 inches, a career-best throw by nearly two feet and the second-best throw ever by a Volunteer. With his family watching, the Indianapolis, Ind., native Porter entered the meet with the third-best mark in the region but overachieved to strike gold on a trip home to Hoosier territory.

"I started off kind of slow, but things progressed from there," Porter said. "I just listened to my teammates and coaches. They told me what I was doing wrong, and I made the corrections. Sending two (hammer) guys to the NCAA is huge. Josh and I are both seniors. It was good that we got to go out this way.

Whisman's qualification for the NCAA championships required a much bigger improvement than Porter's effort. Whisman entered the Mideast Regional with the 11th-best mark but peaked for a fourth-place finish. Whisman threw the hammer 212-2, a whopping 13-feet improvement to his previous career best. He now stands third on Tennessee's all-time list in the event. Jim Sexton didn't make the cut for the NCAA meet but still added a point to the Vols' total with an eighth-place, 203-6 effort, only six inches off his career best. Sexton matched his eighth-place regional ranking entering the meet.

NCAA leader Aries Merritt won the 110 hurdles with a 13.64-second time to add another 10 points for the Tennessee effort. Merritt appeared mired in the pack through the first half of the race. However, the sophomore made his advance over the last two hurdles to break the tape first. Merritt wrote his ticket to the NCAA championships with the finish. "My final was OK," Merritt said. "It was one of those races you just have to finish. I didn't get out fast, but someone else did so I had to push more than I expected to. I'm excited about nationals and trying to get another All-America certificate or even win.

Tennessee locked up a NCAA berth with a third-place finish in the 4x100 relay. The Volunteer quartet of Jeremy Burton, Jonathan Wade, Aries Merritt and Rubin Williams recorded a time of 39.28, a season best. The Vols' 39.28 effort stands one-hundredth of a second faster than their previous season-best time with Matthieu Pritchett on the leadoff leg. Burton, Wade, Merritt and Williams moved up to eighth on Tennessee's all-time 4x100 relay list with their 39.28 time.

Williams continued his day with respectable efforts in the 100 and 200. Williams finished third with a 10.40 time to wrap up a NCAA qualifier in the 100. Williams also finished sixth overall in the 200 after running a lifetime-best 20.56, the sixth-best time on the Vols' all-time list in the event. The 200 prelims were canceled because of Friday night's severe weather. Meet officials decided to reseed the 200 and run the four heats as timed finals Saturday. Williams was placed in the fourth and fastest heat. Williams finished sixth in his heat, which beat every other time in the other three heats. Williams' sixth-place finish gives him an excellent chance to advance to the NCAA championships from the at-large pool with his 20.56 time. The top eight times all broke the Mideast Regional 200 record, proof of the region's sprinting strength.

Michael Hogue finished seventh with a 16-7 ¼ clearance in the pole vault. Hogue's seventh-place finish places him in the NCAA at-large qualifier pool, but his season-best 16-10 clearance from the SEC championships may not be enough to make the cut. Hogue opened his competition at 16-1 with a first-attempt clearance. He took two attempts to clear 16-7 ¼. He missed three attempts at 17-1, though his second attempt was decently close. A swirling wind greeted all the vaulters, making the skies over southern Indiana a little tougher to navigate.

Zach Sabatino finished eighth in the steeplechase with a lifetime-best time of 8:49.84. His eighth-place finish and time puts him in the NCAA qualifying at-large pool and on the bubble to secure a spot. Jeff Day finished the steeplechase 30th in 9:30.02.

Burton finished eighth in the 400 hurdles with a 52.49 time. His eighth-place finish puts him in the at-large pool for the NCAA championships, but Burton's a long shot to get picked up on his season-best time.

After weather delayed Friday night's 5,000 to Saturday morning, Tyler DeVault chose to run the 5,000 instead of the steeplechase since he qualified in both. After making a charge early, DeVault pulled out of the race about midway through the race.

Eric Pierce fouled all three of his jumps in the triple jump.

The NCAA Mideast Regionals conclude Saturday. Tennessee will release its list of NCAA championships qualifiers Monday.

NCAA Mideast Regional Championships, Bloomington, Ind.
Saturday, May 28, 2005


Top 10 team scores
8.Mississippi State33.5

Tennessee scorers--45 points
Aries Merritt, 11.5 points, first place, 110 hurdles (13.64), third place, 4x100 relay (39.28)
Rubin Williams, 10.5 points, third place, 100 (10.40), sixth place, 200 (20.56), third place, 4x100 relay (39.28)
Garland Porter, 10 points, first place, hammer (216-8)
Josh Whisman, five points, fourth place, hammer (212-2)
Jeremy Burton, 2.5 points, third place, 4x100 relay (39.28), eighth place, 400 hurdles (52.49)
Michael Hogue, two points, seventh place, pole vault (16-7 ¼)
Jonathan Wade, 1.5 points, third place, 4x100 relay (39.28)
Zach Sabatino, one point, eighth place, steeplechase (8:49.84)
Jim Sexton, one point, eighth place, hammer (203-6)

1.Steve Mullings, Miss. St. 10.13 Q, MR
3.Rubin Williams, Tenn.10.40 Q
200 (timed final)
1.Xavier Carter, LSU20.02 Q, MR
6.Rubin Williams, Tenn.20.56 PR
1.Peter Kosgei, Ark.8:38.55 Q
8.Zach Sabatino, Tenn. 8:49.84 PR
30. Jeff Day, Tenn.9:30.02
1.Nick Willis, Mich.13:54.14 Q
--Tyler DeVault, Tenn. DNF
110 hurdles
1.Aries Merritt, Tenn. 13.64 Q
400 hurdles
1.Micheal Tinsley, Jackson St. 49.05 Q, MR
8.Jeremy Burton, Tenn. 52.49
4x100 relay
1.Arkansas 38.75 Q, MR
3.Tennessee (Burton, Wade, Merritt, Williams) 39.28 Q, SB
Pole vault
1.John Russell, Akron 18-1 Q
7.Michael Hogue, Tenn. 16-7 ¼
Triple jump
1.Aarik Wilson, Ind.55-3 ¾ Q
--Eric Pierce, Tenn.Foul
1.Garland Porter, Tenn.216-8 Q, PR
4.Josh Whisman, Tenn. 212-2 Q, PR
8.Jim Sexton, Tenn. 203-6

Q-automatically qualified for NCAA championships, SB-season-best mark, PR-personal record/career-best mark, MR-NCAA Mideast Regional meet record.



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