May 30, 2003
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Tennessee's first-day qualifying effort at the NCAA Mideast Regional Friday night conformed closely to premeet projections. Jabari Greer, Gary Kikaya and Marc Sylvester all justified their national rankings with the day's top qualifier in their respective events at Ohio State's Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
Auburn leads following the first day with 28 points. Tennessee has yet to score in two chances, but the Vols are expecting their point train to begin rolling Saturday.
"Our top entries did extremely well," head coach Bill Webb said. "I was very pleased with the races by Gary Kikaya, Jabari Greer and Marc Sylvester. Our 4x100m relay did a nice job qualifying for the finals with two guys who haven't run it before. We decided to save Kikaya and [Jonathan] Wade for nationals. Sean Lambert had his best race of the year in the 100m dash, giving him a legitimate shot at qualifying tomorrow for nationals. We had a few guys with near misses. Karl Jennings will probably get picked at-large with his time coming in."
Greer landed the day's overall fastest 110m hurdles prelim time with a 13.54, good enough for the Jesse Owens Stadium record. Greer ran in the first heat in lane eight, nearest the grandstand. Greer took control of the race by the time he had cleared the third of the 10 hurdles down the 110m straightaway.
In the 400m dash, Kikaya's 45.78 stood as the day's fastest one-lapper. The senior easily won the second heat and was never really challenged.
"I think I ran much better than I did at SECs," Kikaya said. "I corrected my mistakes. My main concern was to make it to the finals and secure a lane."
Sylvester used what is becoming a trademark kick to win his 800m run third heat in 1:47.87, also the day's overall fastest qualifier. Running in his home state, the Cleveland, Ohio, native stood second to Michigan's Nate Brannen at the 400m mark. Sylvester ran him down on the last curve and hit the finish line with a couple of strides to spare.
"It was really comfortable and even," Sylvester said. "It was a good prelim run. I'm going to have to get used to that for nationals. I think I handled it fine. We've done some good things as a team so far and we've just got to keep it up tomorrow."
Meanwhile, Sean Lambert put together his best 100m dash race of the year with a fourth-place overall qualifying time of 10.25w. Lambert took second in his heat to one of the overall leaders with a strong second half of his race. Lambert entered the race with the eighth-fastest time in the region.
While the Vols hold the nation's top 4x100m relay time with their 38.92 from the SEC meet, the Tennesseans changed up their lineup a bit and still qualified for Saturday's finals. The Vol quartet of Greer, Boulware, Lambert and Dwayne Bell Jr. ran to fourth overall and won the second heat with a 40.45 time. Boulware and Bell aren't regular 4x100m relay runners but stepped in to fill the void. The tide turned for Tennessee with a nice handoff between Lambert and Bell moving into the anchor leg. Bell sprinted to the lead and held off all competitors down the stretch.
However, not all the Vols moved on for a shot at the finals. The Vols' most disappointing turn of the day came in the 110m hurdles. Jennings entered the meet riding high with a lifetime-best 13.53 from the SEC meet two weeks ago. He owned the fourth-fastest time in the region and eighth in the NCAA entering the meet. However prior to a strong finish, the senior brushed some hurdles early to just miss qualifying for the finals with a 13.96, ninth-place time--just .05 of a second away from the last finals spot. However, hope is not lost as Jennings' NCAA fate will be decided by the committee's dispersal of at-large bids. Meanwhile, Boulware neared his lifetime best with a 10th-place, 14.02w time. He finished fourth in the second heat on the strength of a solid last 50 meters.
Wade placed his 200m dash hopes in the hands of the committee after not qualifying with a 15th-place, 21.76 time. All the races had to run into a strong headwind because the timing equipment on the primary -- and wind favorable -- finish line failed. Wade showed no ill effects from his hamstring injury at the SEC meet two weeks ago. However, the freshman didn't run as clean a tactical race as he would have hoped. Wade came in with the 21st-fastest 200m dash time in the nation, so his at-large case for nationals isn't quite as strong as Jennings'.
Two Vols using the Mideast Regional meet as training for nationals in other events fared decently. Captain Stephen Harris got off a good 24-9 leap in the long jump on his first attempt. He had two more strong foul jumps but passed on his jumps in the finals as a training decision. Senior Patrick Gildea took 10th in the 5,000m run. Gildea started off near the back of the pack but worked his way into the top five on a strong move with about nine laps to go. He stayed in the fifth through eighth positions most of the last half of the race.
While Sylvester moved on in the 800m run, Frank Francois ran a solid 1:50.40 to take 12th but not qualify for the finals. Francois finished second in his heat by passing two runners in the last 150 meters.
In the first event of the day, Josh Whisman recorded a 188-11 mark in the hammer throw to take 14th. The measurement won't qualify for nationals but Columbus, Ohio, native Whisman just missed his lifetime best by four inches.
After a sparkling anchor leg on the 4x100m relay, Bell couldn't quite make the cut with a 52.38 time in the 400m hurdles to take 15th.
Rob Cloutier never quite got into his 1,500m run race, finishing 34th in 4:09.53.
The Volunteers look to move the scoreboard to close the NCAA Mideast Regionals Saturday night. However, the main concern is bolstering Tennessee's NCAA Championships roster as much as possible Saturday. At the conclusion of Saturday night, the Vol roster for nationals should become clearer, although not final until the committee awards at-large bids early next week.