June 12, 2005
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Tennessee's final day of the NCAA outdoor championships ended before it began Saturday as Rubin Williams pulled out of the 200-meter final with an injured hamstring. In the team race, Tennessee finished tied for 19th with 14 points at Hornet Stadium in the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex in Sacramento, Calif.
The Southeastern Conference, the nation's hyperpower in the sport, swept the top-three spots in the men's team standings. Arkansas won with 60 points. Florida took second with 49 points. LSU finished third with 36 points. BYU and Florida State tied for fourth with 34 points. In other SEC top-20 results, Auburn tied for ninth with 23 points. Georgia finished 15th with 17.5 points. Adding in the Vols' 19th-place finish, the SEC took six of the top 20 spots.
After injuring his hamstring in the last strides before the finish line in the 200 semifinal Thursday night, Williams was faced with some tough decisions. He could scratch from the remainder of the meet, including the 4x100 final Friday and 200 final Saturday. That decision would cancel his hopes for All-America honors in the 4x100 relay and 200. It would also force the Vols to use a tired decathlete Chris Helwick on the 4x100 relay for the first time in his collegiate career.
Or Williams could try to run both if his body would carry him and risk a more serious injury that may keep him out of the upcoming USA outdoor championships. The freshman from San Jose, Calif., made another decision fully in line with Volunteer tradition. If he had one more race left in his balky leg, he would use it to help the team on the 4x100 relay Friday and forego individual glory, and an additional day of healing and rest, in the 200 final Saturday night. With Williams deciding to take the track just 15 minutes before the starter's gun sounded, Jeremy Burton, Jonathan Wade, Aries Merritt and Williams finished third in 38.83 seconds. The Volunteer foursome posted the third-fastest time in school history and sped past more heralded teams on the way to the finish line.
In summary, four Volunteer efforts earned All-America honors during the NCAA outdoor championships. The third-place 4x100 relay led the way. Chris Helwick finished fifth in the decathlon with 7,569 points Thursday. Merritt took fifth in the 110 hurdles with a 13.56 time Friday. Garland Porter did not score but finished ninth and earned All-America honors because he rated as the seventh-best American with a 204-feet, 7-inch measurement Friday.
The Tennessee staff will focus its attention on the upcoming USA outdoor championships, where the nation's best collegians join their professional counterparts in a heated competition for a spot in the world championships later this summer. Upon arrival in Knoxville Sunday night the staff will finalize travel plans for both the USA championships and USA junior championships, held June 23-26 in Carson, Calif.
FORMER VOL GATLIN NAMED USA TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETE OF THE WEEK
Justin Gatlin has been named USA Track and Field's Athlete of the Week after winning the 100 meters at the Nike Prefontaine Classic in Eugene, Ore., the fourth stop of USATF's Visa Championship Series, last weekend. The 2004 Olympic 100 gold medalist, Gatlin ran a wind-aided, personal-best time of 9.84 seconds, winning by a nose at the finish over Jamaica's Asafa Powell. The win provided redemption for Gatlin, who had finished eighth in the 100 at the 2004 Nike Prefontaine Classic.
NCAA Championships, Sacramento, Calif.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
4x100 relay (Jeremy Burton, Jonathan Wade, Aries Merritt, Rubin Williams), six points, third, 38.83
Chris Helwick, four points, fifth, decathlon, 7,569 points
Aries Merritt, four points, fifth, 110 hurdles, 13.56
Garland Porter, ninth (seventh American), hammer, 204-7