“We are taking about 25 athletes (to the meet),” head coach Bill Webb said. “We are taking very few distance runners and keeping some sprinters back as well. We have competitive meets every weekend and have to time our schedules so we are doing everything right for the SEC championships and qualifying for NCAAs. This is probably the most aggressive and competitive indoor schedule we have had, so not everyone will participate each week.”
Seniors Michael Hogue and Jangy Addy, as well as sophomore Evander Wells, headline Tennessee’s travel squad after earning indoor All-America honors last season. Hogue cleared an NCAA provisional-qualifying height of 17-1 1/2 in the pole vault at the Clemson Opener on Dec. 1, while Addy and Wells begin their respective seasons this weekend.
In addition to Addy and Wells, five other Volunteers make their season debuts in Blacksburg. Senior Matthieu Pritchett returns to the track after earning outdoor All-America honors as part of Tennessee’s 4x100 relay team. Middle distance competitors Nathan Grace and Justin Hansen kick off their sophomore campaigns, and redshirt freshmen Michael Brodsky and Chris Rapp compete in Orange for the first time.
Tennessee’s junior throwing trio of Matthew Maloney, Nick Panezich and Richard Wooten return to competition after a strong showing at the Clemson Opener. Wooten claimed victory in the weight throw and was followed by Maloney and Panezich in third and fourth place, respectively. Panezich led the Vols in the shot put with his second-place finish with Wooten scoring fourth.
The rest of UT’s field event contingent is made up of juniors Akeem Hardnett and Brad Holtz and freshmen Michael Ayers and Joseph Berry. Ayers, a multi-event competitor, took top honors in his section of the pole vault and was followed by Berry in third at the Clemson Opener. Hardnett placed fifth with a personal-best leap in the long jump at Clemson, while Holtz, a pole vaulter in his first two years at Tennessee, continued his multi-event training by contesting the 60 hurdles and shot put.
Seniors Kris Fant, Blake Jones and Chris Platt return to the track following strong performances at Clemson. Platt won the mile, while Jones recorded a personal-best time during the 60 preliminaries and Fant placed sixth in the 60 hurdles. Sophomore De’Lon Isom and freshman Charlton Rolle round out Tennessee’s hurdlers. Isom ran to a runner-up finish while Rolle placed fifth in the 60 hurdles at the Clemson Opener. Sophomore Kyle Stevenson opened his season with a fifth-place finish in the 200 in December following 4x100 All-America honors last season. Sophomores Samdi Fraser and John Hewitt complete the Vols’ travel squad after competing in off events at the season-opening meet.
“We go to Virginia Tech two or three times a year,” Webb said. “It’s a great place to compete and is always competitive. We do have to be careful that our guys don’t overdo it in the first meet.”
The Virginia Tech Invitational begins Friday at 5 p.m. Eastern Time with the weight throw and continues through Saturday with the 4x400 relay ending the events at 4:15 p.m. Eastern Time. Live results will be available throughout the weekend at UTsports.com.