George Watts will welcome a trio of Michigan prep standouts to Rocky Top.
March 3, 2011
By Eric Trainer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- University of Tennessee Director of Track & Field J.J. Clark has announced the signing of a talented trio of men's distance runners from the state of Michigan, including one with a family history of success in the Big Orange program and another who is ranked as the top returning 800m runner in the nation.
Joining the Vols are Jeremy Dickie of Swartz Creek (Swartz Creek High School), Nick Kaiser of Temperance (Temperance Bedford High School) and Austin Whitelaw of Monroe (Monroe High School). Dickie is the younger brother of former Vol Bob Dickie, a two-time All-SEC and all-region runner in cross country, the track & field team captain in 1998 and a four-year letterwinner in those sports from 1993-98. He's also the sibling of Sharon Dickie, a three-time All-American combined in cross country and track, a four-time All-SEC and all-region honoree in cross country, and the 2003 SEC Outdoor 5000m champ on the track for the Lady Vols during a career that spanned from 1998 to 2003.
George Watts, who coaches men's distance for UT, was able to reconnect to a state and area that has traditionally been good to the Vols. UT greats Todd Williams and Tim Pitcher, who starred in the late 1980s and early 90s, both are products of Monroe High School, where Whitelaw attended.
"In general, we are just trying to keep the middle distance group at a high level and get it better as the years move forward," Clark said. "It's exciting to have good young talent coming in the 800 and through cross country. Obviously, with the history of the Dickie family at Tennessee, it's fun to see another one coming through. If he's anything like his family members, we'll be in good shape.
"Collectively, we are adding a good, strong group to what we have. We lose (Michael) Spooner and (Peter) Sigilai after this season but, with the development of those returning and adding this trio, this should make us that much stronger in the SEC and hopefully nationally."
Chosen ESPNRISE.com's top returning male prep 800m runner as a senior in 2011, Kaiser was ranked No. 6 nationally in the 800 meters in 2010 by Track & Field News in the publication's comprehensive prep rankings, thanks to a 1:50.10 personal best that he set in finishing fifth at the USA Track & Field Junior Championships. He was the magazine's No. 2-ranked prep indoors, based on an indoor PR of 1:51.34 that he cranked out to finish second at the 2010 Nike Indoor National meet. His other national highlight includes a runner-up finish at the 2009 Nike Outdoor National meet in 1:50.47.
Kaiser is a two-time region track & field athlete of the year who won a state title for Temperance Bedford in the 800 meters as a sophomore. He was part of a state-champion 4x800m relay unit as a junior and finished fourth in the state cross country championship meet last fall as a senior. He owns a cross country 5K career-best mark of 15:30.20, which he logged in taking second at the MHSAA Division I Regional 4 Championships.
Whitelaw is a two-time Evening News Region Cross Country Runner of the Year whose personal record for 5K is 15:05.20. He registered that mark in winning the 2010 MHSAA Division I Region 4 Championship ahead of his future Vol teammate, Kaiser. Whitelaw logged a victorious effort during the fall at the Mid-East Cross Country Championship and was second in the MHSAA Division I Lower Peninsula Cross Country Championships, earning the second of two all-state accolades in that sport. He is coming off what has been called "the greatest cross country season in the region in more than 20 years."
As a junior on the track, Whitelaw carded career-best finishes of sixth in the 3200m (9:21.53) and seventh in the 1600m (4:18.86) at the MHSAA Division I Lower Peninsula Track & Field Championships to garner all-state acclaim. Competing at the 2010 Nike Indoor Nationals, he placed 21st in the 5000m at 15:47.31 and was 26th in the two-mile run in a PR of 9:36.65.
Dickie, meanwhile, has enjoyed a career as a five-time all-state performer and seven-time league champion in cross country and track. He is the fifth member of his family to qualify for a state cross country meet, finishing second in that competition as a junior in 15:50.20 and 16th as a senior to garner all-state acclaim. His PR, however, came at the 2009 Region I Championships, where we triumphed in 15:41.40.
During the spring, Dickie has been a three-time all-state runner on the track, picking up indoor recognition in 2009 and outdoor kudos in 2010. His junior year honors came from a pair of career bests, including a third-place finish in the 1600m in 4:11.53 and a fourth-place result in the 3200m in 9:18.72 at the state meet. He owns SCHS records indoors and out in the 1600.