''This weekend we took some elite guys to Penn (Relays) and brought some elite field event and decathletes to Louisville,'' head coach Bill Webb said. ''The plan was to get some other guys in the mix here along with some who needed extra work after their performance at Penn or Louisville. For some guys it was very helpful because we got rained out at Louisville. It worked well for guys like Robert Boulware and Chandler Rice. It wasnât as helpful for some other guys, but everybody got a chance to see where they are one last time at home before the Jesse Owens meet next week and SECs to follow.''
Boulware's breakthrough in the 110m hurdles proved to be the best improvement of the day. The Vol football player led from the gun in notching a lifetime-best 14.09, also bettering his previous regional qualifier as he inched closer to breaking the 14-second barrier.
''I felt really good,'' Boulware said. ''I hit a few hurdles but it was a great day and great conditions. Coach Anderson told me that times reflect the conditions. Everything is starting to come together. Iâm feeling a lot better about my races and times. I just want the times to keep dropping. Iâd like to thank my teammates for supporting me both today and in the rough times.''
Although he placed fourth, Rice's season-best clearance and regional qualifier of 16-6.75 also stands as a high point in the meet for the Vols. Meanwhile, in another breakthrough, Jimmy Judge posted his first win as a Vol in his first 1,500m race. Judge clocked in at 4:03.18, a respectable opening 1,500m run.
''The win showed me I was worth something,'' Judge said. ''It was good mentally for me. Itâs huge to say I represented Tennessee and won at a collegiate meet. Itâs been hard not being able to run all the time. The win boosted my ego tenfold.''
Meanwhile, middle distance teammate Stanfield easily won the two-person 800m run with a time of 1:56.91, only about half a second off his lifetime best despite not being pushed hard in the race. Stanfield also took runner-up to Judge in the 1,500m run in 4:04.93.
Wade dominated the 100m dash field with a 10.63 time. He has run faster this season but didn't have anyone to push him and shave down the time. Decathlete Kevin Yeager took runner-up honors in a lifetime-best 10.92. In the field, Smith exceeded the regional standard with his 212-7 winner in the javelin, but he has thrown farther this season.
The day also proved to be of use for several of Tennessee's decathletes, who entered multiple events as part of their training cycle. The Vol multieventers got the most improvement out of the discus, where Blake Sabo posted a lifetime best and Kevin Thompson, Stephen Harris and Alex Hritcu notched season bests.
Also in the throws, Josh Whisman remained consistent in his topping the regional standard with a runner-up, 186-1 mark, though he has thrown a couple of feet farther earlier this season. David Ligon returned after spring football to open his season with a 48-0.75 opening measurement to take second in the shot put, also currently the second-best mark on the squad behind Whisman.
Besides Boulwareâs winning performance, hurdler Craig Sutherland also found the home track to his liking. Sutherland crashed through the 15-second barrier to post his lifetime-best time of 14.86 and place fourth.
Tennessee alums and current pros Tom Pappas and Tim Mack lent their all-star services to the Knoxville Invitational field. Pappas won the long jump with a 24-7 leap in addition to doing extra decathlon training. Meanwhile, Mack won the pole vault with a 17-6.5 clearance. Mack almost always jumps higher, but was hindered by warming up and then having to wait about two hours before entering the competition at a suitable height. Tennessee gets a sneak peek at the NCAA Mideast Regional site this weekend by heading to Columbus, Ohio for the Jesse Owens Invitational.
*Gatlin named U.S. Athlete of Year
Former Vol and world 60m champion Justin Gatlin has been Track & Field News' U.S. Male Athlete of the Year for the 2003 indoor season.
In just his third race as a professional, Gatlin steamed to a 6.46 victory over the best the world had to offer in the 60m dash in March at the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Birmingham, England. In a Tennessee-TCU rematch of the 2001 NCAA Outdoor Championships on the world stage, Gatlin defeated Kim Collins of St. Kitts 6.46-6.53, equaling the largest margin of victory in meet history.