Tennessee men's and women's track and field teams kicked off the 32nd annual

Sea Ray Relays yesterday at Tom Black Track. Over 100 institutions are competing

in the four-day event, which continues today and runs through Saturday.

The action got underway yesterday with the Scott Hartman Decathlon and

the heptathlon, both of which will be concluded today.

The meet's "distance carnival" begins at 6 p.m. with the women's

open 3,000-meter run, and the evening comes to a close with the women's

10,000 meters at 8:50 p.m.

The final two days of the Sea Ray Relays feature a full slate of activities,

as Friday's agenda begins at noon with the men's open javelin and concludes

with the men's invitational hammer at 9:15 p.m. On Saturday, the men's open

hammer throw is the first event of the day, while the men's 4x400-meter

relay is the final race of the meet at 5:35 p.m.

Olympians Joetta Clark and Jearl Miles-Clark are two well-known athletes

in track and field circles, and their presence at the Sea Rays has become

an annual rite. This season, they will be joined by the University of Florida's

Hazel Clark, who happens to be the younger sister of Joetta and the 1998

NCAA Indoor 800-meter champ. The familial thread that links them also includes

Florida assistant coach J.J. Clark, who is a brother to Joetta and Hazel

and the wife of Jearl. The relationships of that quartet, and the talent

that lies within, should make the women's 100-meter hurdles, 200-meter dash,

800- and 1,500-meter events worthy of special attention.

Among the long list of female stars expected to compete are a couple

of 1997 NCAA outdoor champions. Sevatheda Fynes, who won the 100- and 200-meter

dashes last season for Michigan State, will compete in both events this

weekend for Flynn Sports Management, while Becki Wells of Nike (formerly

of Florida) will compete in the 1,500 meters, an event she won at nationals

last season.

Trecia Smith of Pittsburgh, a returning All-American in the triple jump,

will compete in the long and triple jumps. Vanderbilt's Leslie Vidmar highlights

the throws and unattached competitor Tisha Waller brings top-notch capabilities

to the high jump.

The women's pole vault will be intriguing as well, with Southeastern

Conference indoor champion Leslie Henley of Tennessee and NCAA indoor veterans

Shannon Gallagher (Kent) and Kristen Quackenbush (West Virginia) heading

the list of entrants. In the heptathlon, LaTonya Hill of Mississippi State

represents one of the SEC's best multi-event athletes.

Additionally, the University of Tennessee will boast six returning outdoor

All-Americans competing in the meet, including Janelle Briggs, Anissa Campbell,

Saidah Jones, Lesly Love, Kelli White and Erica Witter. White is the most

decorated athlete on the current Lady Vol roster, having earned a combined

total of seven All-America honors in her three-year career at UT.

This year's men's field includes a number of top athletes as well. The

field events should prove to be tightly contested as UT's own Chris Morland

is coming off two consecutive individual javelin titles in the College Station

Relays (Texas A&M) and the Raleigh Relays (NC State). In addition, the

Vols' Russell Johnson claimed the SEC's indoor pole vault championship in

February and will defend his Sea Ray title from last year in the event as

well. Current American record holder and former Vol Lawrence Johnson will

return to Knoxville as he tries to steal the pole vault title away from

his former teammate.

The Vols also pose a threat in the 100- and 200-meter dashes as newcomer

Russell Frye and Tennessee's fastest man, Tyrone Graham, compete at the

Sea Rays. However, returning to Knoxville for another attempt at a 100-

and 200-meter sweep is Michael Green. He is the defending Sea Ray champion

in both events and hopes to improve his personal-best and Sea Ray Relays

record time of 10.02 in the 100 meters.

Highlighting the distance events is two-time Olympian and former Vol

Todd Williams, who continues to hold the UT school record in the 5,000-meter

run. Williams also captured the 1996 U.S. 10,000-meter championship.

Also making an appearance in the 1998 competition will be the defending

NCAA Indoor Champion Arkansas Razorbacks, led by Robert Howard and Seneca

Lassiter. The Razorbacks took their 14th national indoor title over the

past 15 seasons this past March and hope to gain a great start toward capturing

their seventh straight and eighth overall NCAA outdoor title when they visit

Knoxville.

Copyright © 1998, The Daily Beacon. All rights reserved.