Tennessee's top-ranked track and field squad enjoyed a championship-caliber day to win the Armory Invitational Saturday in Manhattan. Fueled by meet-record performances from Justin Gatlin and a school record by newcomer Gary Kikaya, Tennessee lit up the scoreboard for 105 points to best second-place Purdue's 61 and third-place LSU's 49-point efforts, as well as the rest of the field. The Volunteers left the Big Apple with three NCAA automatic qualifiers and six provisional qualifiers.
"They knew that the Vols were here in New York," head coach Bill Webb said. "This is a really high-quality meet. We strengthened our team, and that's what we came for. I hope we step up at SECs like we did this weekend. Justin Gatlin was a show-stopper. Getting Tim Bell (high jump) and Ryan Demers (distance medley relay and mile run) back was big."
Tennessee hit its biggest point bonanza in the sprints. Gatlin sprinted to both the 60M and 200M dash titles in meet record times. Gatlin, who called New York home before moving to Pensacola, Fla., raced to a career-best 6.56 to garner his second NCAA automatic qualifier of the meet and the second-fastest 60M dash ever by a Vol behind Leonard Scott's 6.48 from last year. Speaking of Scott, the senior from Zachary, La., proved to be on top of his game, as well. In a photo finish, Scott took second in the 60M dash also in a meet record and NCAA automatic 6.56. Gatlin and Scott were so close at the finish line the timers had to view the photo and switch from the customary measurement in hundredths of a second to thousandths of a second to award Gatlin the win and meet record. Tennessee placed three in the 100M dash finals as Brooklyn native Sean Lambert raced to seventh in a season-best 6.83.
Gatlin and Scott also went 1-2 in the 200M dash finals. Gatlin ran a winning 20.86, not quite as fast as his NCAA automatic 20.84 meet record Friday night in the prelims, but still good enough to climb the victory stand. Scott got faster in the finals with his 21.16 finish to notch a provisional time but not quite a season best.
Newcomer Gary Kikaya chiseled in his name as the school's indoor 400M dash record holder with a 46.77 to take third. The junior from Kinshasa, Congo via Johannesburg, South Africa has given the Vols an additional 400M dash and 4x400M relay threat.
The Vol hurdlers pulled their share of the load with a pair of season bests, as well. Karl Jennings took second with a 7.89 clocking to slide into a NCAA provisional mark. Co-captain Hassaan Stamps earned bronze in 8.00.
Tennessee also rang up points in the field events. The pole vaulters added the most points to the Vol pot with a 2-4 finish. Rocky Danners took silver with a 17-4 1/2 provisional clearance. Clint Binders followed in fourth by jumping 16-6 3/4.
In a piece of good news for the field eventers, co-captain Tim Bell cleared a provisional and season-best 7-1 to earn second. The 7-1 clearance marks the first time Bell has broken the 7-feet barrier since before his redshirt season last year.
Rondell Mershon just missed his PR with a third-place, 49-7 3/4 effort in the triple jump. Co-captain Stephen Harris emerged from the sand pit with a third-place, 24-0 3/4 to stand as his season-best long jump effort.
With Demers back in the fold, Tennessee's distance brigade continued its assault on personal records. The Vols made the most improvement in the 3,000M run. Tim Kelly sliced eight seconds off his PR to clock in at 8:15.64. Keith Kimmons took seven seconds off his personal best to finish 13th in 8:23.25.
However, the Tennessee 4x400M relay on Saturday wasn't as fortunate as the third-place, NCAA provisional-qualifying distance medley relay Friday night. The Vols took fifth in 3:13.50, courtesy of a dropped baton. Shannon Wheatley, Hassaan Stamps, Dwayne Bell and Kikaya made up the Vol 4x400M quartet.
Tennessee's distance corps continued the theme of personal bests at the Cannon IV Classic in Indianapolis, Ind., Saturday, as well. In the 5,000M run, Scott DeFilippis shaved a whopping 42 seconds off his previous personal best by clocking a 14:38.62. In his first time running the event, freshman Matthew Lapp crossed in 15:41.36.
In the mile run, freshman Kenny Schappert also posted an indoor PR of 4:22.50.