Tennessee head coach Bill Webb predicted that Arkansas would win the SEC Indoor title on its home track in a meet that went down to the wire. As the SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships concluded Sunday at Arkansas' Randal Tyson Track Center, the Volunteers wished their mentor hadn't been such a good prognosticator. Fueled by a monster 5,000M run effort, Arkansas slipped by Tennessee 137-130 to take the SEC title.
While the Vols took second, the men in orange and white posted 130 points, their best effort since 1991. The second-place finish was the best since Tennessee last took the SEC Indoor title in 1996. Three Volunteers claimed SEC individual titles on the closing day to propel the Vols in the team race. In addition to Rocky Danners' pole vault victory Saturday, Tim Bell (high jump) and Justin Gatlin (60M and 200M dashes) climbed to the top of the awards stand on Sunday. Gatlin scored 22 points with his 60M and 200M dash wins and ran the first leg on Tennessee's second-place, indoor school-record 4x400M relay effort to tie for the Commissioner's Trophy. The Vols chiseled three school standards (Gatlin, 200M dash; Kikaya, 400M dash; 4x400M relay) on the final day of competition. Gatlin's 200M dash effort also stands as the SEC Indoor meet record.
"We had one of the greatest days in Tennessee track history," coach Bill Webb said. "Our guys had countless lifetime bests. We couldn't be happier with the championship effort our guys put forth. I'm just disappointed our guys couldn't sing 'Rocky Top' and get the trophy. (Assistant) Coach Watts and Anderson did a remarkable job of getting everybody to the line and competing at the level we did. This is far and away one of the best track meets in the country."
Tennessee didn't wait long to fire the opening shot across the bow Sunday morning. The Vols rang up 14 points in the high jump courtesy of co-captains Tim Bell and Brett Frykberg. After redshirting last season because of knee surgery and attempting lower heights earlier this indoor season to test his knee, Bell rejoined the event's elite by climbing the awards stand as SEC high jump champion, the Vols' first indoor SEC champion since Randy Jenkins in 1991. Bell entered the competition at 6-8 3/4 and cleared three consecutive bars without a miss. Bell passed on jumping 7-1 1/2, but second-place Matt Vincent of Florida cleared the height, moving the bar to 7-2 1/2. Bell cleared on his second attempt and Vincent missed on three strong attempts. With the title in the bag for Tennessee, Bell asked that the bar be moved to 7-5 1/4, which would be a personal best and lead all collegians this year. Bell elected to only make one attempt and narrowly missed. After competing in Friday night's pentathlon, Frykberg put forth a valiant effort to clear a career-best 6-10 3/4, contributing a valuable four points to the Vol effort.
Lady Vols take seventh in SECs
The University of Tennessee women's track and field team scored in five of the seven events it competed in on Sunday to tally 21 points for the meet and finish seventh overall at the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center. The placing marked a three spot jump from last year's 10th-place effort, and it was fueled on the final day by a combination of freshmen and veterans who chimed in with season or career bests in nearly every event.
No. 3 Florida ended Arkansas' two-year string of victories at the meet, holding off the 16th-ranked Lady Razorbacks, 147 to 139. Top-rated Louisiana State took third place with 100 points, while No. 4 South Carolina was fourth at 89. No. 6 Auburn was fifth with 71 and 25th-ranked Georgia was sixth with 26, followed by UT, Kentucky (19), Mississippi State (15), Vanderbilt (13), Alabama (11) and Ole Miss (9).