Tennessee's track and field squad arrived at the Kentucky Invitational wanting to shave down times and improve marks. After the dust settled Saturday night at Nutter Field House, the Volunteers met both goals on the track and in the field.
Always a fan of the track at Nutter Field House, Leonard Scott blazed his way to the early national lead and a NCAA Indoor automatic qualifying time in the 60M dash by running 6.62 -- twice. Not satisfied with clocking a 6.62 just once in the preliminaries, Scott matched it to take the victor's laurels in the finals. With little more than a week's worth of practices under his belt and a week and a half removed from football duty in the Citrus Bowl, Scott fired the first shot in the NCAA sprint wars. Last season at the SEC Indoors held at Nutter Field House, Scott set the SEC Meet Record and school record in the 60M dash with a torrid 6.48 clocking.
"I'm most pleased with Leonard Scott coming right out of football and running like he did," head coach Bill Webb said. "I'm also pleased Rocky Danners did as well as he did in the vault. Karl Jennings and the hurdlers ran well. Marc Sylvester had a good, solid performance in the 400M dash. We were conservative and didn't want to overwork guys who've been practicing hard this week like Justin Gatlin and our 4x400M relay team. We've got a good Virginia Tech meet next week. We're planning on sending the whole squad."
Danners, a junior, lifted off for a winning clearance of 17-5 late Friday night, upping his NCAA provisional mark by four inches since last weekend and registering his best height ever indoors.
The Vol hurdlers registered another strong outing with Jennings and Hassaan Stamps going 1-3 in career-best efforts. Jennings clocked a 7.95 to claim gold. Stamps crossed in 8.02 to garner third.
Tennessee tests another traditional strength Friday as its multi-eventers open their season at the Virginia Tech Pentathlon in Blacksburg, Va. The remainder of the squad returns to action Saturday at the Virginia Tech Invitational.
Newcomers make big impact for Lady Vols
University of Tennessee Women's Track and Field Head Coach Myrtle Ferguson and her staff thought they had signed a strong freshman class for 2002. Now they know for sure. Spearheaded by top 10 UT performances from freshmen Toyin Olupona and Dee Dee Trotter, the Lady Vols wrapped up the two-day Kentucky Invitational in impressive fashion on Sunday afternoon. Olupona, who hails from Orillia, Ontario, Canada, became the third fastest Lady Vol ever in the 60m dash when she claimed first-place honors with an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 7.44 at the University of Kentucky's Nutter Field House. Only former UT All-Americans Kelli White (7.24) and Heather Sumpter (7.37) were faster. Olupona made the finals by virtue of a 7.50 clocking in the preliminaries, also the fastest time among qualifiers. Fellow rookie Karla Marshall made her presence known, as she took third in the finals at 7.63 after posting a 7.69 mark in the prelims, while senior Aoife Hearne was fourth in her heat in 7.86 but did not advance.
As for Trotter, the first-year sprinter from Decatur, Ga., notched a third-place, personal-best effort of 24.26 in the 200 meters, missing out on a provisional mark by .21 of a second and grabbing seventh on UT's all-time performer list in that event. Olupona grabbed fifth in a career-best 24.67, while Hearne was 15th in a career-best 25.92 and sophomore Kelly Flowers was 40th in 27.50.
Another newcomer, Nicole Cook of Petersburg, Va., barely missed etching her name on the Big Orange 800m performers honor roll, as she cranked out a career-best run of 2:11.36 to garner second-place accolades. To add some perspective to that clocking, 2001 UT All-American Kameisha Bennett did not hit the 2:11 mark until the SEC indoor meet her sophomore season. Cook's noteworthy debut was just two seconds shy of the provisional standard.
As for Bennett, she didn't take a backseat to anyone on Sunday, as the junior from Dayton, Ohio, rolled to a 57.48 reading in the 400m dash to take top honors. The time was the second best quarter mile clocking she has ever run. Veteran pole vaulter Christie Elwin matched last weekend's provisional in her event, clearing 12-5.50 and had three solid attempts at 13-1, which would have been a school record.