The Southeastern Conference continued its dominance of NCAA Division I track with a comfortable win over the Big Ten in the Gatorade Classic at Tom Black Track on Friday and Saturday.
Tennessee’s men piled up four wins and a mountain of points to carry the SEC past the Big Ten 420-298, and the Lady Vols used several record-setting performances to give the SEC a 379-310 win on the women’s side.
Sophomore long jumper Tianna Madison unleashed a jump of 22 feet, 4 1/2 inches on her first attempt of the day, the longest jump in the world this year.
In addition, Ariel Brooks broke her own school record with a hammer throw of 182 feet, 10 inches, good enough for third place in the event.
“The team’s objective was to continue qualifying people for the regional meet and start moving the pieces into place for where we want to be,” Lady Vols track coach J.J. Clark said. “It was a good meet overall, but we want to keep pressing forward in pursuit of our goals.”
Madison, who last week was named Sports Illustrated On Campus’ Indoor Track Athlete of the Year for her NCAA and SEC titles, passed former Lady Vol Dedra Davis (22-0.75) for the school record and LSU’s Daphnie Sanders (21-5.50) for the Gatorade Classic record.
She also posted a regional qualifying mark and claimed third place in the 100-meter dash with a career-best time of 11.41 seconds.
Junior Brooke Novak began her outdoor season with a victory in the 1,500m in 4:26.82 and picked up a regional qualifier. And junior April Thomas took a victory in the shot put with UT’s longest throw since 2000 (50-9.50).
Senior Antoinette Gorham and junior Jessica Reust also had first-place finishes in the 800m and pole vault, respectively. Gorham finished in 2:09.12, and Reust jumped 12-11.50.
“In terms of the outcome of the team competition, the SEC is the best conference in the country,” Clark said. “I expected us to come together as a league and do well, and that is what we did.”
On the men’s side, Tennessee’s four wins helped propel the SEC to a big win over the Big Ten.
“I like the concept of the meet,” men’s coach Bill Webb said. “I like competing at home with great weather.
“All in all, I think this meet sets us up for a good Sea Ray Relays. I think we’re moving forward toward what we want to do at the conference championships.”
Sophomore Paul Cross took home UT’s biggest win in the 800m with a time of 1:48.06, the third-best time among all collegians this outdoor season.
“Coach (George) Watts has me training hard with the milers,” Cross said. “All that endurance work has helped me.”
Tennessee also took home a win in the 4x100 relay, with Matthieu Pritchett, Jonathan Wade, Aries Merritt and Rubin Williams posting the sixth-fastest collegiate effort in the nation in 39.29 seconds. It was only 29 hundredths of a second from matching the meet record set by former UT world-class sprinters Sean Lambert, Justin Gatlin, Hassaan Stamps and Leonard Scott.
Michael Hogue won the pole vault with a regional-qualifying 16-6.75, and Chris Platt won the 3,000m in 8:16.61.
“I’ve been battling a lot of injuries and redshirted the indoor season,” Platt said. “I just ran the pace and tried to stay with them ... I’ve been putting in a lot of miles and the times are starting to drop.”
Tennessee continues its homestand with the Sea Ray Relays, which begin Wednesday at Tom Black Track. The men’s decathlon and women’s heptathlon will take up most of Wednesday and Thursday, and the bulk of individual competition will take place Friday and Saturday.