Penn State’s Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track boasts the reputation of being fast. Tennessee freshman sprinter Rubin Williams won’t argue that point after winning the 60-meter and 200m and taking second in the 4x400m relay to close the Penn State National Meet Saturday in State College, Pa.
“We had a few more people emerge today,” head coach Bill Webb said. “We look forward to going up against some tough SEC competition next week in New York.”
It was the first event for the full Tennessee squad of the season.
After winning the 60m Friday in a lifetime-best, provisional qualifying 6.69 seconds, Williams swept the short sprints by striking gold in the 200m in 21.20 Saturday, also a provisional qualifier.
Hurdler Aries Merritt took home the 60m hurdles title in a season-best 7.80, while teammate Robert Boulware (8.02) finished second.
The Vols’ 4x400m relay team took second, finishing just behind Penn State in 3:13.65. Chris Wilson took silver in a hotly-contested high jump, clearing 6 feet, 8 inches, just one inch off the winning height.
Kevin Yeager brought home a third-place finish in the heptathlon with 5,022 points.
Tennessee excelled on the women’s side as well, with the 4x400m relay squad setting a track record time of 3 minutes, 34.38 seconds.
Nicole Cook’s fantastic third leg fueled the Lady Vols to the fastest time in the nation this year, and the third-fastest in school history.
“Our time in the 4x4 shows we have a serious team in that area,” UT Head Coach J.J. Clark said. “It’s nice to know, with two of the legs being freshmen and another being a junior, that we should have three of these legs back again next year.”
Cook and LaTonya Loche clicked off NCAA provisionals and career bests in the 400 meters. Cook, whose specialty is the 800 meters, logged a full-second PR in the 400m en route to a second-place finish of 53.04, while Loche flashed her potential as a 4x400m relay candidate by taking third in 53.89. Those marks rank Cook and Loche second and sixth, respectively, on UT’s all-time performers list.
“Nicole showed up big and provided great leadership by running a fast 400m and stepping up big later in the relay,” Clark said. “She has been very focused and is helping us develop into a national-caliber team.”
Tennessee was tough in the distance medley relay as well, winning with an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 11:27.62.
The top-ranked Lady Vols also swept the 60-meter races with Cleo Tyson (7.36), Tianna Madison (7.42), Loche (7.44) and Courtney Champion (7.44) finished 1-2-3-4 in the event.
Other victories for Tennessee’s women included Madison’s triumph in the long jump with a personal-best distance of 20 feet, 10.75 inches, falling just short of an NCAA automatic qualifier.
Tennessee’s men continue their season Friday and Saturday at the team-scored Armory Collegiate Invitational in New York, N.Y.
The Lady Vols were originally scheduled to take part in the Husker Invitational next weekend but has opted not to make the trip to Nebraska. Their next event will be the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark., on Feb. 11-12.