The University of Tennessee men’s track team may have had an off year, finishing 19th at the NCAA Championships scoring 14 points.
Despite the low score the Vols still had some impressive performances.
Chris Helwick became the newest member of Tennessee's decathlon All-America club with a fifth-place, 7,569-point performance Thursday in Sacramento, Calif. Freshman Rubin Williams matched his lifetime best twice in one day as he sprinted through two qualifying rounds to make the 200-meter final at Hornet Stadium in the Alex G. Spanos Sports Complex.
Twenty-six decathletes started the 10-event test on a dreary Wednesday. Helwick earned his first decathlon All-America certificate after taking two such awards in the indoor heptathlon the last two years.
The sophomore from Greeley, Colo., started the second day seventh. Like Wednesday, Helwick got off to a slow start in the first event Thursday. Helwick clocked in at 13th with a 15.70-second time in the 110 hurdles, the sixth of the decathlon's 10 events. Helwick's season-best time was 15.06 in the SEC decathlon a month ago. After scoring the 110 hurdles, Helwick slid a bit from seventh to eighth. Helwick changed his fortunes in the discus by finishing sixth after throwing 137 feet, 6 inches, his best discus mark ever in a decathlon. Helwick launched the 137-6 fling on his second throw after posting a 136-2 mark on his first try and fouling his third and final attempt. After the discus, Helwick moved back into seventh place overall in the combined standings.
As is his custom, Helwick mounted a charge in the pole vault, perhaps the most feared event for decathletes. A no height at that late stage of the game, the eighth of 10 events, renders two days of work all for naught. Helwick tied for second with an outdoor season-best leap of 15-9. Helwick passed on entering the competition at 13-9 ¼. He joined the vault with a first-attempt clearance at 14-1 ¼. Helwick passed at the 14-5 ¼ bar before rejoining the event with a first-attempt clearance at 14-9. Helwick also leaped over bars at 15-1 and 15-5 on his first attempt. He needed two tries at his final height of 15-9 before taking three misses at 16-0 ¾. While he remained seventh overall after the vault, Helwick closed the gap between seventh and fourth place to give him a chance at vertical momentum in the last two events.
Helwick remained in the fray with a third-place, 191-7 throw in the javelin, the ninth of the 10 events. Helwick offered up the 191-7 mark on his third and final throw to pad his point total. He still stood seventh after the javelin, though he kept whittling down the deficit. The 1,500 caps the decathlon, a grinding way to end two days of toil. In a gutsy 1,500, Helwick finished fourth with a season-best time of 4:29.66, less than a second off his career best. Helwick mounted a charge on the final lap to pick off several decathletes and move from the seventh overall spot to fifth.
In individual action, Andre Merritt finished fifth in a star-studded 110 hurdles final after clocking in at 13.56. Already one of the featured events of the meet, the tension ramped up even more when MTSU's Linnie Yarbrough was disqualified for a false start in lane two beside Merritt.
Merritt earned his second hurdles All-America certificate of the year, as he also took fifth in the 60 hurdles at the NCAA indoor meet. Overall, the sophomore has earned four All-America honors counting the 2005 4x100 relay and fourth-place finish in the 110 hurdles at the 2004 NCAA outdoors. Merritt's 13.38 time to win the SEC title still stands as the fastest by a collegian this year.
Track Vols struggle at NCAA Championships
Published: Tue Jun 14, 2005