Tennessee’s Aries Merritt, Chris Helwick and Rubin Williams maximized their abilities and point haul as the Volunteers finished fifth with 25 points Saturday at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. None of the three Tennessee competitors had ever finished higher in their specialties at an NCAA meet.
Despite suiting up just three at Arkansas’ Randal Tyson Track Center, the 2006 effort marked Tennessee’s best NCAA indoor championships finish since also taking fifth in 2003.
After Merritt set the NCAA meet and school record Friday to win the 60-meter hurdles, co-captain Chris Helwick authored Saturday’s headline by taking runner-up honors in the heptathlon while breaking the school record with his career-best score of 5,917 points. Despite entering the NCAA championships tied for 12th with the slowest qualifying time to make the cut, Rubin Williams overachieved to finish sixth in the 60 final.
“You always want to have guys who think they can do a little better,” coach Bill Webb said. “We came pretty close to getting as many points out of three guys as you possibly can. Aries, Chris and Rubin really represented us well. I’m happy for our team. We finished fifth and want to be in that company. It was a solid, solid meet for us and will serve as a good springboard to the outdoor season.”
Women’s Track
Patricia Hall took third in the 400 meters, Cleo Tyson nabbed fifth in the 60 meters and the 4x400-meter relay closed the meet by snagging sixth-place honors, as The University of Tennessee women scored 13 points on the final day to finish in a tie for 18th at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Randal Tyson Track Center.
After going scoreless on Friday, the Lady Vols bounced back and harvested points in their only three events of the second and final day. As a result, Tennessee charted its 11th top 20 NCAA Indoor finish.
Hall, a senior from St. Ann, Jamaica, picked up Tennessee’s first points of the meet, as she produced six for a third-place outcome in the 400-meter dash.
Tyson stepped into the starting blocks next and came away with a fifth-place finish in the 60-meter dash that was good for four more points. The sophomore from Huntsville, Texas, rolled down the straightaway in 7.24 and improved over a 10th-place result in 2005.
The 4x400m combination put the finishing touches on the meet and a frustrating indoor campaign for the defending NCAA champion Lady Vols with a sixth-place clocking of 3:31.82. That mark, which was the third-fastest ever recorded indoors by a UT quartet, was produced by Hall, sophomore Courtney Champion, sophomore LaTonya Loche and Tyson.
“I wanted to come in here and try and get a top ten,” UT coach J.J. Clark said. “We fell short. We had a near miss on a school record in the 4x400. Cleo had her second best race and Patricia took third after not even qualifying for this meet individually a year ago.
“Overall, we did some good things. But, hey, you have to remember that this is a national championship-caliber team and our expectations are high. I am glad that we aren’t settling on this performance. Everyone is healthy now; we’re moving forward and this indoor season is history.”