For the 43rd time, track and field athletes nationwide will come to Knoxville for the annual Sea Ray Relays. The meet will begin Wednesday and run through Saturday evening at UT’s Tom Black Track at LaPorte Stadium.
This year’s meet will feature 1,270 athletes from 90 different affiliations, representing small colleges, universities and track clubs from coast-to-coast. There are 642 women and 628 men slated to take part in the four-day affair.
Among the top women’s teams are the fourth-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols, who won their second NCAA Indoor Championship just a few weeks ago, as well as No. 2 Virginia Tech and No. 24 Louisville. Third-ranked Oregon and No. 17 South Carolina won’t be sending complete squads, but they will have athletes in competition.
Other schools include Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, San Diego State, Seton Hall, Villanova and West Virginia. In-state teams from Austin Peay, Bryan, Chattanooga, East Tennessee State, Middle Tennessee and Milligan also will be on hand.
Among the top female professionals slated to compete are Knoxville Elite’s Hazel Clark-Riley and Treniere Clement, who are entered in the 800 and 1,500 meters. Clark-Riley is a three-time U.S. Olympian in the 800 meters, while Clement is a three-time U.S. Outdoor champion in the 1,500 meters.
Women’s action starts on Wednesday at 4 p.m. with the first four events of the women’s heptathlon: the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put and 200-meter dash. The second day of the heptathlon begins at 4 p.m. on Thursday and features the long jump, javelin throw and 800-meter run. The Lady Vols won’t have an entry in the heptathlon, but they will have competitors in the women’s hammer throw competitions on Thursday night. The invitational section begins at 7 p.m., followed by the open division immediately afterward.
Friday’s women’s events kick off at 12:15 p.m. with the women’s open 5,000-meter run and concludes with the 10K at 7:45 p.m. A new wrinkle has been added to the Friday slate this year, moving all of the top sections of sprints, hurdles and middle-distance races to a window of time from 2 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Additionally, the women’s invitational 5K race will begin at 7 p.m., followed by the 10K at 7:45 p.m.
Saturday will begin with senior day festivities at 12:15 p.m. Lady Vols Amanda Alexander, Rolanda Bell, Sarah Bowman, Alicia Essex, Celriece Law, Kimarra McDonald and Katie van Horn will be recognized. The first race on the track Saturday is the women’s shuttle hurdle relay, which begins a spree of 14 relay races, two individual races (M/W invitational steeplechases) and 10 field events on the meet’s final day. Action concludes at 5:45 p.m.
On the men’s side, Tennessee’s two decathletes, sophomore Michael Ayers and freshman Matthew Best, will be in action as the Sea Ray Relays begin with the Scott Hartman decathlon Wednesday. The multi-event competition will be the first of the 2009 outdoor season for both athletes.
Ayers won the SEC heptathlon at the indoor conference meet earlier this spring, posting the fourth-highest point total in meet history at 5,717. He went on to earn All-America honors with his 10th-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships, scoring 5,454 points.
Last season, Ayers finished third in the Scott Hartman decathlon with 7,227 points before going on to finish third at the SEC Championships and 12th at the NCAA Championships, which was good enough to claim his first All-America certificate.
Best will compete in his first collegiate decathlon after placing 14th with 4,589 points in the SEC heptathlon this season. His first collegiate multi-event competition was at the Clemson JRF Challenge on Jan. 30-31 where he finished ninth with 4,558 points.
The decathlon begins Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. The first day events are the 100-meter, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400-meter. The final five events on Thursday are the 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin and 1,500-meter. Action begins Thursday at 2:30 p.m.
Individual event competition begins Friday and continues Saturday. Admission to Tom Black Track is free for all four days of competition.