The Tennessee men’s track and field team travels to Lexington, Ky., for the Kentucky Invitational on Friday and Saturday. The meet is the Vols’ second of the season and will feature a competitive field with five nationally-ranked teams and seven other Southeastern Conference schools.
Notable programs joining the Vols in Lexington are No. 4 Florida, No. 9 Louisville, No. 11 Kentucky, No. 16 South Carolina, No. 20 Georgia and SEC foes Alabama, Auburn and Mississippi.
“We’re looking forward to competing against some great programs in a great facility,” Tennessee head coach Bill Webb said. “It should be comparable to the kind of competition we’ll see in the postseason. We hope to keep the momentum we have coming off last weekend’s meet and continue to qualify guys for the NCAA Championships.”
Tennessee will travel a squad of 27 athletes to compete in 14 different events. Seven Vols who did not compete at Virginia Tech last weekend will make their 2009 debuts.
Defending SEC pole vault champion Joe Berry is expected to compete, as are Tennessee’s trio of 800-meter runners Joe Franklin, Axel Mostrag and Emerson Peacock. Distance runners Steve Tobin, Michael Spooner and Chris Rapp will also run for the first time this season in the 3,000 meters.
A large contingent of sprinters will compete for the second time this season. The group includes returning All-America honorees Evander Wells and Kyle Stevenson, along with Alan Bachman, Deaundra Dailey, Samdi Fraser, Nathan Grace, John Hewitt, Joseph Morris and Varick Tucker. Stevenson and Wells both posted NCAA provisional qualifying marks in the 60 meter last weekend at Virginia Tech.
The field event group includes Akeem Hardnett, Brenard Wilson and Jonathan Fluellen in the jumps; Berry, Brad Holtz and Michael Seaman in the pole vault and Matthew Maloney, Nick Panezich and Richard Wooten in the throws. Panezich is fresh off a lifetime-best and NCAA provisional qualifying performance in the shot put at the Virginia Tech Invitational.
Charlton Rolle, who also provisionally qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 60 meter hurdles at Virginia Tech, is entered to run again this weekend.
Tennessee’s two decathletes, All-American Michael Ayers and freshman Matthew Best, are entered to compete in multiple running and field events as they continue to train for their first multi-event competition on January 30.
Kentucky’s Nutter Field House is a familiar place for the Vols, as they have competed there at least once every season since 2000. The facility is also the site of the SEC Indoor Championships later this spring.
“We have a couple of goals for the meet,” Webb said. “We want to get everyone familiar with the facility, and we want to start to work on the adjustments we need to make individually and as a team for the conference meet back there later this season.”