The University of Tennessee men’s and women’s track and field teams both wrapped up their seasons at the NCAA Outdoor Championships this past week in Fayetteville, Ark. The four day competition matched the top track and field athletes from across the country with team and individual national championships up for grabs as well as All-America honors in each event.
Retiring head coach Bill Webb did not see his Volunteer squad perform quite as well as expected, with no athletes qualifying for the weekend finals.
“We competed hard but came up short,” Webb said.
A bright spot for the squad was sophomore Michael Ayers, whose career-best decathlon score of 7,794 points gave him a fourth place finish, earning him his third career All-America honor.
“I’m very proud of how well Mike competed,” Webb said. “It was an outstanding 10 events he put together over the last two days. He was able to come back out today and keep his focus and intensity. It was a really, really good effort.”
Sophomore Charlton Rolle qualified for the semifinals in the 110 meter hurdles and finished 14th, while junior Evander Walls sprinted to a 21st place finish in the 100 meter dash. In the 800 meters, freshmen Joseph Franklin and Emerson Peacock finished 20th and 26th, respectively, missing out on the semifinal heats. Senior Nick Panzeich earned a 16th place finish in the shot put as sophomore SEC Champion Joseph Berry finished 25th in the pole vault. In the triple jump, senior Akeem Hardnett fought to an 18th place finish.
On the women’s side, head coach J.J. Clark’s Lady Vols placed tenth in the team competition. Clark thought he could have seen more from his team.
“It was a tough meet,” Clark said. “We didn’t get the performances we needed. We kind of nipped and tucked some points out.”
Senior Sarah Bowman’s attempt to add a 1,500 meter title to her already record-setting resume fell short as she crossed the finish line in fourth place, but Clark said Bowman’s finish didn’t diminish her overall career.
“Sarah had a great career here,” Clark said. “It didn’t end exactly the way we wanted it here, but it does not erase the history of what she has done and what she has meant to our program.”
The 800 meters saw junior Phobe Wright place fifth in the event in which she previously held the national lead, but freshman Chanelle Price’s first-ever NCAA Championship ended with an 11th place finish in the same event. Senior Celrice Law raced to a fifth place finish in the 100 meter hurdles and sophomore Annie Alexander, the nation’s No. 1 ranked discus thrower, placed 13th in the event but later came back to finish third in the shot put. Junior Lynne Layne rounded out the pack placing 19th in the 200 meter dash, and the 4x100 relay team consisting of Law, Layne and freshmen Ashley Harris and Ellen Wortham placed seventh.
“I’m very proud of the group overall and proud that we were still top 10,” Clark said. “It wasn’t what we wanted, but a top-10 finish is still top 10. We’ll just go back home, relax for a bit and then buckle up again for next season.”