“We have one of the biggest group of athletes qualified for any of the regionals in the country,” head coach Bill Webb said. “We also have quality within those numbers and not just quantity. I expect extremely good competition in almost every event, and we want to qualify as many as possible for NCAAs.
The Vols boast a region-high 31 regionally-qualified marks that have been earned by two relay teams and 23 individuals, which also leads the region.
Tennessee broke school records for both regionally-qualified marks and individuals qualified for the region, surpassing the 28 marks earned in 2003 and 2005 and the 20 individuals qualified in 2003. Tennessee has eight more regionally-qualified marks than the next school in the Mideast Region and trails only defending outdoor national champion Florida State for the national lead. The top-ranked Seminoles, competing in the East Region, have 34 regionally-qualified marks.
Tennessee won four events at the conference championships, and each conference champion will be competing this weekend. Team captain Jangy Addy, who won the decathlon, is entered in the 110 hurdles. All-America Michael Hogue puts his undefeated outdoor season on the line in the pole vault.
All-America Rubin Williams, who won the 200 indoors and outdoors, is entered in that event and will anchor the Vols top-ranked 4x100 relay team.
Matthieu Pritchett, Evander Wells and Kyle Stevenson make up the first three legs of Tennessee’s 4x100 relay team, which won the conference championship in a blazing time of 38.91, the fifth-fastest clocking in school history. Wells, who owns the fastest 200 time in the region and third-fastest in the country, joins Williams in the event. Both sprinters are also entered in the 100.
Pritchett is regionally-qualified in both the 100 and 200, but will only contest the 100 this weekend. Stevenson, a freshman from Memphis, enters the regional with the sixth-fastest time in the 200, giving the Vols three of the top-six times in the Mideast Region.
“We expect guys like Rubin, Evander, Michael and the 4x100 relay team to have a big weekend,” Webb said. “If they do what they have done all year, they will qualify. I also expect other people to step up like they did at SECs.
Senior Andy Lane, who finished second at the SEC Outdoor Championships, and freshman Brad Holtz, who scored his first points at a conference meet with his fifth-place finish, join Hogue in the pole vault. Lane enters the meet tied for fourth on the regional performance list. SEC runner-up Matthew Maloney enters the Mideast Regional with the sixth-best javelin throw in the region, and the 10th best in the country. His toss of 232-7 at the conference championships ranks as the sixth-best throw in school history. Senior Kevin Duffy joins Maloney in the javelin and enters the meet with the 13th-best throw in the region.
“The javelin is a very strong event in our region,” Webb said. “It’s even stronger than it was at the SEC meet.
Team captain Tyler DeVault looks to qualify for his second consecutive NCAA Outdoor Championships after finishing third in the 1,500 at the regional meet last year. His season-best time ranks ninth on Tennessee’s all-time performance list in the event and seventh in the region this year. Junior Yarrick Kincaid also will attempt to match his regional success from last year. The Knoxville native finished third in the 800 and will be joined this year by transfer Andrew Dawson, who placed fourth in the event at the SEC Outdoor Championships. Senior Jeff Day enters his fourth consecutive regional meet in the steeplechase after finishing eighth at the conference meet in the 3,000-meter event while running with a hamstring injury suffered right before the race.
Senior Andy Baksa enters the regional ranked ninth in the 5,000 after lowering his personal-best time in the event by 25 seconds from the beginning of the season. Freshman De’Lon Isom earned his first SEC points by finishing eighth in the 110 hurdles at the outdoor championships and is ninth on the regional performance list. Senior Jacob Dennis and freshman Samdi Fraser will represent the Vols in the 400. Tennessee’s 4x400 relay team is expected to consist of Dennis, Fraser, Stevenson and freshman Nathan Grace.
Sophomore Richard Wooten, who is fifth on Tennessee’s all-time performance list in the hammer throw, enters the meet ranked eighth in the region in the event. In addition to the hammer, Wooten will also compete in the shot put after scoring in both events at the SEC Outdoor Championships. Fellow sophomore Nick Panezich made history this season as he became the first Vol to qualify for the Mideast Regional in three individual events. The Poland, Ohio, native will contest the shot put, discus and hammer throw this weekend.
Sophomore Akeem Hardnett and junior Carjay Lyles will compete in the triple jump after finishing fourth and fifth, respectively, at the conference championship meets as both athletes recorded personal-best jumps in the event.
The top-five finishers in each individual event, as well as the top-three relay teams, from each regional automatically qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships, which will be held June 6-9 in Sacramento, Calif. In addition, any athlete that finishes sixth through 12th or relay team that finishes fourth through 10th is eligible to be selected out of the national at-large pool to complete the field for the national championships.
“We add the best schools out of the Big 10, along with Missouri and some other good schools for this meet,” Webb said. “Our team finish is not the most important thing this weekend. Even though we want to do well as a team, the main goal is to qualify individuals for nationals.
The Mideast Regional begins Friday at 11 a.m. Central time with the hammer throw and wraps up with the 4x400 relay on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Live results can be found throughout the competition at UTsports.com.
Story Courtesy: UT Sports Information
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