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    UT's Smith hopes to spear another SEC javelin title
    By MIKE STRANGE, [email protected]
    May 11, 2004

    In 2001, Justin Gatlin wasn't the only freshman helping Tennessee steal the NCAA outdoor track and field championship. A long, lean rookie from North Carolina uncorked a javelin throw that also got the Vols over the hump.

    Leigh Smith arrived on the scene in a big way. He won the SEC javelin as a freshman, then finished a surprising fourth at the NCAA meet to gain five crucial points for UT.

    And then for two years, he treaded water.

    His throws didn't grow much farther. He hasn't scored at an NCAA meet since.

    Smith did win another SEC title last year. But the fact was he began his senior year still looking for the big progression from his debut season.

    To his relief, he's found it.

    Smith heads to the SEC outdoor meet in Oxford, Miss., this week at the top of his game.

    A month ago, at the Sea Ray Relays, Smith unleashed a throw of 249 feet, 5 inches, a whopping improvement of 13 feet from his previous career best.

    It was no fluke. In the two meets since, Smith has thrown 244-10 and 243-10.

    He ranks second nationally among collegians and sixth overall on the U.S. list.

    "It's just kind of growing up,'' Smith said. "I'm starting to realize what it takes to be an athlete on the next level.''

    As a freshman he threw 232-10. By the end of his junior year, he had advanced the measuring tape only to 236-6. Not bad, but he and coach Bill Webb were frustrated, knowing there was more in there.

    At 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, Smith is built not unlike the implement he throws. The phenomenon of flight intrigues Smith. He has his pilot's license and is flirting with joining the military after college.

    But the blockade to progress was earthbound.

    Webb, one of the event's leading technicians, said the breakthrough came in ironing out Smith's approach run.

    "If you're coming down the runway trying to throw aggressively and you're not sure where you're landing, not sure how far you are from the (foul) line, then you're a little bit lost,'' Webb said.

    "He's really focused on that and made some good adjustments.''

    Smith acknowledges his past inconsistency.

    "I'd always struggled with it,'' he said. "I'd get in meets and (make) change(s) on the runway. Now I've gotten consistent. I set the tape down, do the same approach every time.

    "It's made life a lot easier.''

    So much so that Smith goes to the SEC meet brimming with the confidence that comes with consistency.

    A third SEC title? He expects no less. The third Vol ever to cross the 250-foot line? He's inches away.

    After the SECs and NCAAs, Smith hopes to peak at the Olympic Trials. He's only 6 feet out of third place on the current chart. At any rate, he'll continue throwing on the pro circuit under the tutelage of Webb and veteran Tom Pukstys.

    "If I can do some things right between now and then,'' said Smith, "maybe I qualify for the Olympic team.''

    A year ago, that would have been too big a stretch to contemplate. Not any more.

    SEC Outlook: Florida and Arkansas will battle for the men's title, with UT in a rebuilding mode.

    That doesn't mean the Vols should be taken lightly. Smith is the only UT athlete topping the performance chart in his event, but the Vols are, as usual, poised to score points across the board.

    Tennessee should have multiple scorers in the 100, 110 hurdles, steeplechase, 800, javelin and decathlon.

    Sean Lambert (100), Aries Merritt (110 hurdles) and Brett Frykberg (high jump) are capable of wins if they hit a big mark.

    Webb expects Garland Porter to move up in the hammer and shot.

    Defending SEC 800-meter champ Marc Sylvester has struggled to get and stay healthy. He ranks ninth on the conference chart this season.

    "He's had good workouts,'' said Webb. "He's due for some good luck. I think he's ready to roll.''

    The meet runs Thursday through Sunday.

  • #2
    SECs at Ole Miss previewed

    Decathlon should give UT good start
    By News Sentinel staff
    May 13, 2004

    The first SEC outdoor track and field championships ever held at Ole Miss gets underway this afternoon in Oxford, Miss.

    The four-day run begins with the opening rounds of the men's decathlon and women's heptathlon.

    As usual, Tennessee is loaded for bear in the decathlon. Blake Sabo has the third-best mark and will be trying to solidify his NCAA-meet status. He'll be joined by teammates Chris Helwick, Alex Hritcu and Kevin Yeager.

    The Lady Vols send Caitlin Ward and Edra Finley into the heptathlon.

    The Vols get a possible boost as freshman Jeremy Burton makes his belated collegiate debut. Burton was a 300-meter hurdles state champion at Stephenson High in Stone Mountain, Ga., in 2003 He was academically ineligible until the recent completion of the spring semester.

    UT sprinter Jonathan Wade was named SEC men's track athlete of the week after lowering his season-best 200-meter mark to 20.79 at the Clemson meet last weekend. Wade's time ranks sixth in the SEC.


    • #3
      Re: SECs at Ole Miss previewed

      Thanks for posting that. He's on my fantasy track team, so it's good to know more about him.
      "Run fast and keep turning left."


      • #4
        Re: JTer Smith written about

        Smith won the SECs with throw of over 258. He is hot right now. SEC meet record.