Tennessee baseball has stolen the show. It has been so much fun, several fans have almost forgotten the football investigation, depth concerns, recruiting challenges and assorted other problems.
Home-run hitting and clutch pitching completely overshadowed other spring sports. Can you believe the block party? Rain, what rain? And now it’s on to Omaha.
In all that excitement, I almost missed the fact that 17 Volunteers (plus coaches and assorted support people) affiliated with Tennessee track and field went all the way to Eugene, Oregon, for the NCAA championship meet and didn’t score a single point on the track.
Where have you gone, Chuck Rohe and Stan Huntsman? We remember you, Doug Brown and Bill Webb and Terry Hull Crawford. Ah yes, those were the days.
Tennessee runners were shut out last week. Three jumpers – Jah-Nhai Perinchief, Carey McLeod and Darryl Sullivan – lifted the men to 11th place in team scoring (21 points). LSU won the national championship with 84. Tennessee women produced five points in field events. Their team tied for 46th place.
Head coach and executive director Beth Alford-Sullivan said she was pleased with the end result for the men’s program, the almost top-10 finish. She said four weeks between the SEC meet and the NCAA event was a long time to stay in battle mode.
Best at sustaining battle mode for the Vols was Perinchief of Hamilton, Bermuda – via Iowa Central Community College, Arkansas and Texas Tech. He placed second in the triple jump with a school record 17.03 meters (55 feet, 10 ½ inches).
“Jah-Nhai is just a wonderful person,” Coach Sullivan said. “He’s had a collegiate path that has taken him to a handful of different places. He ended up with us, and saved his best for last.”
He won national junior college titles in the high jump and triple jump at Iowa Central.
In 2018, he was seventh in the SEC indoor high jump on behalf of Arkansas.
In 2019, he appeared in Lubbock and scored 16 points for Texas Tech in the Big 12 indoor championships. How he established eligibility is above my pay grade.
Perinchief migrated to Tennessee as a graduate transfer. He chose the Vols because of jump coach Travis Geopfert. They worked together at Arkansas.
A month ago, Jah-Nhai won the SEC triple jump (16.89 and 55-5).
In conversation with The Royal Gazette in Bermuda, Perinchief attributed improvement to coaching – from Geopfert and fellow Bermudian Brian Wellman, two-time Olympian and former indoor world champion.
“I have a great coach at Tennessee,” he said of Geopfert.
He speaks of Wellman as a mentor.
“Just giving me tips and little things I can fix in my triple jump.”
Both were in Eugene with Perinchief.
“Coach Geopfert is really smart. He does all the numbers and helps me to be sharp and technically sound. Then, if I have any other questions, I also ask Wellman, so it’s a plus having two great minds.”
Coach Sullivan also speaks well of Geopfert, her associate head coach, an assistant at Arkansas for nine seasons.
“Travis is an amazing coach, an outstanding recruiter.”
She says he brings a great spark to the staff “as we move forward into phase two of bringing track back at Tennessee.
“We’re a heartbeat away from the challenge of scoring 30 or more points. We’re closing the gap on that, and our kids are getting the experience they need to be ready for those things in the future.”
Tennessee doesn’t really have a “track” team. Great dual meets are a thing of the past. The Vols have or have had a few stars (think Christian Coleman).
Twenty-one points in three field events at the NCAA meet? Perinchief scored eight. McLeon, from Kingston, Jamaica, totaled eight for third place in the long jump and seventh in the triple jump. Sullivan (from Marion, Ill., no relation to the head coach) provided five for a fourth in the high jump.
Vol women accomplished a little less. Reigning SEC shot put champion Latavia Maines placed fifth at Eugene. Nayoka Clunis was eighth in the hammer.
Tennessee men and women were scoreless in the sprints, hurdles, relays, steeplechase, middle distance, distance races, pentathlon and decathlon.
Hope springs eternal. Any day now, improvement may kick in. New athletics director Danny White has called for excellence in all sports. He might build an indoor track.
Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is firstname.lastname@example.org