Veterans, newcomers pace track and field ahead of weekend meets

Christian Coleman during the Tennessee Relays at Tom Black track on April 7, 2017.

Despite taking home silver medals in the men’s 100m and men’s 4x100 at the 2017 IAAF World Championships in London, former Tennessee sprinter Christian Coleman’s mind is still on college.

Coleman has high hopes for the track and field program at the University of Tennessee, according to Director of Track and Field/Cross Country Beth Alford-Sullivan.

“As a freshman, Christian Coleman stated his purpose was to put Tennessee track and field back on the map,” Sullivan said during a press conference on Tuesday. “He’s went above and beyond. He's just that type of young man.”

Sullivan made it clear that she felt that Coleman’s impact has already put the program back on the map.  She said that most of the credit lies with assistant coach Tim Hall, who works with the team’s sprinters.

“Tim Hall, the sprint coach here, has done a tremendous job with developing Coleman physically as well as emotionally,” Alford-Sullivan said. “He’s created a great atmosphere for Christian to excel in.”

Hall, the 2017 USTFCCA National Assistant Coach of the Year, is heading into his fourth year coaching at the University of Tennessee. When asked how early it was when he noticed there was something special about Christian Coleman, Hall gave a simple answer.

“I noticed at the very first chance that we had to work out that Coleman had the ‘it’ factor,” Hall said. “His competitiveness and ability to take on a large load of responsibility was beyond what either of us could have imagined.”

Hall said that they worked on his starting technique and strength development but the main focus they had was developing a master plan to put into place.

When discussing whether he could take credit for Coleman’s success, Hall jokingly said he liked to think he had a little bit to do with it.

But when the questions returned back to a professional level, Hall gave nothing short of high praise for Coleman, saying that he hoped every person at his professional level had the chance to coach an athlete like Coleman.

Coleman had a lot to say about his experience with track legend Usain Bolt in London.

“The experience was second to none. London was on a whole different level. The fans were crazy and the crowds were electric. It was definitely the biggest stage I’ve ever been in and one of the best experiences of my life so far,” Coleman said.

While there, Coleman finished ahead of Bolt, who was unable to finish strongly as a result of a leg injury during the race. The finish made Coleman the only man in the world to go 3-0 in races against Bolt.

When asked about this achievement, Coleman made it clear that held Bolt in high regard.

“It’s pretty crazy to think about. He’s an icon. Everybody knows Usain Bolt. He’s someone I’ve always looked up to. To be able to finish ahead of him was such a humbling experience,” Coleman said.

Coleman confirmed that he had gotten the opportunity to speak with Bolt after the race.

“We talked afterwards and he told me that I had a lot of talent. He told me that I’d be one to reckon with in the near future,” Coleman said. “He said I had a great start but needed to work a little on my finish.”

Coleman is also a finalist for the Bowerman Award, which is awarded yearly to the top male and female collegiate athlete in NCAA track & field. The award will be presented on Dec. 13 through Dec. 16 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Hall believes that Coleman should win the award.

“The Bowerman is a culmination of talent and character. Coleman’s responses just speak to his character and the type of person he is. He is very goal oriented and determined to be the very best,” Hall said. “He sets a great example for the sprint world. I think that’s a true example for a Bowerman winner. I think he can win it." 

Coleman signed with Nike earlier this summer, officially beginning his professional career. However, he will continue to take classes at the University of Tennessee to finish his degree while he trains for future events.

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