Going into the 2016 NCAA Indoor National Championships, head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan believed that her track and field team could make some noise.
Her belief wasn’t misplaced.
Tennessee walked away with two individual champions: Christian Coleman and Felicia Brown. Both won the 200 meters at the NCAA Indoor National Championships in Birmingham, Ala. on March 11 and 12, making Tennessee the first school to win both men and women’s 200 in the same championship event.
The men were able to finish on the podium taking third place at nationals while the women finished seventh.
“Early on in the indoor season we felt we were going to be a pretty good team on both sides,” Alford-Sullivan said. “We kept the focus relatively simple and said we think we have two top 10 teams.”
Coleman made the podium in the 60 meter, finishing in third place and ran in second leg of the men’s 4x400 meter relay team that finished in fifth.
Brown ran as the anchor of the women’s 4x400 that finished in fifth.
It wasn’t just Coleman and Brown putting in great performances for the Vols. Kali Davis-White ran a personal best time of 23.08 and finished seventh in the women’s 200 meter. Cassie Wertman also set a personal best in shot put throwing 17.68 meters and finished second in the NCAA. Wertman earned her first, First Team All-American honors with the performance.
In the women’s 5000 meter final Chelsea Blaase set a personal best time of 15:42.47 and took third.
On the men’s side Cameron Brown set a personal best in the weight throw with a distance of 23.54 meters. Cameron Brown finished third. Nathan Strother finished second in the men’s 400 meter and ran anchor of the 4x400.
The high finishes suggest that it is was smooth sailing for the Vols at nationals — but that wasn’t the case.
“At the end of the first day we were down a significant amount of points,” Alford-Sullivan said. “We rallied really well and came out with more than we expected. We were absolutely thrilled and we value it quite a bit.”
Even though Alford-Sullivan was pleased with the way her athletes finished, she made a point to say the team doesn’t feel it has arrived and it isn’t satisfied. It was a step in the right direction, but they want more.
Closing out the indoor season signals the beginning of the outdoor season and Alford-Sullivan said just because you were on the podium in the indoor season doesn’t mean you’ll be on the podium when the competition moves outside.
“It’s hard to say, 'Okay, we did it indoors, let’s do it outdoors,'” Alford-Sullivan said. “Very different seasons, very different ways of competition and very different teams.”
The early outdoor season is a regrouping process for the Vols before they start the march towards the NCAA Outdoor National Championships.
“I would say going into it we feel very confident both teams are prepared well,” Alford-Sullivan said. “If we’re healthy and doing what we need to do from the middle of May to the middle of June we’ll have another successful season.”