Tough competition awaits Vols at Bob Pollack Invitational

FILE - Cidae'a Woods in the women's long jump during the Tennessee Relays at Tom Black track on April 7, 2017.

Tennessee sent five athletes to compete in the pentathlon in the first installment of the Bob Pollack Invitational at the Clemson University Indoor Complex last Friday.

There were 10 entries overall, one of the five athletes representing the Vols. Sophomore Maya Neal placed the highest among Tennessee's athletes (No. 3), grabbing a career-high 3,680 points. She also put up a career best in the high jump with 1.61 meters and in the 800-meter with a time of 2:33.53. Neal also won the shot put with a throw of 11.07 meters.

Tennessee director of track and field and cross country Beth Alford-Sullivan came away impressed with Neal’s performances.

“Maya Neal did a great job,” Alford-Sullivan said. “She has definitely been a person that has had a lot of experience in the multi(-events). She came in and competed very well. She has a good temperament for that and a competitive nature, but she can apply it to what is important.”

In addition to Neal, four other athletes competed for the Vols at the meet. Sophomore Dominique Turner, senior Cidae’a Woods, freshman Kiara Rhodes, and junior LaChyna Rhodes all placed fifth, seventh, eighth and ninth respectively.

Turner came away with the win in the pentathlon’s 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.39.

While the Vols did not have their best showing of the season on Friday, in part because of their youth and inexperience in the multi-events, Coach Alford-Sullivan believes her team came away with some good experience.

“For Roe and for Woods, it was their first time doing it. They are jumpers, and this is their first time doing all of these other events,” Alford-Sullivan said. “I was very pleased with the experience that they’re gaining from doing the training for all of these events and piecing this together.”

“Rhodes is a true freshman, and she kind of had a true-freshman day. Nothing at her best of her abilities, so the end result wasn’t there. But you have to get one under the belt, and the next time she does it, we will see some improvement that we know she is capable of.”

Tennessee will again turn its attention back to Clemson as it prepares for its first two-day meet of the 2018 indoor season at the Bob Pollack Invitational. While some of the team was competing there last Friday, the rest of the squad used the week off to prepare for the event.

“It was a good week,” Alford-Sullivan said. “We trained very aggressively during the weekdays last week. All of the event groups had some very heavy weight training sessions, to very heavy spring sessions all the way through. We should come off of that really well and be freshened up by midweek and start competing again by Friday.”

While the first few meets of the season are typically useful for getting back into the swing of things, the upcoming meet will mark the beginning of more intense and quality competition.

The Vols will be facing off against some familiar faces, as two SEC programs, Auburn and Alabama, are slated to compete at Clemson, as well.

“The first two meets we kind of use as 'rust busters,' working out the kinks,” Alford-Sullivan said. “Now it’s time to game up, and I think our kids are hungry and excited to do so.”

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