Track and field looking to utilize momentum in Vulcan Invitational

FILE - Shania Collins in the 100 meter dash during the Tennessee Relays at Tom Black track on April 7, 2017.

The Tennessee track and field team will head to Birmingham on Saturday to compete in the UAB Vulcan Invitational in what will be its second outing of the 2018 indoor season.

The Vols are coming off of a strong showing at the Tennessee-Indiana Dual Invite in Bloomington last Saturday. The women came in first place while the men tied with the Hoosiers in a dramatic fashion after a slow start.

“Both teams really stepped up and competed very, very well,” Tennessee director of track and field/cross country Beth Alford-Sullivan said.

When asked who stood out to her on the men’s side, Alford-Sullivan named senior sprinter Nathan Strother, who broke a meet record set in 1982 and currently holds the No. 1 time in the country.

On the women’s side, Alford-Sullivan named senior sprinter Shania Collins as an athlete who made an impact during last Saturday’s meet.

“Shania Collins had a breakthrough, especially in the 200,” Alford-Sullivan said.

Alford-Sullivan also feels confidence in freshman newcomer Ingar Kiplesund, who finished first in the long jump on his final attempt and in junior sprinter Zach Long, who finished first in the 3000-meter race.

Though Alford-Sullivan was duly impressed with individuals' performances, she was more intent on seeing how her athletes performed as a team.

“Across the board we had some really good early season marks, but really the emphasis was to go in as a team, both men’s team and women’s team, compete very well, and we did that,” Alford-Sullivan said.

As for this Saturday’s meet, hosted by the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Alford-Sullivan would like to see her teams continue to build off of last weekend’s strong start in Bloomington but continue to gain more experience as the season progresses.

“We really look at last weekend and this weekend as early season indoor competitions,” Alford-Sullivan said. “We’re training through them. We’re working very, very hard. We’re not letting up to go in and try to get a big performance as much as just get experience, burn off the rust and put the pieces of the puzzle in place.”

With last week’s solid opening performance, Tennessee currently has three athletes ranked in the top 16 of both men’s and women’s Indoor NCAA Championship qualifying standings. Mustaqeem Williams and Nathan Strother sit at No. 3 and No. 5 respectively, and Shania Collins is currently ranked at No. 3 on the women’s side.

Both the men’s and women’s teams will be among 24 squads competing at the Birmingham Crossplex on Saturday, where the events will kick off at 8:00 a.m. While the meet will draw a large number of programs from the Southeast, no other SEC teams are expected to take part in the meet.

According to Alford-Sullivan, Tennessee will compete in all of the meet's events except the 3,000- and 5,000-meter races.

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