The Volunteers have a big weekend ahead of them as the track and field team travels to Arkansas this upcoming Friday.
The Razorback Invitational will include many high-end competitors from various SEC schools. The event will also include nine teams that are nationally ranked.
“We’re going into Arkansas knowing that we will be seeing our major conference competitors,” head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan said. “Our tactics are to utilize that competition. We need to test ourselves against these competitors.”
In preparation for the upcoming meet, the Vols decided to get in a little early practice time. The track and field team came back early from winter break to get themselves back into prime condition.
“We’ve been training since the second of January,” Sullivan said. “Our kids are rounding into really good fitness and level of competitive attitude.”
The Vols plan to enhance what they have so far and push the envelope.
“This will be one of the most competitive track meets in the country this year,” Sullivan said, talking about the high stress this weekend. “Our team needs to be able to mentally compete.”
This will be the Vols third indoor track and field meet of the season as they have been transitioning from cross country to track.
In this transition, the Volunteers anticipate a smooth sailing, even with big shoes to fill.
For the 2016 season, men’s cross country for the University of Tennessee placed ninth in the SEC and women placed 14th. The cross country teams featured key NCAA players on the roster finishing well in their season, such as sophomore Zach Long and freshman Megan Murray.
For Sullivan, she said that the long-distance runners on the team shouldn’t noticeably change their approach from cross country to track.
“From an insider’s view point, we roll from one season to the next simply,” Sullivan said on the transition from cross country to track. “The biggest challenge is to mentally sustain.”
Sullivan looks toward captains Long and junior Christian Coleman to guide the team both mentally and physically through the Razorback Invitational.
Long has already set the bar high for the 2017 season. So far, Long has set a new personal record for his mile time at 4:06.63, and he finished in second place at the Indiana-Tennessee Dual in the 3000m.
The lineup for the trip to Arkansas will also hold 13 NCAA event leaders, one of them being Coleman. Coleman runs in many events such as the 200m, 300m and long jump for indoor track. Coleman is the defending national champion in the 200 and is anticipated by Coach Sullivan to have a great showing this weekend.