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.

On a beautiful Mother’s Day, the Tennessee track and field squads took to Tom Black Track in Laporte Stadium for Sunday’s third and final day of events of the 2018 SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

On the final day, both the men and women of Tennessee finished with some impressive performances. When the dust settled, the men ranked sixth among team scoring, while the women finished at fourth with 78 overall points.

Tristan Slater, a sophomore from Charleston, West Virginia, was the first athlete from Tennessee to ascend the podium on Sunday. Tying for third in the pole vault with South Carolina’s Armand Woodley at a 5.30-meter vault, Slater earned Bronze and gave Tennessee its first medal for the day.

Not only is this mark Slater’s first SEC medal effort, but he also set a new personal best.

Tennessee long distance star Zach Long participated in the 1500-meter finals after a controversial ending in the preliminaries on Saturday, when he, accompanied by multiple other runners, took a spill on the track, and those that fell were placed in the finals after protest.

Long burned the midnight oil down the stretch to jettison himself to a third-place finish, with a time of 3:47.53, just short of his personal record, to earn his first top-three finish in the SEC 1500-meter run.

“It felt amazing,” Long said, “Out here on the home track with all the fans, it was something you dream about as a kid and it was really special to me.”

The 1500-meter run was not Long’s only of the day, however. Just a few short hours afterwards, Long ran in the race that is seen as his specialty, the 5000-meter run. 

Despite the fatigue he still felt from his previous race, Long finished strong at 13th.  He cites a powerful motivation to push past the wear and tear from the day’s races.

“The fans here,” Long said, “I didn’t want to drop out with everybody cheering, and all my teammates working their butts off this weekend. I didn’t want to be the guy that stepped off the track.”

In the women’s 100-meter hurdles, Alexis Duncan, who had previously run in the 4x100 relay, finished second to earn a silver medal and eight points towards the Tennessee team score, posting a 12.79 time. Duncan was able to set the bar, as this was her first collegiate 100-meter hurdle run.

Tennessee continued their winning streak in the women’s 400-meter run, an event they ended up dominating. When the finish line was broken, Tennessee had the third and fourth best finishers in Felecia Majors (51.67) and Lenysse Dyer (52.14), respectively. Majors found the SEC Podium for the second time in her career in the 400, with the first coming in 2016, when she took second place.

On the flip-side, in the men’s 400-meter, Senior Nathan Strother sent his career out on a high note, coming in just .06 seconds behind first, nabbing second with a new personal record time of 44.34.

Strother not only set a personal record, he broke the school record and became just the second Vol in history to run a sub-45 time in the 400-meter.

Senior Shania Collins ran in her last races on Tom Black as a Tennessee athlete, going out on a high note. Her first was the 100-meter, in which she set a school record time of 11.06 seconds on Saturday in the prelims. Collins broke her own record in the finals, running a 10.99 time to take second place and earn another silver medal for Tennessee. 

Her second race was the 200-meter, in which she set a personal best of 22.40 in the prelims to earn a one seed for the finals. Collins again earned a silver medal, finishing the dash in 22.47 seconds.

She’s happy with how her career at home ended.

“I think it could’ve been higher, but it’s pretty high,” Collins said, “Two silver medals and a personal record, a 10.99, so I’m pretty happy with what I had.”

Mustaqeem Williams, a runner in four races, took third in the 100-meter dash with a 10.12 time, and followed that up with a second-place finish in the 200-meter dash final for silver (20.25).

After a strong SEC performance, Tennessee will head to the NCAA East Preliminaries held in Tampa, Florida from May 24 through May 26. 

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