Veterans, newcomers pace track and field ahead of weekend meets

Christian Coleman during the Tennessee Relays at Tom Black track on April 7, 2017.

If director of track and field and cross county, Beth Alford-Sullivan, highlighted the name of every athlete that is performing well on her team’s listed roster, it may look more like artwork than a document.

Many of her Volunteers are getting quality results and making an impression on her as the season progresses.

“There’s been a bunch of people that have started to really spark some great results in what they’re doing,” Alford-Sullivan said. “Some of the traditional kids, you know you’ve seen Christian Coleman for the indoor season and for his career here. You’ve seen Nathan Strother do some great stuff over his time. They’re coming into form really well.

“But I think there’s some other people that are just on the cusp of really breaking through and will be major players for us as their careers progress.”

Tennessee will look to transform that potential into positive results this weekend as the team splits up to compete in two separate meets, the USC (South Carolina) Open and the Virginia Challenge.

The Volunteers will send the majority of their squad to South Carolina, with the sprinters, jumpers and throwers hoping to get familiar with the venue that will host the SEC Championship in a few weeks.

Around ten distance runners will make the trip to Virginia to take part in a meet that has “built a good reputation off of some really fast distance races,” according to Alford-Sullivan.

That idea of preparation and improvement could be the mantra that gets the Volunteers to where they need to be over the weekend and the rest of the season, as many individuals and event teams on the roster have already put up impressive performances.

Tennessee’s 4-by-1 and 4-by-4 relay teams have already qualified for the first round of the NCAA Championships, and will have several more chances to work on their craft before competing in the NCAA’s.

Star runner Christian Coleman recently posted a time of 10.03 seconds in the 100m during the outdoor season-opening Tennessee Relays, which was the fastest time in the NCAA on the season at the time of the event. The 2016 Olympian will look to finish strong through the second half of the season.

“It’s a confidence booster for me,” Coleman said on April 7 following his Tennessee Relays victory. “You never know how your opener will go. It went pretty well, so I’m excited about the rest of the season.”

Other athletes could make an impact for Tennessee down the weekend stretch and beyond as well.

“Scotty Zajac in the discus has thrown about a 189 feet in the disc and is very, very good for early season,” Alford-Sullivan said. “You see some good stuff out of Zach Long, who has just been each season getting better after the last one, just progressing himself. He’s real close to putting together a great race hopefully on Saturday evening in Virginia.

“We kind of look at things in the four areas, from the sprints, the jumps, the throws and the distance. Really across the board everybody’s having some nice stuff happen. You can’t help but be excited for Christian Coleman … I’m very excited about our relays. I think we’ll be very good with the relays.”

The Virginia Challenge will begin on Friday and conclude on Saturday, lasting throughout the day each day. The USC Open takes place on Saturday.

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