Jan. 22, 2014
The members of the Vanderbilt track team won't have to pack their bags this weekend -- and that's an exciting development for the routinely road-bound Commodores.
"It's extremely nice to have this opportunity," said Vanderbilt freshman Sarah Goodale, referring to this weekend's Vanderbilt Indoor Invitational. "We'll get to sleep in our own beds, and for a lot of the girls on the team, this will be a chance for their families and friends to come watch them compete."
The two-day Invitational -- which begins on Friday at 5 p.m. and resumes on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. -- represents the Commodores' first home meet in well over a month, and marks just the second-ever event held inside the school's new multi-purpose facility.
"Having a home meet is the best," said Vanderbilt senior standout Brionne Williams. "Nothing beats being on your own turf, competing where you're most comfortable. Although it makes me a little bit more nervous about the competition, I love that my friends from school get to see me compete."
The Invitational -- which is Vanderbilt's first home meet since hosting the Music City Invitational on Dec. 3 -- will feature a talent-rich field of teams, including Vanderbilt's in-state rivals, MTSU and Memphis.
"It's one of the few opportunities we get to compete and represent Vanderbilt in front of a Commodore crowd," said Williams. "A lot of people don't really understand what I do as a high jumper, so I love showing them how it's done. I'm sure it's the same for all of my teammates too."
The Invitational opens with the field events on Friday at 5 p.m., and the running events begin at 7:45 p.m. Saturday's action begins with running events at 10:30 a.m., followed by field events at 11 a.m.
"It's nice for the team to have a number of their classmates come out and watch and get a feel for this high level of competition," said head coach Steve Keith.
"The more competitions we have in the facility, the more it will feel like home. But (for) now, it is still a very new experience for the team. Administratively, it's a challenge but again, the more we get used to what needs to be done the easier it will get."
Goodale, who has opened her college career with a series of strong early-season performances, said the Commodores will be using the Invitational as a measuring stick.
"This is another chance for us to prove ourselves," said Goodale. "I'm looking forward to watching us grow as a team."
The maturing process will indeed be interesting to watch this season, as the Commodores, who have 12 underclassmen on the roster, continue to mesh and build chemistry.
"Our freshman class is a great class to be in," said Goodale, "and I am honored to be on the team with these girls who've accomplished so much."
While the young stars on the roster continue to get a feel for college-level competition, the upperclassmen -- and especially Vanderbilt's five seniors -- are looking to close out their careers with one last memorable season.
Williams, for instance, is looking to build on last season's highly-successful campaign which included her setting the No. 2 all-time high jump mark in Vanderbilt history.
"This season has been a real test for me so far," said Williams. "It's hard to come back from such an amazing season that I had last year and, with that, I feel like there are a lot of expectations to be even better than last year. All that weight on my shoulders can be tough, and I could feel myself doubting my abilities at first. But now I know what my challenges are, and what I have to do to overcome them."
Williams said she is doing her best to relish each meet during her senior season.
"Being a senior is bittersweet," she said. "I am sad that this will be my last season in competition, but I love being one of the leaders of my team. I feel like a lot of my teammates, especially the freshman, look to me for guidance about anything from their school work, to what they should expect from competition. It is the biggest treat to be able to help them and lead them to best that they can be as Vanderbilt student-athletes."