Feb. 12, 2014
The Vanderbilt track team is dividing up this weekend, traveling to destinations that are separated by more than 2,000 miles.
And yet, the Commodores will be unified in terms of their objective.
Both groups of Vanderbilt representatives -- the 16 who are going to Fayetville, Ark., and the handful that is going to Seattle -- will be both being using this weekend's event as an opportunity to prepare for the upcoming SEC Championships.
The athletes headed to Arkansas will be competing in the Tyson Invitational, while those headed to Seattle will compete at the University of Washington.
"This is an important (weekend)," said head coach Steve Keith. "You want to feel positive about where you are (as a team) going into the SEC."
The Commodores delivered encouraging signs about the state of the program last weekend with a top-level performance at the New Balance Armory Invitational in New York.
The list of highlights included a school record set by freshman Sarah Bell in the pole vault (at 13-1.5), a first-place finish by senior Liz Anderson in her first-ever indoor 5K (with a time of 16:36.11) and an attention-grabbing performance by freshman Courtney Clayton with a second-place finish in the 800 (with a time of 2:07.60).
After returning home from New York, the Commodores went right back to work on Monday to begin preparing for this weekend's competitions. Keith said the trip to the "city that never sleeps" left the Commodores somewhat exhausted, but said they have to continue to keep plugging along.
"They were dog tired on Monday," he said. "It (the traveling and competing) can be a grind. But at this stage in the season, you've go to to suck it up. And our fitness is a lot better now than it was at the start of the season."
The Commodores proved that last week when they set had numerous performances that ranked among the Top-10 in the program's history.
The list of impressive showing included: Carmen Carlos taking fifth in the 3000-meter dash with a time of 9:41.65; Brionne Williams finishing in a three-way tie for fifth in the high jump at 5-07.25; Simone Charley earning ninth in the triple jump at 41-00.25; Skyler Carpenter taking 10th in the 500-meter dash with a time of 1:15.37; Jennifer Cannon earning ninth in the high jump at 5-05.25; and Hannah Jumper finishing ninth in the 1-mile run at 5:01.08.
Now, the Commodores are hoping to continue that momentum this weekend -- and Keith believes the team is primed to do so. He said he is pleased with the progress the Commodores have made.
"We're doing pretty well so far," said Keith. "This group has had an impact on the school records, and that's the progress you want to see from year to year."
Keith said the young athletes on the roster are proving they are ready for the big challenges that await next weekend at the SEC Championships in College Station, Texas.
"The freshmen will have good experience under their belt (as they head into next weekend)," he said. "They are still learning, but they have high goals and high standards for themselves."