Whew, it feels good to be back. Paternity leave is great, but also, sleep is too. I’m certain those things are mutually exclusive. Let’s hope into a sleep deprived Spring Sports semester.
First up is the Track and Field Team. A reminder that it is technically two separate seasons, Indoor and Outdoor, complete with separate conference championships and NCAA championships, but on the whole, the team and events are the same.
Steve Keith and Co have slowly built a well rounded program, albeit a boutique team focusing on particular events where they can excel. It would be nearly impossible to build a large enough elite squad that could contend for a team championship, but they can contend for multiple individual titles.
Keith and his distance assistant, Bekah Smeltzer, get to train and compete their distance girls around the calendar. Coming off of XC season, Ana Wallace stood out as a Freshman. She was All SEC Freshman team, and earned All Region. XC doesn’t always translate to Indoor events, so look for Wallace to compete in the 3k, 5k, and potentially the 4x800 or DMR.
The best returning distance runner from last year’s track squad is Haley Walker. As a sophomore she qualified for the NCAA East Regional in the 800m where she ran 2:09. She was chosen as part of the U-20 Canadian Team for the Pan Am games where she ran 2:10. For comparison, her teammate Jen Edobi, a graduate student, ran 2:05 and qualified for the 800m Quarters.
It’s worth noting that Nic Lanning, a sophomore out of Indiana, earned Second Team All SEC and All Region during the XC season. This is a significant achievement because the men’s team is without scholarships.
Donnie Young develops the sprint squad for the Dores. He leans into the middle distance aspect of the event group as evidenced by coaching Jen Edobi, Courtney Clayton, and Skylar Carpenter. Edobi was an NCAA finalist and Clayton earned All American status two years ago.
Young’s group tends to develop over the course of their careers. Senior Becca Schulte is the best candidate to develop like an Edobi or Clayton. In 2018, she ran 2:10 in the 800m, but has battled injury for most of the last calendar year. If she can stay healthy, she will fit into pattern that Young has shown possible.
Over the last two year, he has brought in a cadre of young sprinters with solid pedigree. Regan Clay, Madison Fuller, Kaira Brown, Taiya Shelby are all sprinters who were successful High School athletes, winning state championships at minimum. The SEC is a different level of competition, though. Clay and Shelby have made steady improvements over the last couple seasons to be competitive in open meets, but neither have scored at the conference level.
Clark Humphries, Associate Head Coach, has produced the most competitive athletes in the program over the last five years. He has accounted for four All Americans- Brionne Williams, Sarah Bell, Simon Charley, and Kristen Denk. Each were in the jumps, HJ, PV, and TJ.
This year, he returns Denk, a graduate student who is the fist Vanderbilt pole vaulter to win the SEC. In addition to Denk, he has developed Seniors Caliegh Lofstead and Margaret Ollinger into competitive conference level contenders.
His 2018 recruiting class has produced jumpers and multi eventers with lots of potential. Freshman Madison Murray, Jada Sims, and Alexandria Swindle were all championship level or elite level high school athletes. Murray, is a multieventer who specializes in Pole Vault. Sims is a multieventer who specializes in Long Jump, placing second in AAU Juniors in the heptathlon. Swindle was the best vaulter in Nashville last year, and she finished 8th at the national New Balance meet held in New York City.
As always, a year is a long time and competition can be fickle. But this year’s team seems to be more well rounded with as much potential as any team since maybe the 2011 team that was coming off a XC NCAA East Region Championship.
The goal for the Dores is to maximize their talents in areas of market inefficiencies for the conference, specifically places like multis and PV.
The Commodores open their season on January 17th at home in the Vanderbilt Invitational.