On Friday, UT's men's and women's track and field teams will depart for Fayetteville, Ark., to compete in the SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships.
The competition begins Friday and continues throughout the weekend, concluding on Sunday.
So far, the season has been filled with record performances and new school records from individuals and the team as a whole. Austin Whitelaw broke UT's indoor freshman 5,000 meter record with a time of 14:18 and Linda Hadfield broke the UT women's pole vault record with a height of 13-5 ¾ feet (4.11 meters). Freshman pole vaulter Jacob Blankenship not only won his first three collegiate meets as a Vol but set a freshman school record clearing a height of 18-0.5 feet (5.51 meters) and was named SEC co-freshman of the week. Cameron Brown broke the freshman weight throw record throwing 61-8.5 feet.
At the same meet last year, the Vols finished seventh out of 10 teams while the Lady Vols finished fourth of 12 teams. Both teams are looking to improve on these finishes, and J.J. Clark, head director of track and field, expects nothing less.
"Every weekend we've been improving, and the team is in the best form they have been in this year. So my expectations are to perform the best they can possibly be," Clark said. "I believe we will see more competitive running, jumping and throwing from our team collectively, so I expect a better performance throughout the entire team."
Clark said he is excited to see all of the events, but particularly the pole vault. The team has shown a kind of depth throughout the season that Clark is looking forward to witnessing further.
Sophomore Nick Kaiser was unable to compete due to injury but will be cheering his team on regardless.
"The guys seem fired up and look ready to run fast," Kaiser said.
The Vols have two returning indoor All-Americans with vaulter Chase Brannon and thrower Matthew Hoty. The Lady Vols have three All-Americans with sprinter Martinique Octave and middle distance runners Kianna Ruff and Mijgia Snapp.
After this weekend the athletes that qualify with finishing marking in top places in the national rankings will go back to Fayetteville, Ark., to compete in the NCAA Division-I National Championships, which begin March 8.
The performances during the indoor season will be good indicators of the performances to come in the outdoor season and can give the athletes some good momentum to perform well.