By Nate Perry, TTU Sports Information
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Tech track and field team has already been to Vanderbilt once this season, but their second trip will likely have a different, more intense feel. Tech will have to bring its best this time around, as it will line up against several of the nation's top programs during the Commodore Invitational this Friday and Saturday.
The action kicks off at 4 p.m. CT on Friday from Vandy's Multipurpose Facility, and will continue at 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning.
TTU will compete in five events on the first day of competition, starting with the high jump and the weight throw at 4 p.m., and the long jump at 5. Tech will then send eight runners to the starting line for the 200 meters at 7 p.m., with the 5,000m acting as the nightcap at 8:30.
The shot put and the 800m will be Tech's first two events on Saturday morning at 11 and 11:30 a.m., respectively. Those will be followed by the 400m at 11:40, the 60m hurdles at 1 p.m., the 60m dash at 1:40, the triple jump at 2, the seeded section of the 400m at 3:25, and the 4x400m relay at 4:45.
COACH ANGEL QUOTABLES
"This year's Commodore Invitational will be the toughest competition that we have ever faced outside of the NCAA Championships two years ago. It will be a tremendous challenge for us, and will get us used to competing against some of the best athletes in the country."
"We will be up against powerhouse programs from the Southeastern Conference, the American Athletic Conference, and Conference USA, which will require us to step up our game in a big way. There will also be a handful of OVC teams there, giving us an early look at what our league has to offer."
"This is a great opportunity to ascertain how we measure up against elite competition. What a super way to prepare mentally and physically for the OVC championships in late February.
"As scripture says, 'as iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another'. We will certainly take advantage of this opportunity to be the best that we can be."
THE GOLDEN EAGLE LINEUP
Na'Scottisha Drummond, Eshe' Robinson, Taylor Macklin, Abby Mink and Keyanna Word will get things started for Tech on Friday afternoon. Drummond and Robinson will go in the high jump, while Macklin, Mink and Word will step into the circle for the weight throw.
Raven Smith, who received OVC Co-Female Field Athlete of the Week for her last meet, will be Tech's lone entrant in the long jump.
Wickham took Tech's best result in the 200 last week at Kentucky – 12th place – and narrowly missed a new indoor best with a time of 25.06 seconds.
Anderson and Toney did improve on their previous best marks, with Toney, a freshman, cutting more than a half-second off her old time.
Janet Kwambai will run the 5,000 meters for the first time in her career. The freshman should be quite comfortable at that distance, considering she surfaced as the cross country team's No. 2 runner for much of the season.
The trio of Macklin, Mink and Word will be back at it Saturday morning in the shot put.
Macklin owns the team's best distance in both the weight throw and the shot put so far this year. Her 12.30-meter shot put attempt (40 ft., 4.25 in.) won her 10th place at the Vanderbilt Indoor Opener.
Anderson, Toney and Robinson will be in the next event, the 400 meters. It will be the first 400-meter attempt of the season for all three.
Robinson will then get a short break before taking part in the 60-meter hurdles, where she will look to improve on her indoor best of 9.15 seconds.
Then, it will be Smith's turn to take off in the triple jump. Her 11.80-meter leap that won her seventh place last week at the Jim Green Invitational is the best the league has seen so far this year, and was the main criterion for her first-ever weekly honor from the OVC.
Wickham leads a group of four (Anderson, Roberts, Toney) in the 60m dash. Her time of 7.59 seconds at the Jim Green was good enough for a top-10 result, and is the third-fastest in the OVC this season.
Roberts will look to improve on the personal best she set during the team's first trip to Nashville this year, 7.87 seconds, which also cracks the OVC leaderboard at No. 18.
Anderson and Toney both took personal bests in the event last week.
D'Airrien Jackson, who won second place in the 400m at last year's OVC Indoor Championships, will register her first attempt of this season at the Commodore. Her indoor best of 52.84 seconds is also a TTU program record. Roberts will join her in the race.
Tech also has a 4x400m relay team scheduled to compete, which will be chosen from a pool that includes Anderson, Brugere, Jackson, Roberts, Toney and Wickham.
Jackson and Roberts were two pieces of the 4x400m team that ran a converted time of 3:42.96 to reign supreme at last year's OVC Indoor Championships. That mark also set a new TTU program record.
Tech will join 23 other women's teams in the competition.
The SEC, which remarkably produced the top four teams at last year's NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, will have six of its representatives in attendance at the Commodore – Alabama, Auburn, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and the host, Vanderbilt.
Kentucky was one of the elites last year, placing third at the national championships. Auburn and Mississippi State tied for 20th, Ole Miss came in 35th, and Alabama 45th.
Cincinnati, Connecticut, Memphis, Georgia Tech, and Middle Tennessee are some of the other notable programs that will descend upon the Music City.
Familiar foes Austin Peay, Belmont and Tennessee State will partake on behalf of the OVC, while another Nashville neighbor, Lipscomb, will be there as well.
Photo by Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information