Tennessee track and field began the 2014 season in high gear this past weekend, recording 17 top-eight finishes in the UAB Blazer Invitational. After a month without coached practices, UT had to prepare for the event quickly and efficiently.
"We tried to train hard through the break, and then we had a week here before the meet with our coach," sophomore sprinter Emily Yarnell said. "So we really just tried to get back into the mindset and get a few good workouts in and hope that was good enough for the meet."
Yarnell finished fifth in the 200-meter race with a personal best time of 24.67. Two more Lady Vols placed within the top-five in the event: Felicia Brown came in third (24.35) and Felicia Majors finished fourth (24.38). Yarnell expressed excitement at setting a new personal record and said it was a confirmation of the team's hard work.
"Freshman year, I didn't see a lot of dropping in my times," Yarnell said. "Even though it wasn't a huge drop, and it still isn't where I want my times, it's so good to at least see them dropping, because that just shows that the work we're doing is paying off."
UT saw strong effort in the 3,000-meter event as well, with three Lady Vols placing within the top 10. Sophomore Chelsea Blaase, coming off of an All-SEC and All-region season, finished third in the event with a time of 9:45.75, and fellow sophomore Alexis Panisse finished the race in fourth place with a time of 9:57.74.
Panisse has high expectations for the season and looks forward to contributing even more to the team this year than she did last year as a freshman.
"I want to get better and better each race," Panisse said. "The better I get, the more I learn strategies and how to run it, so more experience will be great for me."
Panisse isn't the only runner holding the Vols to high expectations this season. Senior Terrance Livingston, who won the 500-meter run this weekend, said he believes the team has every opportunity to improve.
"I want us to do better than we did last year," Livingston said. "This year we have a stronger team, and we can do better, so let's do it."
Livingston has also set high personal goals for himself and is aiming to do well nationally.
"I want to go to the NCAAs, and I want to be a top competitor in the NCAAs, if not winning," Livingston said. "That's the goal, indoor and out."
UT competes in the Virginia Tech Invitational this weekend, and Yarnell said she is looking forward to the tournament as an opportunity for more success.
"I think that we have the potential to do really well this year," Yarnell said. "We have some really good talent, and I can see the team working hard."