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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

2024 Season Preview: Vanderbilt Track and Field

Head coach Althea Thomas believes her roster blends together like gumbo. How will the ingredients come together this season?
Vanderbilt Athletics
Julia Rosenberg competes at the 2023 Commodore Challenge. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Two seasons ago, when former LSU runner Althea Thomas took the job as Vanderbilt’s track and field coach, the program was in a state of rebuilding. The Commodores finished a dismal 13th at the SEC Indoor Championships and tied for 12th at the Outdoor Championships. 

Progress was made a year later when Vanderbilt climbed two spots at the SEC Indoor Championships; but, with a team total of only three points at the NCAA Championships, there was still much to be desired. Fast forward two months to the SEC Outdoor Championships, and the team is vastly improved. The Commodores moved up only one spot compared to a year prior, but its team total of 39 points is the highest since 1999. Something is brewing.

A month later comes the NCAA Championships in Austin, Texas. It’s the closing salvo for Thomas’ second year at the helm, and it roars with fury. Vanderbilt finishes with 13 points behind a second-place finish in the heptathlon and a top-five finish in the 400-meter hurdles. Five Commodores make the All-American team. It’s the program’s best performance since the Clinton Administration.

Fast forward to now. Vanderbilt lost much of the talent that propelled its record-breaking finish last season — Beatrice Juskeviciute, Brooke Overholt, Jada Sims and Taiya Shelby. Remaining stands Veronica Fraley, a second-team All-American for her performance in the shot put. Regardless, Thomas remains bullish on the quality of her roster.

Vanderbilt’s offseason additions are a mix of proven portal commodities and freshmen developmental talent. That same combination of athletes produced results last season, and the coaching staff plans on a dual-emphasis going forward.

“I call it the Chicago trio: Colette [Kinsella], Bria [Bennis] and Catherine [Sommerfeld],” Thomas said of three of her freshmen.

Both Colette and Catherine already received playing time in the fall, both performing well enough to run at the NCAA South Regionals for cross country. Freshman Eva Gautreaux, a Tennessee native hailing from the Memphis area, will make her debut along Bria in the coming weeks. The program isn’t short on transfers either.

“Vanderbilt is very attractive for graduate degrees, so we get a lot of transfers that way,” Thomas explained.

Among the most prominent transfers this season is Sara Omoregie, a native of Wales who left Harvard after finishing second in the shot put at the 2023 NCAA East Regionals. There’s also Alix Still — a transfer from the University of Virginia — who garnered three second-team All-American selections as a Cavalier.

“It kind of just makes for a really nice gumbo,” Thomas said of the roster’s construction.

She went further with the analogy.

“The roux is still in your Veronica’s and your Alex Still’s and your Haley Bishop’s,” Thomas said. “The strength of our sophomores makes our roux taste better than the average Joe’s.”

Among those sophomores are key returners Audrey Allman, Allyria McBridge, Giovanna Meeks and Santana Spearman, along with USC transfer Ashlee Gallegos. The class is abnormally deep and its members already possess numerous school records. This season, they’ll look to break even more.

Vanderbilt’s indoor season begins when it hosts two meets: the Commodore Challenge from Jan. 12-13 and the Vanderbilt Invitational from Jan. 19-20. Designed as a ramp-up to the rest of the season, the Commodore Challenge will feature “off-distance” events, meaning races that are shorter than they traditionally would be.

“If you think like basketball, you get an exhibition game,” Thomas said. “You get an opportunity to run a few different plays and see what kind of works as the season progresses.”

On Feb. 2 and 3, the Commodores will be in Boston competing in both the Crimson Elite and Bruce Lehane Scarlet and White Invitationals. The following weekend wraps up the indoor regular season with the Vanderbilt-hosted Music City Challenge, followed in two weeks by the SEC Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. When Vanderbilt looks to build on its prior NCAA Championship achievements, it will do so in Boston, Mass. from March 8-9.

The outdoor season begins the following weekend with a trip to Tampa, Fla. for the USF Bulls Invitational. The Commodores then travel to Raleigh, N.C., Gainesville, Fla. and Oxford, Miss. for three meets between March 28 and April 6. That’s followed up by two California meets in mid-April and the LSU Alumni Gold meet on April 20 in Baton Rouge, La.

The regular season concludes once again with the Vanderbilt-hosted Music City Challenge from April 26-27. Two weeks later, the Commodores will head back to Gainesville for the SEC Outdoor Championships, followed by the NCAA East Region First Round in Lexington, Ky. and the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene, Or. From June 21-30, select student-athletes will also compete in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, also in Eugene.

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About the Contributor
Jayce Pollard
Jayce Pollard, Assistant Sports Specialist
Jayce Pollard (‘25) is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in public policy and economics and minoring in data science and Spanish. Outside of writing for The Hustler, you can catch Jayce trying to learn the rules of soccer, hating on the Arkansas Razorbacks and being chronically on Twitter. He can be reached at [email protected]
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