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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.

Track and Field: Vanderbilt finishes in eighth place at SEC Outdoor Championships

The Commodores posted their best SEC Championship performance of the Althea Thomas era.
Vanderbilt Athletics
Graduate student Veronica Fraley placed first in the shot put and second in the discus, vaulting to her a tie for the Commissioner’s Cup. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

When Vanderbilt finished with 39 team points and in 11th place at last year’s SEC Outdoor Championships, it was the program’s best result since 1999. This season, with a team score of 45 points and an eighth-place finish, the Commodores shattered that record-setting performance.

“We’ve really changed our mindset and the culture of the team,” director of track and field Althea Thomas said. “If you’re around us at a track meet or practice, it doesn’t matter who it is, you see this identity and it doesn’t change. I think that’s been the big difference.”

Vanderbilt’s 45 team points were scored by a mix of 10 student-athletes across 12 events. The festivities began on May 9, when freshman Bria Bennis — competing in the event for the first time in her career — finished fourth in the 10,000-meter with a time of 34 minutes and 11.38 seconds.

“[Bennis] comes from a high school in Illinois that’s very well known for its distance program,” Thomas said. “Her understanding of the sport and how great it is is just a little bit higher than some freshmen … [Bennis] has been dreaming of this since she’s been in 9th grade.”

On May 10, the Commodores notched their second and third scoring performances when graduate student Madison Murray and sophomore Marta Sivina finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the heptathlon. Another freshman, Lena Gooden, found success in the long jump, finishing sixth and setting the school record at 6.17 meters.

The highlight of the competition came later in the day when graduate student Veronica Fraley threw a school-record 18.29 meters to win the shot put. Fellow graduate Sarah Omoregie also placed in the event, coming in seventh thanks to a throw of 17.02 meters.

“[Fraley] just wants to be great,” Thomas said. “She’s just able to be in an advanced course. We give a couple people a packet of work and she actually gets the whole dissertation.”

On May 11, the final day of the competition, the Commodores continued to stack up points. A 4×100-meter relay team composed of Gooden, Haley Bishop, Ella Escobar and Allyria McBride placed eighth with a time of 44.21 seconds. Remarkably, the weekend marked the first time that group of Commodores had ever run the event together.

Junior Julia Rosenberg added four more points to Vanderbilt’s team total when she finished fifth in the 1,500-meter with a time of 4:16.96.

After winning the shot put the day prior, Fraley added to an already legendary weekend by finishing second in the discus with a throw of 61.62 meters. Trailing Alida Van Daalen of Florida by only 0.17 meters, Fraley finished a whopping 4.97 meters ahead of the third-place finisher. The combination of Fraley’s two elite finishes gave her a partial claim to the Commissioner’s Trophy, awarded to the student-athlete who scores the most team points across all events.

Rounding out the weekend was sophomore Allyria McBride, who collected a fourth-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 56.44 seconds.

“We may not be perfect, but we understand the mission,” Thomas said. “That’s the definition of a good team.”

The Commodores now await invitations to the NCAA East Regionals in Lexington, Ky. from May 22-25. Selections will be announced by the NCAA on May 16.

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About the Contributor
Jayce Pollard
Jayce Pollard, Non-revenue 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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