Track and Field: Commodores continue to break records, progress upward at Vanderbilt Invitational

Sprinters Haley Bishop and Madison Fuller were among the seven Commodores who set personal and school records at the home meet.

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Vanderbilt Athletics

Vanderbilt runner Taiya Shelby competes at the Vanderbilt Invitational on Jan. 21-22, 2022. (Vanderbilt Athletics)

Kavi Jakes, Sports Copy Editor

The Vanderbilt track and field team hosted the Vanderbilt Invitational from Jan. 21-22. Competing against many schools from the Southeast as well as elite individual athletes, the Commodores set a host of personal and school records, making for a very successful meet.

Sophomore Haley Bishop and junior Madison Fuller continued to impress in the sprints. On Friday, Bishop ran a time of 23.53 seconds in the 200-meter, setting the Vanderbilt mark while winning in convincing fashion. Fuller followed with a third-place finish and a time of 24.28.

The duo showed up again on Saturday, with each winning their qualifying heats in the 60. While Bishop elected not to run in the finals for precautionary reasons, Fuller placed second with a time of 7.46. That was a personal best, good for second in the Vanderbilt record books, behind only the 7.37 Bishop ran last week at the Commodore Challenge

“It’s been very fun working with those two. They are very competitive and really good teammates at practice,” head coach Althea Thomas said of Bishop and Fuller. “They are just blossoming into really good sprinters.”

Bishop reciprocated Thomas’s praise, citing the effect of her coach’s joyful but deliberant approach.

“Every day is fun with her, but she also knows how good we can be and pushes us to be our best,” Bishop said.

Graduate Jess Creedon excelled in the pentathlon, scoring 3,555 points to finish second behind Shaina Burns, the runner-up in the pentathlon at the 2018 SEC Outdoor Championships who competed as an individual Friday. Creedon jumped 1.66 meters to earn second in the high jump and closed with an exciting finish to win the 800 with a time of 2 minutes, 23.58 seconds. She rode these two standout performances to finish as the top collegiate pentathlete.

In a similar vein, senior Taiya Shelby gave it her all in Saturday’s 800 against a quartet of runners from Atlanta Track Club (ATC), an elite professional running group. Shelby ran 2:07.83 to finish as the top collegiate runner and fourth overall behind three ATC runners. Shelby’s time was a personal best and the fourth fastest in school history.

Other personal marks were set on Saturday in the 400 and 1-mile run. Junior Kaira Brown ran 55.45 in the 400 to place third. Meanwhile, senior Grace Jensen finished second (4:39.79) and junior Caroline Eck placed fifth (4:47.56) in the 1-mile. With their races, Jensen and Eck moved into first and eighth respectively in Vanderbilt history.

Other distance runners competed across three events. Sophomore Nicole Anderson and freshmen Julia Rosenberg, Ella Lambert and Cameron Fawcett ran in the 1000. Junior Niki Narayani, sophomore Joslin Blair, sophomore Lainey Phelps and freshman Emma Curry followed Jensen and Eck in the 1-mile. Finally, sophomore Jenna Holland and senior Jacque Pinon represented Vanderbilt in the 3000.

In the field events, Divine Oladipo led the way with a throw of 17.29 meters in the shot put to earn second place. Sophomore Laine Roberts reached a height of 3.35 meters in the pole vault for 17th place, and junior Josephine Dal jumped 5.54 meters for 13th in the long jump.

The Commodores closed the meet in spectacular fashion, with the 4×400-meter relay ‘A’ team easily winning the event. Senior Jordan Smith, Brown, Anderson and Shelby combined for a 3:42.49, the eighth-fastest time in Vanderbilt history. The ‘B’ team of freshman Ella Escobar, Phelps, Jensen and Dal ran 3:51.02 to place fifth overall.

Some might not expect Anderson, a middle-distance runner by trade, to be able to hang with stronger sprinters like Smith, Brown and Shelby in the 4×400. But Thomas noted that Anderson has given maximum effort and pushed her relay teammates to fulfill their potential.

“When we’re in practice, they respect that if she’s lining up with them, she’s going to hold them accountable,” Thomas said. “So she’s been an asset in that way in the locker room, practices and meets.”

Led by Thomas and her superb coaching, the Commodores have established early that they can make some noise in the SEC. They will head to Louisville for the PNC Bank Lenny Lyles Invitational on Jan. 29 for their next opportunity to cement themselves as a contender and match their growing expectations.

“I think what excites me about everybody is how hard we work and how much work we’re willing to do to show everybody that Vanderbilt can get up there,” Bishop said. “We are not just people to push to the side.”