BY Chad Bishop
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Vanderbilt track and field team’s indoor season begins this weekend when the program hosts the Commodore Challenge, the first track and field meet for first-year head coach Althea Thomas.
Follow the 2022 Vanderbilt Commodore Challenge
Thomas, named Vanderbilt’s head coach in July, also coached Vanderbilt’s cross country squads in the fall. The coaching veteran is excited to see what her team brings to the table – and to be on the sidelines for a Vandy track meet for the first time.
“It’s very exciting to see all the work from the fall, anticipating seeing all of it come to fruition during the meet,” Thomas said. “And although we have had cross country, we get to see everybody on the team come together as one. I’m just really looking forward to the athletes being able to step on the track and showcase what they’ve been doing all fall and just show those characteristics of grit and hard work and belief and execution with the lights being on.
“I’m excited to see that process occur on a meet setting.”
One of three indoor home events this spring, the Commodore Challenge is scheduled to begin at 2:30 p.m. Friday with the women’s high jump inside the David Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center. Running events are scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. Friday and the meet will then continue at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Thomas said during her time as an assistant coach at LSU, Purdue, Kentucky, UAB and Georgia, the head coaches she worked for allowed her and other assistants to go about their business on meet day. Thomas wants her staff to feel that same ease this weekend after the first starter’s pistol and beyond.
“As a staff we talk constantly, whether it’s me with the other assistants or the assistants with themselves, and consult and get ideas,” Thomas said. “It may be something about development, something about mental toughness, something about growth and maturity and competing.
Alabama-Huntsville, Auburn, Austin Peay, Belmont, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Lipscomb, Middle Tennessee, Murray State, South Florida, Tennessee Tech, Western Kentucky and William Carey are expected to to represented at the two-day event.
Admission to the event costs $5 with spectators 10-and-under admitted free. All attendees must wear a mask at all time to adhere to COVID-19 protocols.
Vanderbilt will remain at home next weekend when it hosts the Vanderbilt Invitational on Jan. 21-22. Thomas knows that event and this weekend’s meet are just the beginning to a long journey.
“It’s a long season. A lot of us will be doing what we call ‘off events’ in this first meet,” she said. “The majority of our runners will be tapping into those races. Our short sprinters they’ll run the 300. Some of our long sprinter who run the (400) will run the 300. Same with the 1,000 – we have 800-meter runners that run the 1,000 and we’ll have some milers that drop down to the 1,000. When you see those events you’ll see a lot of Vanderbilt in one heat.
“I’m excited about those events. They help bridge the gap from training to the actual events that they will run at (the SEC Championships).”