NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The University of Tennessee at Martin indoor track teams wasted very little time rewriting several school records in the squad’s first competitive meet since its reintroduction with a strong showing at the Vanderbilt Commodore Invitational over the weekend.
UT Martin saw its 14-year hiatus as a track program come to an end over the weekend with the team’s participation in the Commodore Invitational, serving as the program’s first official meet since being discontinued following the 2003 season. While the wait was long, the Skyhawks capitalized on the moment with a competitive showing by tallying several school records against top regional and national foes from throughout the southeast – including No. 1 Florida, No. 3 LSU and No. 4 Arkansas in the men’s USTFCCCA national preseason rankings.
The Skyhawks started action on Friday night with both the men’s and women’s 5ks. Two-time reigning OVC Cross Country champion Ann Asipan made a strong impression in her track debut, posting a 5k time of 16:54.47 to finish second overall while shattering the program’s previous record of 18:25.4 set in 2003 by over a minute and a half.
On the men’s side it was freshman phenom Edwin Kurgat who also posted a strong transition from his dazzling cross country season into a competitive indoor meet with a time of 15:04.81 to finish second overall in the men’s 5k. Kurgat’s time bested the program’s previous school record by over 32 seconds. Fellow freshman Marcos Macias also posted his first sub-16-minute time in the 5k narrowly with a 15:59.25 finish for a new personal-best.
The Skyhawks then transitioned in the women’s distance medley relay where the squad posted a strong opening statement. Armed with a team which featured Asipan, Agok Ayuen, Ivana Cherry and Kara Martin, the Skyhawks posted a fourth place finish in the event with a time of 12:18.87. The squad finished only behind the No. 7 ranked LSU, Atlanta Track Club and Missouri while besting Georgia Tech and Murray State.
Wrapping up the evening was the performance of dual-sport athlete Antonio Clifton who made his collegiate track debut after playing football for the Skyhawks in the fall. In his collegiate opener, Clifton surprised onlookers with an impressive distance of 6.69 meters in the long jump to secure a spot in the meet finals.
Action would continue on Saturday as the Skyhawks got things started with the men’s 3k. In the event it was the freshmen duo of Ryan Ford and Austin Rogers who made waves for the squad. Ford posted a time of 8:39.99 to narrowly set a new school record by just 0.4 seconds. With one school record set, Rogers wouldn’t be far behind as the speedster crossed the line at 8:47.2 to post a pair of solid performances against a challenging field.
In the women’s 400 meter it was freshman Jasmine Pilcher who paced the sprint group in her collegiate debut. Pilcher posted a time of 1:03.51 to best a Skyhawk field which featured four athletes. Following the strong showing in the 400m, Pilcher would return to the track later in the day to post a team-best time of 8.27 seconds in the 60m.
On the men’s side of the 60m, it was another pair of football sprinters who made a statement in their respective collegiate track debuts. Sophomore Jaylon Moore posted a top-25 finish with a time of 7.10 seconds while junior Joseph Este was close behind with a time of 7.17 seconds.
After the sprints portion of the meet, the invitational turned back to the distance events. The Skyhawks would get a strong performance out of freshman Kara Martin in her debut, shattering the program’s previous 21-year record mile time by over six seconds with a time of 5:05.82 for a new personal-best.
“It is nice to finally say that track is officially back,” said UT Martin head coach Peter Dalton. “While this was a great starting point for our reintroduced program, we still have a lot of work to do. With that being said, I am excited for what the future holds for the Skyhawks.”
UT Martin will look to build upon its strong performance in its next outing at the EIU John Craft Invite next weekend. The meet will also give the Skyhawks a preview of the upcoming OVC Indoor Track Championship venue.