Freshmen lead track and field teams at Tennessee Challenge

By Sam Chandler, Sports Editor

Less than a week removed from the SoCon Outdoor Championship meet, the men’s and women’s track and field teams returned to action this past weekend at the Tennessee Challenge, hosted in Knoxville by the University of Tennessee.

After claiming his second individual conference title, breaking the school record and recording the highest mark in the history of the SoCon just six days prior, freshman high jumper Keyth Fightmaster once again continued to raise the bar.

The 6-foot-7 jumper from Calhoun, Georgia, set a new personal best on Saturday with a soaring school-record leap of 2.20 meters (7’2.5”), earning his third first-place finish of the outdoor season.

“I actually didn’t think that I was going to jump that high,” Fightmaster said. “We did heavy weights on Wednesday, and I was really sore on Friday, so making the jump really surprised me, but I was glad I got over it.”

Fightmaster headlines a contingent of eight men’s track and field athletes who have already qualified for the NCAA East Preliminary, held May 28-30 in Jacksonville, Florida.

In Division I outdoor track and field, the United States is split into two regions, East and West, with the top 12 competitors from each region advancing to the National Championships. To qualify for the preliminary round, athletes must post one of the top-48 marks in their region.

With his latest mark, Fightmaster currently ranks second in the East and eighth in the nation, putting him in a position to where All-America honors are well within reach.

“I try to set my goals high. I’d love to be an All-American and get some points for us,” Fightmaster said. “It’s what I always dreamed of.”

Sarah Sanford is another young Bulldog athlete who has notched an elite freshman campaign. Like Fightmaster, Sanford brought home top honors at the Tennessee Challenge less than a week after breaking both school and conference records.

Sanford clocked a time of 13.98 seconds in the women’s 100 meter hurdles to claim a first place finish in Knoxville after churning out personal best times of 13.48 seconds (100 hurdles) and 58.25 seconds (400 meter hurdles) at the SoCon Championship meet.

The record-setting times landed her a top-30 regional ranking in both events, as she currently sits 26th in the 100 hurdles and 17th in the 400 hurdles. Although her times fall just tenths of a second outside of the top 12, a national qualifying mark is certainly attainable for the perpetually improving freshman.

“It’s amazing how her maturation has gone from zero to a thousand in a split second and she just keeps getting better and better every weekend,” head track and field coach Rod Tiffin said. “The phenomenal thing about it is I don’t know when it’s going to stop. I don’t know when the cap is going to hit.”

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