KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- The devoted and anxious Knoxville track and field community were able to meet new University of Tennessee track and field head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan in a specially organized Meet and Greet at Tom Black Track at LaPorte Stadium on Monday evening. Current student-athletes of the Volunteer track and field and cross country programs were on hand, as well as VFLs and members of the Knoxville Track Club and public.
Director of Athletics Dave Hart introduced Sullivan, who was able to share her vision for the future of Volunteer track and field -- a vision founded on honoring the history of the proud program through a renewal of a united and family-focused attitude across the sports' various events and disciplines.
"I agreed with Coach Sullivan on everything she said tonight," said sophomore sprinter Felecia Majors. "She talked about `One Team One Dream,' and I liked that so much that I put it down in my phone. I want us to be known as one team with one dream. There's a new energy on the team and everyone is already bonding really well. We're just excited to see how we're going to do this year and I think we're going to do well."
"Tonight had a little different feel," added senior thrower Matthew Hoty. "There was a little more camaraderie tonight between the athletes and the alumni and the community members. I think everyone was excited to hear Coach Sullivan speak -- as they should be. She has a great vision for the program and I think it's easy to say that she will probably be successful in implementing it."
The student-athletes shook hands with many of the guests at the Meet and Greet, with many -- not surprisingly -- spending a considerable time speaking with the alumni in attendance. A broad spectrum of VFLs was in attendance, ranging from Vols who had competed in the 1950s to members of the 2001 outdoor national championship squad, and many voicing an urgent desire to see UT again at the forefront of the country's track and field scene.
"[The alumni] always talk about `when I was here,'" said Olympic champion and Knoxville resident Tim Mack. "I just remember having a great all around team -- decathletes, pole vault, 800m, sprinters, everybody. And everybody relied on everybody else. A lot of those athletes are still around here and we just want to see Tennessee back on top." Mack went on to describe Coach Sullivan as "very knowledgeable" and praised her recognition that "this program is very important to everyone here," while also stressing the importance of alumni involvement.
"I think it's huge. If I was a young person in this program I would love to meet a gold medalist. But there are so many people around here that have been part of Tennessee's storied history. I think the strength is in numbers and so many of us just want to help in any way we can."
Hoty agreed with the sentiment expressed by Mack, saying "there is so much alumni support, and they've always supported us no matter what. It's just great to feel that support and to know that they are in it with us for the long haul."
In her initial address to the community members gathered at Tom Black Track, Sullivan also introduced her coaching staff for the upcoming season, describing them as "the best of the best." She also revealed that funding has been approved for renovations to the track and field facility and that she hopes to see its continued use for many community events within the sport.
The track and field teams gathered in full for an organized meeting today inside the Brenda Lawson Athletic Center and the cross country season is set to begin on Tuesday with its first official practice.