April 19, 2010
By Amber Harding, for UTsports.com
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - University of Tennessee sprinter Evander Wells has already proved himself on the track.
The Stone Mountain, Ga., native ranks among the top 10 in school history in the 60-, 100- and 200-meter races. He's also an 18-time SEC scorer with eight All-America accolades under his belt.
But nearing the conclusion of his senior season, Wells is looking to end his collegiate career with a bang. Despite all of his success at UT, he still has some unfinished business.
"I want to finish with at least one individual SEC title and at least one national title," Wells said. "That's the goal."
Wells already has won an SEC team championship with the Vols in 2007. His 4x100m relay team also took home a title in 2007. That season's accomplishment, Wells said, is one of the most memorable experiences of his track and field career.
"Just winning it as a team, everyone out there taking pictures, and the emotion in everybody's face - it was really a great moment," he said. As a senior, Wells believes he plays a role as a leader to his teammates. But he's not the vocal type.
"I don't speak out too often about much," he said. "But I always try to lead with my actions."
Wells said he knows how it feels to fall into a slump when competing, and he sometimes sees his teammates encounter similar problems. This is when he feels his leadership is needed the most.
"I try just to come out and show them that whatever happened in the race before doesn't matter," Wells said. "Each time you step on the track, you have to do it with the mindset that you're going to run to the best of your ability."
A defining moment occurred for Wells in this year's NCAA Indoor Championships. He was disqualified in the 200m prelims for impeding the progress of another runner. Although disappointed, he said the experience forced him to re-focus his attention.
"Before, I would just run and not really worry about where the line was," he said. "But I look at it a little more now and try not to let it slow me down."
The unfortunate setback at the indoor championships serves as Wells' motivation for the outdoor season.
"That was really my spot in the final, and I didn't get to make it," he said. "So I have to come back outdoors and let people know that I'm still here."
Wells has undoubtedly made his presence known. For the past two consecutive weeks, he has received the honor of SEC Male Runner of the Week. At the Sea Ray Relays in Knoxville, he won the 100m and 200m dashes, and led the 4x200m relay team to a first-place finish. So far this season, Wells also owns the fastest 200m time in the world.
But Wells is used to these kinds of accolades. While he was a student at Stone Mountain High School, he was named Athlete of the Year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. USA Today also included him in its All-USA Boys High School Track Team.
He began running in the ninth grade, but he admits he was reluctant to give it a try.
"Then, I was just trying to get to college anyway I could," Wells said. "I started out hoping to play football. I didn't know much about track. I didn't really want to run track. Actually, the high school coach forced me to run."
While Wells did receive football scholarship offers from a few small universities, he said he's glad he chose track.
"It turned out well," he said. "And I was excited for the opportunity to come to a school like the University of Tennessee."
But football and running aren't his only talents. Wells is a 2-D Art major and is often asked to do drawings for his friends.
"I'd like to keep competing and running after college," he said. "But I want to keep drawing as a side hobby."
Wells will get his next chance to compete at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, Pa., this weekend. Last year, his team won the sprint medley relay Championship of America, and he's hoping to repeat that success this year.
At the Penn Relays, an event called "USA vs. the World" will take place. Here, many of the world's top runners, like Jamaica's Usain Bolt, will compete against one another. Wells believes this event has a tremendous impact on young runners, and he still remembers the time U.S. Olympian Wallace Spearmon congratulated him after a race three years ago.
"That really meant a lot, so it's just really nice to have those athletes there because they're watching you and you're watching them," Wells said. "It's a good chance to learn."
A congratulations from one of the top runners in the nation - not bad for someone who didn't even want to run track in the first place.