Three Tennessee track and field athletes earned the right to travel to the NCAA Championships in Fayetteville, Ark with their performances in a meet in Blacksburg, Va; two by dramatic last-chance meets, one by domination.

“They really came through,” UT track and field director J.J. Clark said of his last-day qualifiers. “Linda broke the (UT Women’s indoor pole vault) record at the last-chance meet.”

Heading into the Virginia Tech NCAA Qualifier filled with last-day jumps up the standings, junior Linda Hadfield knew she needed a strong performance of her own to reach Fayetteville.

The junior pole-vaulter was down to her final jump sitting at 23rd place. The NCAA’s new nationals qualifying criteria only take the top 16 from each event, and her first jump in the last-chance meet actually tied her season-best mark at 4.14-meters, adding more pressure.

Hadfield said qualifying for the top 16 added even more pressure.

“There’s girls anywhere from seven, down, going to the qualifier for pole vault, even more from the other events,” she said.

Hadfield shifted dramatically up in the standings by nailing a 4.24-meter score on her last attempt to break the UT record.

She issued a celebratory fist pump on her way down.

“I was just too hyped up; I was on the runway like ‘I’m a boss right now; I’m about to do this,'” Hadfield said. “I mean it all came out in that fist pump especially in the 4.24 jump.”

Hadfield’s score sent her over the cut line from 23rd to 11th, giving the UT junior the nod to the NCAA Championships.

Hadfield now finds herself in a field featuring top-ranked Georgia sophomore Morgan Leleux and Virginia Tech sophomore Martina Schultze, but the 5-foot 4-inch pole-vaulter remains upbeat about her situation.

Hadfield made it in on her final jump, but senior Lady Vol Nijga Snapp discovered her NCAA Championship fate on the trip home after her 800-meter run at the Alex Wilson Invitational in South Bend, Ind.

“When I left the last-chance meet,” Snapp said. “I didn’t think I was going to get in. You have to wait for everyone else to clear what events they’re going to be running. So I actually found out (Monday night) when coach called me and told me I got in.”

When her season-best 2:05.97 time placed the UT senior at 19th, just three spots out, but after four scratches from top 16 runners the two-time scorer at the 2011 Indoor Championships jumped to 15th, sending her to a third-straight NCAA Indoor meet.

“It’s a big surprise,” Snapp said.

She may be seeded at the near-bottom of the NCAA pool, but the Mays Landing, N.J., native has been improving her time in the 800-meter dash since the indoor season began.

But the Hadfield and Snapp aren’t the only members of the track and field team with a success story.

Freshman Jake Blankenship has a story of his own as he works to live up to the position he has been place in.

“There’s been an Olympic gold medalist that’s gone here and a silver medalist,” Blankenship said.

The UT freshman mentioned Lawrence Johnson, the silver medalist and former freshman record holder before Blankenship broke it with an 18-2.5 score this season. Blankenship has also won four of his six meets and was named SEC Field Athlete of the Year.

“This whole experience so far has been awesome,” Blankenship said.

The UT freshman currently sits fifth in men’s pole vault at the NCAAs and is looking to add even more history as he heads to the NCAA Championships on March 8-9.


Blankenship Vaulter Magazine
Blankenship Vaulter Magazine

Leave A Comment