KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee was notified Monday night that three student-athletes have officially qualified for the 2013 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships to be contested March 8-9 at the Randal Tyson Track Center in Fayetteville, Ark.
Big Orange pole vaulters Jake Blankenship – the SEC Men’s Freshman Field Athlete of the Year – and Linda Hadfield – the school-record holder in the event – as well as Lady Vol 800-meter runner Nijgia Snapp will leave Wednesday to represent UT at the national meet.
Unlike past seasons, there were no automatic qualifying standards for the championships in 2013. Instead, for each individual event contested, the top 16 student-athletes were accepted into the competition, while the top 12 relay teams qualified.
Blankenship is having a stellar freshman campaign for the Vols, winning four of the six meets he entered and finishing as the runner-up in the other two. The rookie capped his first regular season in the Orange and White by earning SEC Men’s Freshman Field Athlete of the Year acclaim following his second-place finish at the SEC Championships. At the league meet in Arkansas, Blankenship topped 18-feet, 2.5-inches (5.55m) to better the UT freshman record for the third time this season, a mark which legendary Vol and Olympic silver medalist Lawrence Johnson held prior to Blankenship’s arrival to Rocky Top.
The Blacklick, Ohio, native, who also grabbed Second-Team All-SEC and SEC All-Freshman Team honors, enters nationals ranked fifth in the nation with his lifetime best vault at the conference meet. Heading into the event, Blankenship ranks third all-time in UT indoor history and is the second-ranked freshman in the country.
Hadfield, who went into last chance weekend ranked 23rd in the nation, put on a huge performance at Virginia Tech’s Rector Field House on Saturday. The junior, who recorded a UT indoor school record with a mark of 13-5.75 (4.11m) earlier this season at the same venue, surpassed both 13-7 (4.14m) and 13-11 (4.24m) to double PR, improve on her own UT record and, most importantly, secure a bid to nationals.