JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (Jan. 10, 2019) – The 2019 campaign for the ETSU track and field program begins Friday morning, as the Bucs will host the ETSU Track and Field Invitational Jan. 11-12 inside the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center.
This season marks the fourth time in five years the ETSU Track and Field Invitational has opened the Bucs’ indoor season and will also mark the fifth straight year ETSU will open in Johnson City.
“We are looking forward to getting the 2019 track and field season going this weekend,” said ETSU head coach George Watts. “As always, I look forward to seeing how the new kids will compete and how much our returnees have improved from last year to this year's meet. Although we are having to sit some people out, I feel we can have a strong first meet. We have a lot of opportunity to compete throughout the season and need to be smart about how we compete our athletes.”
ETSU currently has 38 entries in this year’s ETSU Track and Field Invitational and will compete alongside 19 other universities at the two-day meet. Among the field are Division I programs such as Appalachian State, Georgia State, Kennesaw State and conference foe Wofford.
The Bucs had a number of strong finishes at last year’s meet, including returning redshirt senior Ben Johnson (Nashville, Tenn.) who won the Male Field Athlete of the Meet award for his win in the weight throw. Johnson set a school record with a mark of 19.86m, one he would go on to break again multiple times later en route to qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
Also in last year’s meet, then-freshman Symphony Buxton (Knoxville, Tenn.) won the women’s shot put in her collegiate debut and now senior Lamisha Simmons (Hollywood, Fla.) broke the tape in the 60 meter hurdles. The men’s and women’s DMR teams also took home gold in the 2018 opener.
Despite graduating 12 athletes from last year’s roster, the Bucs return a number of key athletes across the board and will enter the 2019 season with 25 newcomers. Four females and six males highlight this season’s senior class.
Five male and three female athletes who had top marks for ETSU last season return to the team, including the aforementioned throwing duo of Johnson and Buxton. Also in this group is football/track dual athlete Karon Delince (Phenix City, Ala.) — the reigning Southern Conference Indoor and Outdoor Male Freshman of the Year.
Delince is not the only football player coming over from Coach Randy Sanders’ squad to compete for Watts, as true freshman Tommy Rogers (Lilburn, Ga.) looks to make his debut in the 60 meter dash this weekend. Delince had ETSU’s fastest time in the 60m last year at 6.82.
On the distance side, the Bucs look to be competitive and carry over some of the success it had in cross country season with more than a handful of lettermen returning on both sides, including the likes of NCAA qualifying sophomore Ben Varghese (Kingsport, Tenn.) and top female runner Lindsey Stallworth (Knoxville, Tenn.) leading the charge.
Along with 39 total returnees — almost all of who have competed for the Blue and Gold — the Bucs gained valuable experience with four transfers who plan to debut in the ETSU Track and Field Invitational. The four include male distance runners Wesley Pectol from Auburn University and Khayvonn Benson from Shorter University, female sprinter Neyasha Honorable from King University and female sprinter/jumper Paige Peterson from the University of West Georgia.
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For more information on ETSU track and field, visit ETSUBucs.com and click on the track and field pages. Also, follow the program on Twitter @ETSU_TF_XC and on Instagram at the handle @etsuxctf.