Gulf South Conference adds women’s track

The Gulf South Conference officially announced the addition of men’s and women’s track and field this season, making it the first time UNA’s women’s track can compete for the conference championship.

The conference considers track and field an “emerging sport,” according to a GSC press release.

It cannot become an official league championship sport, where a team can win the title, until at least six member institutions sponsor the sport.

Along with UNA, Christian Brothers, Lee, Mississippi College, West Alabama and West Georgia, Shorter and rival Alabama-Huntsville will each compete in women’s track. UAH and Shorter will not begin competition with the GSC until 2017 due to contractual obligations with the Peach Belt Conference.

Although the event will not take place until April 21, UNA’s objective is to prepare for the GSC with each meet. The Lions are on the fast track to success, said head coach Scott Trimble in an email.

“We are very excited about competing in the first ever GSC (championship event) in Clinton, Mississippi,” Trimble said. “Olivia Brady and Laura Bennett have set personal best in the 5000-meter run. Also, Sarah Harper has set the school record with a 1:00.54 in the 400-meter run.”

The events for track include the 400-meter, 800-meter and 3000-meter dash, along with the one-mile and 5k runs.

This year’s team is optimistic with an opportunity to compete for a conference championship, said senior Olivia Brady.

“This year has been unlike any other, mainly because we actually have a team goal to work toward,” Brady said.

Brady said having several newcomers could be a disadvantage as it takes time and a lot of trial and error. Despite having a young team, she said a lack of experience has not slowed them down.

“If anything, it’s made us more eager to try new things and train in new ways,” she said.

Brady said the schedule presents new challenges for the team. As an individual, she said she is working on a new event for the championship.

“The GSC meet will be offering a 10K which is twice as much as I normally run in track,” Brady said. “I’m having to adjust and increase my training in preparation for this, but I’m eager to take a shot at it.”

Sophomore Laura Bennett said she enjoys cross-country more than track since she is a long distance specialist.

“I’m planning on doing the 10k at conference for track,” Bennett said. “Right now (in the early events), the longest distance we get for indoor is 5K.”

Bennett said she looks forward to competing in the conference championship event.

“That’s probably going to be my favorite race,” she said. “We haven’t had one yet. I think the other races will prepare us for that. Our first race was a good race.”

As with every other sport, competition comes along when any title is up for grabs.

“Racing D1 schools when you’re a D2 school can be intimidating, but we’ve shown that we can rise to the occasion,” Brady said.

Brady said she hopes this pivotal season helps bring success to the team in the future.

“Bringing home any title in the first year of the GSC Track Conference Championship would be really cool and really special,” Brady said. “It would help lay the foundation for our future track teams.”

The UNA women’s track team will compete next in the Sewanee Indoor Invitational Feb. 20th in Sewanee, Tennessee.