Max Benson is headed to Rocky Top.
After considering all his options, the Brentwood senior decided to stay close to home, joining the Vols track program just three hours from home.
In an interview with Tennessee MileSplit this week, Benson said his relationship with the coaching staff ultimately made the difference. He's excited to be coached by director of track and field Beth Alford Sullivan and assistant coach Layne Anderson.
"The most important thing to me was my future relationship with the coach, and knowing that I would be in their best interest, I certainly felt that way with Layne Anderson," Benson said. "I also really like the facilities and especially the academic support system they have set up for the athletes, that made myself and my parents very comfortable."
Benson won't be joining the Vols' program right away. He's heading on a two year mission trip following graduation. But the Tennessee coaches understood and supported that decision, which made a big difference to him.
"A worry for me was, a school as competitive as Tennessee, wouldn't allow to leave for 2 years and come back to the team," he said. "I called Coach Anderson just a few weeks before deciding, letting him know that this trip was something I wanted to do, and if they would be willing to wait 2 years for me. And his response was not only a 'Yes, you can do this,' but he was really supportive and excited for me, he wanted to make UT comfortable for me, and asked for lots of postcards from wherever I go.
"That was very comforting and made me feel like I belonged at his University and was the deciding factor."
Benson comes from a prestigious program in Brentwood. So team success is very important to him. His main goal for this outdoor season is to win a team state championship.
He wants to win at the next level too. And he feels like Tennessee gives him a great chance to do that.
"There are some really fast guys coming in from both the sprint and distance side of things, so I look forward to competing with these guys, also learning from the current athletes and training with them," he said.
"I want to achieve some really high goals as a team. I want to win."
Ultimately, the proximity from home made a big difference as well.
Benson won't be far from his family, which was also a big selling point.
"One thing that I like a lot is being able to be close to Nashville and see my family a lot, and also they can be at a lot of my meets too," he added. "I have a 3 year old brother who likes to watch me race and comes to my meets with a Lightning McQueen car and tells me I'm going to win the Piston Cup. So being able to grow my relationship with him is a big deal to me. It all worked out really well, I couldn't be happier."