Ole Miss to be Well-Represented in Rio

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Ole Miss track and field will be represented in a big way as the world's attention turns to Rio for the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. A school-record seven members of the Rebel family will compete at the Games while Ole Miss head coach Connie Price-Smith will serve as the head coach for the U.S. women's track and field squad.

"It's an exciting time for me as the head coach of the US Olympic Team," Price-Smith said. "It's exciting to be the head coach of athletes that are actually going to the Olympics with me." 

Two current Rebels, sophomore Raven Saunders and volunteer assistant coach Gwen Berry, will don a different red and blue as they represent the United States of America this summer. Saunders, who holds the all-time indoor and outdoor collegiate records in the event, will be the first Rebel to compete in the shot put at the Olympics. Berry, a three-time All-American thrower during her college career at Southern Illinois, will be the first Rebel to compete in the hammer throw at the Olympics. 

"I'm excited," Saunders said. "It doesn't feel any different because I don't want it to change my work ethic at all."

That work ethic helped propel Saunders to the 2016 NCAA title in the shot put during the outdoor season. She set the goal to make the Olympics early on and worked towards it all year.

"After how freshman year went and seeing how much more I had to improve on along with coming down to Ole Miss and having a few more resources, I knew that I would be capable of a lot more," Saunders said. "Every practice going in, I was going in super hyped. This was in September, I was screaming about going to the Olympics on every throw." 

Berry will once again be competing for a Price-Smith squad as she did during her collegiate career at Southern Illinois after serving as an assistant coach at Ole Miss this season. 

"It's a good feeling," Berry said. "I had confidence in myself that I would make the team. I wasn't as happy as everyone else probably because I didn't have my greatest performance (to qualify), but I'm grateful."

For Berry, the student-athletes at Ole Miss have helped her stay motivated during training while she passed on knowledge of her own to them. 

"I train with them as much as possible," Berry said. "The students listen. They take in everything you say. You give them advice, and they keep you motivated. I'm 27. (Raven) is 20. If she can make it, I need to make it too. We motivate each other."

The Olympics kick off for Price-Smith and the seven Rebels with the opening ceremony on August 5. 

"Ole Miss has great tradition. One of my goals when I came here was to keep building on that tradition," Price-Smith said. "It's great to go and represent the United States and Ole Miss at the same time."

T&F Rebels in Rio - Event - Years at Ole Miss

Gwen Berry (USA) - women's hammer throw - 2016

Antwon Hicks (Nigeria) - men's 100-meter hurdles - 2002-05

Sam Kendricks (USA) - men's pole vault - 2012-14

Brittney Reese (USA) - women's long jump - 2007-08

Ricky Robertson (USA) - men's high jump - 2010-14

Raven Saunders (USA) - women's shot put - 2016

Khadijah Suleman (Nigeria) - women's 4x100 relay - 2015-16

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