OXFORD, Miss. – Led by a pair of dominant outings from junior All-Americans Mike Granger and Isiah Young, the Ole Miss track and field team gave head coach Joe Walker a home farewell performance he’ll cherish for a long time.
The Rebels captured 12 victories and had several athletes improve their marks in the school’s top five record books to highlight the 2012 Mississippi Open.
“We had another phenomenal home meet,” Walker said. “Our athletes rose above and beyond our expectations once again. It couldn’t have hardly been any better. We had great marks and great wins.”
After leading the Rebel track and field program for the past 30 years, Walker announced earlier in the year that this would be his final season coaching the team. Many former Rebel coaches and athletes were in attendance for pay homage to their mentor.
“It was a phenomenally great weekend for me personally with all the old alumni, acquaintances and talking about old times,” Walker added. “They sent me off in first-class fashion. I’m a blessed man.”
Among the 14 NCAA Division I men’s teams that competed Saturday were No. 24 Wisconsin, regional foes Arkansas State, Memphis and Southern Miss, as well as fellow SEC member Vanderbilt.
Among the 13 NCAA Division I women’s teams that competed were regional foes Arkansas State, Memphis and Southern Miss, as well as fellow SEC member Vanderbilt.
The Rebel men entered the Mississippi Open ranked No. 12 in this week’s USTFCCCA poll, which is their highest national ranking since they finished No. 11 at the end of the 2011 indoor season.
Young broke the 200-meter school record for the third week in a row finishing second in the event with a time of 20.33, which should keep him in the top five nationally after Saturday. He entered the meet ranked second in the NCAA in the event, as well as sixth in the 100.
Granger won the 100 meters with a season-best sprint of 10.17. Granger already ranked eighth in the NCAA coming into the weekend. Young finished right behind him with a 10.19.
Junior All-American Ricky Robertson captured the long jump and triple jump titles with personal bests in both events on Saturday. The reigning SEC Men’s Field Athlete of the Week jumped 25-0.75 in the long jump and 53-2.25 in the triple. He is the current national leader in the high jump and entered the meet ranked fifth in the triple before improving his mark in that event. The Hernando, Miss., native now should rank in the top 15 in the long jump, as well.
Senior All-American Caleb Lee finished second in the long jump with a 24-08.25 in his first meet of the outdoor season. He will immediately jump into the top 30 or 40 in the national rankings.
Freshman Sam Kendricks captured his fifth pole vault title in the last six meets on Saturday clearing a height of 17-7.25. He entered the meet ranked eighth in the nation after jumping a personal-best 17-8.5 at last weekend’s Florida Relays, which makes him second in the school record books.
Also winning in the 400-meter hurdles was Blanks, a senior All-American, with a 51.28.
The Rebel men’s 4x100 meter relay team of Granger, Young, Creighton Serrette and Griffin ran a 39.67, which would have placed them second-best in school history but were disqualified due to a faulty handoff.
For the women, senior Kristin Bridges won the 400 meters with a personal-best time of 53.19 and also anchored both the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams to victory. She continues to rank fourth-best in school history and 13th in the NCAA this year in the 400. Lauren Hollingsworth finished second in the event with a time of 53.67.
In the women’s long jump, former Rebel Brittney Reese captured the event with a world-leading jump this year of 23-1.25 that also broke the Ole Miss facility record. She is beginning preparation for a march to the 2012 London Olympics. Reese, who trains in Oxford, is the four-time defending women’s world long jump champion and the favorite to take gold in London this summer. Last month, she broke Jackie Joyner-Kersee’s American record in the indoor long jump.
Deonna Walton placed third in the long jump with a personal-best 19-11.5.
Aria Gaines and Marci Morman were very successful for the Rebels in the triple jump Saturday. Gaines jumped a career-best 42-2.75 to finish second in the event, which now ranks her second-best in school history, while Morman jumped a 42-2 to place third, which now ranks her third-best. They will both be among the national leaders after this weekend.
Junior Sofia Hellberg-Jonsen clocked a personal-best time of 58.99 in the 400-meter hurdles, which moves her into fourth place in the school record books in the event. She entered the meet ranked 35th in the nation in the event and her time Saturday should jump her several spots by weekend’s end.
Junior Jasmine Williams won the 200 meters with a career-best time of 23.67 and finished third in the 100 tying a career-best time of 11.61.
Junior Neal Tisher won the pole vault title with a height of 13-1.5 and placed fourth in the javelin throw with a personal-best throw of 140-6. She already holds the school pole vault record and continues to rank fourth-best in school history in the javelin.
The Rebel women’s 4x100 meter relay team of Shari Russell, Hollingsworth, Williams and Bridges won the event by clocking a season-best time of 45.19.
Other Rebel wins included Kayleigh Skinner in the 5,000 meters (17:06.16) and the 4x100 meter relay team (3:37.94).
The women’s heptathlon competition had four events Saturday, with the final three scheduled to take place on Sunday morning.
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