April 14, 2018
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OXFORD, Miss. – Heavy rainfall and lightning delays couldn’t put a damper on what was shaping up to be a crucial week of development for the Ole Miss men’s and women’s track & field teams, and the Rebels didn’t disappoint with another excellent day of work to wrap up the Joe Walker Invite on Saturday.
With rain throughout the night and much of the morning, the grounds were soaked all day, but Ole Miss went on to win 11 event titles amid some spectacular performances.
“(The student-athletes) all feel like they’re on a mission, and I see it in every event area,” said Ole Miss head coach Connie Price-Smith. “They’re trying their hardest to compete and make the conference roster, and that’s nice to see.”
The rain couldn’t even stop the senior ceremony, which paid tribute to 26 seniors that helped turn a corner in the progression of both Rebel track & field and cross country. Those seniors -- Jasmin Allen, Emily Bean, Taylor Caldwell, Jolie Carbo, Jasmine Cherry, Hannah Christen, Dylan Day, Robert Domanic, Trevor Gilley, Nicole Henderson, Nolan Hesse, K’Viana “KV” Jones, Kat MacNeal, Ryan Manahan, Mercedes Mattix, Katy McAuley, Dempsey McGuigan, Aisha Newsome, Lanae Newsome, Maddy Nikkel, Cullen Prena, Shannon Ray, Porsha Shirley, Janeah Stewart, Sean Tobin and Brian Williams – contributed numerous All-American awards and historic finishes, and have helped write a new chapter for Ole Miss track.
“We have a great group of seniors, and I am very proud of them,” Price-Smith said. “From the moment I arrived here three years ago, they were enthusiastic and quickly bought into my vision of striving to be the best they can be. They have elevated Ole Miss track and field and cross country, and I am very thankful for them.”
That future was on in full display on Saturday, with freshman Waleed Suliman opening his outdoor career with a dazzling display in the 800-meter. Suliman, an SEC All-Freshman finisher in the 800 indoors, won at a blistering 1:47.29 – already the sixth-best 800 time outdoors at Ole Miss, which also puts him No. 4 in the NCAA and atop both the SEC and NCAA East Region qualifying lists by more than a half-second. Suliman is also currently the nation’s fastest freshman in the event.
Helping with that fast time was a superb job by the rabbit, fellow freshman John Rivera Jr., who ran 51 seconds over his first 400 and 1:18 over 600 to get the Rebel men off on the right foot.
Rivera not only helped Suliman, but other freshmen Griffin Riley (third, 1:50.02) and Everett Smulders (fourth, 1:50.33) as well. Riley’s time puts him at No. 15 on the all-time Rebel list and No. 28 in the East Region, with Smulders – a Second-Team All-SEC miler indoors – No. 30 on the East Region list.
With those top three times, plus freshman Cade Bethmann’s 1:50.47 from the Ole Miss Classic on March 31, Ole Miss jumps up to No. 2 in the USTFCCCA #EventSquad rankings – which takes the top-four times or marks from each team and each event and assembles rankings predicated on the best average. After today, the top-four Ole Miss times in the 800 total 7:18.11 (an average of 1:49.53 per 800) – which only trails the national leader, Iowa State (7:13.46 total; 1:48.36 average).
The Rebel men also launched themselves up to second in the #EventSquad rankings in the 1500-meter last night after an equally fast heat that used a teammate to rabbit for them – potentially signaling Oxford as a place to come get a regional qualifying time against distance coach Ryan Vanhoy’s talented crew.
“Hopefully it will attract more teams to come in and say ‘Hey, we want to run against you.’ It kind of made a statement, because I think it was probably the fastest 1500 that happened this weekend,” Price-Smith said.
It was business as usual for senior All-American thrower Janeah Stewart, who notched two impressive wins in the shot put and discus on Saturday.
Stewart opened the day with a one-foot season-best in the discus at 54.78m (179-09), putting her 18th in the NCAA, sixth in the East and fourth in the SEC. Freshman Shey Taiwo had a monster day in the discus, finding her stride with a huge 24-foot PR at 46.19m (151-06) to launch herself from 14th to fifth all-time at Ole Miss.
It was the shot put, though, where Stewart was most impressive. Even with a finger injury sustained in the event, Stewart went on to beat professional thrower and Ole Miss volunteer coach Jeneva Stevens (17.58m/57-08.25) at a two-foot season-best toss of 17.64m (57-10.50) – currently No. 3 in the NCAA and the top throw in both the SEC and East Region by more than two feet.
A similar situation unfolded for senior Lindsey Murray in the women’s pole vault. Murray cleared a season-best 4.18m (13-08.50) for the win, putting her 16th nationally and 10th regionally. Murray also took a couple strong stabs at breaking her own school record of 4.34m (14-02.75) from 2016.
Murray was followed by two season-best performances out of Katy McAuley (second, 3.96m/12-11.75, 31st East) and Nicole Kallenberger (third, 3.81m/12-06.00).
Sophomore Kieshonna Brooks led an impressive Rebel group in the heptathlon, and for the second straight week Brooks set a new career-best – breaking her own national record in her native home of Saint Kitts and Nevis. Today she ended up with 5,057 points, the first time she has eclipsed 5,000 points in the heptathlon. She now ranks 31st in the NCAA and seventh all-time at Ole Miss.
Haley Hood (fifth, 4,050) and Ghania Warren (sixth, 4,037) both recorded career-best point totals as well.
Brooks won the long jump at 5.61m (18-05.00), took second in the javelin (34.27m/112-05) and third in the 800 (2:32.75, PR). Both Hood (fourth, 29.63m/97-02) and Warren (eighth, 19.32m/63-05) recorded three-meter PRs in the javelin, and Warren clocked a three-second PR in the 800 at 3:00.87, while Hood took runner-up at 2:31.15.
Senior Brian Williams claimed two titles in his two throwing events at his final home meet, winning the discus at a near season-best of 60.83m (199-07) and the shot put at 18.58m (60-11.50) after a very consistent field series.
The Rebel women’s sprinters claimed four titles themselves, the first being an all-senior quartet on the 4x100-meter relay. Nicole Henderson, Mercedes Mattix, Jolie Carbo and Shannon Ray ran 44.61 – the second-fastest time of the season and the ninth-fastest in school history.
Carbo won the 400-meter dash at 53.60, leading Mattix (third, 54.77) and Jasmin Allen (fourth, 55.08) to career-bests. Ray, meanwhile, won her second-straight 100-meter dash title at 11.64.
Jeanette Paul also won a title on the track for the Rebel women, taking the crown in the 100-meter hurdles at a season-best 13.97 seconds.
Ole Miss has two more weekends of action remaining before the SEC Outdoor Championships at Tennessee on May 11-13. Next weekend (April 20-21), the Rebels will split squad, with the distance runners heading to California for the Mt. SAC Relays and the Bryan Clay Invite, with the remaining Rebels heading to Auburn for the War Eagle Invite. The following week, Ole Miss will head down to the bayou for the LSU Invite on April 28.
“We’re past the halfway point, and I feel pretty good about it,” Price-Smith said. “I feel like we are in better shape than we were indoors, and I think that everybody is ready. There are a few little things that we need to do, but everybody is most definitely on the right track”
OTHER NOTABLE PERFORMANCES
Women’s 100-Meter Dash:
2. Nicole Henderson – 11.77
4. Porsha Shirley – 12.10
Men’s 100-Meter Dash:
4. Andrew Raspo – 10.72
6. Courtland Barnes – 10.81 – PR
Women’s 400-Meter Dash:
5. Orianna Shaw – 55.44
6. Aisha Newsome – 55.44
Men’s 400-Meter Dash:
7. Alvin Westrbrook – 49.29
Women’s 400-Meter Hurdles:
6. Jeanette Paul – 1:04.47 – SB
Men’s 4x100-Meter Relay:
4. Foster, Raspo, Westbrook, Barnes – 41.70 – SB
Women’s High Jump:
2. Jasmine Cherry – 1.61m (5-03.25)
Women’s Triple Jump:
2. Lanae Newsome – 12.51m (41-00.50) – quarter-inch PR, 7th all-time, 25th East
Women’s Shot Put:
6. Shey Taiwo – 13.69m (44-11.00)
7. Leah Klein – 13.32m (43-08.50) – PR, 10th all-time
7. Leah Klein – 41.73m (136-11)
4. Cullen Prena – 53.27m (174-09)
For more information on Ole Miss Track & Field and Cross Country, follow the Rebels on Twitter (@OleMissTrack), Facebook and Instagram.