Ole Miss Track & Field Season Preview: Part II
Jan. 12, 2017
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Although the Ole Miss throws group is small in numbers, there is nothing else small about the Ole Miss throws group.
Headlining the group is none other than NCAA shot put champion and record holder Raven Saunders (Charleston, S.C.). Now entering her junior year, the Southern Illinois transfer was spectacular in her first season in an Ole Miss uniform. She broke both the indoor collegiate shot put record (19.23m/63-1.25) and outdoor collegiate shot put record (19.33m/63-5), won the NCAA outdoor shot put title, indoor and outdoor SEC shot put crowns, and was one of three female finalists for the Bowerman Award. Shortly after her 20th birthday, she qualified for Team USA at the Olympic Trials and surged all the way to a fifth-place showing in the shot put at the 2016 Rio Olympics (personal-best 19.35m/63-6). She is the Rebels' first Olympian returning for a collegiate season since men's sprinter Isiah Young was a London Olympian in 2012 and a senior at Ole Miss in 2013.
Not only was Saunders so historic in the shot put, but she also competed well in the discus and hammer throw. Her second-place effort in the discus and sixth-place showing in the hammer at the SEC Outdoor Championships helped her claim the SEC Commissioner's Trophy as the meet's highest scoring female.
"Raven's going to be Raven in the shot," Smith said. "I've seen some good increase in training in some of the other events, and hopefully she can be an All-American in something other than just the shot. She's got the power to do it, she just has to put her mind to it."
Saunders broke indoor school records for the shot put (19.23m/63-1.25) and weight throw (20.78m/68-2.25) and outdoor records for the shot put (19.35m/63-6) and discus (56.85m/186-6) in 2016.
She will not do it alone this year, though, as the Rebels have added 2016 NJCAA National Women's Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year, Janeah Stewart (Calumet City, Ill.). A four-time junior college national champion and nine-time All-American, she will immediately compete among the nation's best with incoming PRs of 16.31m/53-6.25 in the shot, 50.79m/166-8 in the discus, 58.95m/193-5 in the hammer and 19.77m/64-10.5 in the weight.
The men made big strides in 2016, led by Dempsey McGuigan (London, U.K.) who earned first team All-America honors with an eighth-place finish in the hammer throw at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. He enters his senior year with the school record in the event (69.90m/229-4), while he also inched closer to the school record in the indoor weight throw (20.46m/67-1.5) a year ago.
Fellow senior Kevin Conway (Westerly, R.I.) also made big improvements in the hammer (62.63m/205-5) and weight (20.43m/67-0.5), moving into third in school history in both events last year. He will also contribute in the discus and shot put.
Ole Miss has added junior college transfer Brian Williams (Warren, Mich.), who broke the JUCO national discus record a year ago with a mark of 63.23m/207-5. He claimed a gold medal in the discus at the NACAC U-23 Championships over the summer and competed at the U.S. Olympic Trials. He will immediately contribute this indoor season after being a JUCO All-American in the weight throw and shot put last year with PRs of 18.90m/62-0.25 and 18.22m/59-9.5, respectively.
"I think bringing in Janeah and Brian will add to what John's already had and started to build," Price-Smith said. "I look for them to perform well at SECs and also at nationals."
"It's building," Smith added. "We're going to do a lot more damage this year than we did last year, for sure."
Senior Peyton Moss (Germantown, Tenn.) will have one final go-round as the men's multi-event specialist. He holds the school record for the indoor heptathlon (4,961), while ranking fifth in school history in the outdoor decathlon (6,543). His best events are pole vault (4.80m/15-9) and high jump (1.94m/6-4.25).
On the women's side, freshman Haley Hood (Benton, Ark.) was recruited as a multi-eventer and will look to grow into that role during her Ole Miss tenure. She was an Arkansas state champion in the 300-meter hurdles, as well as competing in the 400 meters, 100-meter hurdles, high jump and long jump in high school.
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