OXFORD, Miss. - Ole Miss boasts some of the nation's top track & field athletes as it heads to the world-class Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships this weekend in Fayetteville, Ark.
The Ole Miss men are ranked No. 19 in the nation by the USTFCCCA this week.
The Rebels will be competing at the Randal Tyson Track Center alongside four other nationally ranked men's teams (No. 1 Arkansas, No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Texas A&M and No. 16 LSU) and five nationally ranked women's squads (No. 1 LSU, No. 3 Arkansas, No. 6 Florida, No. 7 Georgia, No. 9 Texas A&M and No. 14 South Carolina).
Arkansas is the defending men's SEC indoor champion, while Florida is the three-time defending men's NCAA indoor champion. The Gators are the defending SEC indoor champions on the women's side.
"I believe the SEC meet is the second-best meet in the world outside of the world championships," said Brian O'Neal, who is in his first season as Ole Miss head coach after a four-year stint as an assistant at Florida. "You have some of the best athletes from different countries in one building competing for the ultimate prize, which for us is the SEC Championship. Every time we put on the Ole Miss jersey we want to compete with pride and passion. That's what the Rebel Nation expects from us. And our ultimate goal at the end of the day is to make sure the Rebel Nation is happy with our performance."
Ricky Robertson, the reigning SEC Indoor Field Athlete of the Year, will once again be counted on to lead the Rebel charge at the conference meet. He will be attempting to become the second athlete in SEC history to claim four straight SEC indoor high jump crowns.
"It's hard enough to win one of them in this league, but to string along three of them as he has now, he's already had a great career," O'Neal said. "Obviously, he wants to cap that off and leave no stone unturned and win all four of them."
The Hernando, Miss., native is in the midst of a stellar senior indoor campaign and is the only athlete currently ranked top 25 nationally in the high jump (3rd, 7-6), triple jump (6th, 52-8.25) and long jump (22nd, 24-7.25). He currently ranks 17th in the world in the high jump.
"It would mean a lot," said Robertson of winning a fourth straight high jump title. "I could add that to my accomplishments. I'm just looking for another successful indoor season. I've had a couple of good jumps this year. I just want to come out and PR and hopefully get my team a win."
Sophomore Sam Kendricks is the only Rebel to ever clear 18 feet in the indoor pole vault and ranks fifth nationally this year (18-1.75). He is a perfect 4-for-4 in vault competitions this year and is the top-ranked SEC vaulter.
Senior Morris Kersh is 14th nationally in the triple jump with a personal-best mark of 51-8.5 that ranks him fifth in school history.
The Rebel men placed sixth at last year's SEC Indoor Championships behind Robertson, who tied for the most points at the meet and earned the Cliff Harper Trophy after placing first in the high jump, fourth in the triple jump and fourth in the long jump. Other returning scorers from last year's meet who will compete this weekend include Kendricks (pole vault), Robert Semien (60-meter hurdles), Dante Oliver (400 meters, 4x400 relay), Montez Griffin (4x400 relay), Loren Newsom (distance medley relay), Creighton Serrette (distance medley relay) and Riley Young (distance medley relay).
The Ole Miss women will also look to post a strong showing at this weekend's meet.
Freshman Asia Cooper has been torching the short track in her rookie campaign and headlines several Rebels ranked among the SEC's best. The Jackson, Miss., native is ninth in the NCAA and fourth in the SEC with a 60-meter time of 7.31 (converted from 7.29 for altitude). She's the top freshman in the nation and already ranks third-best in school history.
Junior Allegra Wells is 14th in the NCAA and fifth in the SEC in the long jump. A four-year standout for the Ole Miss volleyball team, she claimed fourth place in the long jump at last year's SEC indoor meet.
Senior Jazmin Miller ranks 27th in the NCAA and third in the SEC this year with a personal-best weight throw of 64-8.75 that ranks her second-best in school history.
Sophomore Taryn Hartfield boasts a time of 8.43 (converted from 8.41 for altitude) in the 60-meter hurdles that ranks her 45th nationally and ninth in the league.
The meet begins at 1 p.m. CT Friday and continues at 10 a.m. CT Saturday and Sunday. Live results will be available here, and complete meet information may be found here.
The SEC Indoor Championships will air as part of a 90-minute show on ESPNU on Wednesday, March 13 beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET. ESPN3 will stream the meet live during the following times: Saturday, February 23 from 2:25-7:15 p.m. CT and Sunday, February 24 from 12:30-5 p.m. CT. The University of Arkansas will stream live the portions of the meet not on ESPN3 on its own website www.ArkansasRazorbacks.com. The ESPN commentary team includes Dwight Stones (play-by-play), Larry Rawson (color analysis) and Lewis Johnson (sideline reporter).
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