0XFORD, Miss. - Boasting a crop of veteran athletes that rank at or near the top returning people in their event areas, Ole Miss Track & Field kicks off a promising outdoor campaign Saturday at home with the Ole Miss Open.
The meet will get underway at the Ole Miss Track & Field Complex at 9 a.m. (field events) and runs through approximately 6:40 p.m.
The Rebel men are coming off a 24th-place national finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships, led by junior Sam Kendricks in the pole vault and freshman Jalen Miller in the 60 meter dash. It was the men's third straight top-25 national finish under second-year head coach Brian O'Neal (indoor and outdoor combined).
Defending NCAA outdoor champ Kendricks will help lead the Rebels during outdoors, as well, as he is the top-ranked returning pole vaulter in the country (19-0.75).
Ole Miss adds to the mix senior Ricky Robertson and junior Phillip Young, who both sat out last year but are the top returning athletes in the high jump (7-7.25) and triple jump (53-5.75), respectively. Robertson also ranks third among national returners in the triple jump (53-2.25).
Ole Miss finished eighth at last year's NCAA Outdoor Championships, the best national finish in school history.
"Our goals are to compete with pride and passion for the Red and Blue," O'Neal said. "We're always looking to improve on both the men's and women's sides, so we want to do even better than we did last year."
As always, other athletes will inevitably "come out of nowhere" and show that they belong among the elite, as well. Possibilities for the Rebel men include football players Kailo Moore and Quintavius Burdette, who will join the team after spring practice.
"I want to thank Coach (Hugh) Freeze for being a team player," O'Neal said. "He genuinely wants to do what is best for these student-athletes, and his willingness to let some of his guys run track I believe is what's best for Ole Miss Athletics as a whole."
On the women's side, the Rebels are still dealing with the effects of some indoor season injuries, but senior Mary Ashton Nall returns after earning All-America honors in the heptathlon a year ago. Other returning All-Americans include senior Fabia McDonald (heptathlon) and sophomore Asia Cooper (indoor 60 meters).
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