OXFORD, Miss. -- Ole Miss athletes will rub spikes with some of the top collegians and top professionals in the world this week during the 106th Drake Relays, presented by Hy-Vee.
The elite track & field competition takes place at historic Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa, from Wednesday-Saturday.
Ole Miss' rich tradition at the meet includes 24 Drake Relays champions dating back to 1983. The Rebels have had at least one Drake Relays champion in each of the past nine years, including a school-record six champions in 2010. Current team member Mary Alex England is the defending winner of the women's 10,000 meters.
The Rebels will compete against a large contingent of top college men's teams, such as nationally ranked No. 7 Arkansas, No. 10 Texas Tech, No. 11 Georgia, No. 12 Baylor, No. 17 Oklahoma State, No. 19 Nebraska and No. 22 Arizona State.
Nationally ranked women's teams include No. 5 Arkansas, No. 7 Georgia, No. 9 Baylor, No. 11 Oklahoma State, No. 18 Texas Tech, No. 21 Missouri and No. 24 Notre Dame.
Several events will feature world-class professionals in the Beijing World Championship Preview. Two former Rebels are among that group. Sam Kendricks ranks No. 2 in the world in the pole vault this year and will compete Wednesday evening in the brand new Street Vault on Court Avenue in downtown Des Moines. Ricky Robertson, the 13th-ranked high jumper in the world this year, will compete Friday evening.
"It's definitely one of the most prestigious meets in the country," Ole Miss head coach Brian O'Neal said. "We get excited about going there. It's a unique set of circumstances each season we go there. This year the weather is forecast to be a little windy and a little colder than what we're used to at this time in April, but mentally for us the challenge is to go in there and compete. We can't control the outside variables, but we can control our attitude and effort."
The meet will be broadcast live on USATF.tv on Friday (7-8:30 p.m. CT) and Saturday (12:30-2 p.m. CT). Live coverage on NBC Sports Network begins at 2 p.m. CT on Saturday.
Ole Miss is coming off a fantastic weekend at the Virginia Challenge in which the Rebels broke five school records and two meet records, while setting numerous marks that rank among the nation's elite this season.
"We're having different people step up for us each weekend, which has been exciting," O'Neal said. "Now it's about blending all of those young men and women together and coming out and putting our best foot forward."
Sophomore Craig Engels is the SEC leader in the 1,500 meters after he broke the school record with a time of 3:40.28 last weekend. He ranks fifth in the NCAA and is just outside the top 15 in the world this season.
The Ole Miss women rank among the world's best in three different events so far this year. The 4x100-meter relay squad of Nicole Henderson, Shannon Ray, Khadijah Suleman and Jhorden Hunter rank 18th in the world with their school-record time of 44.11 from Virginia. Senior Fabia McDonald is 19th in the world with her school-record heptathlon score of 5,736 points from last weekend, as well. Ray, only a freshman, is tied for 37th on the world list with a time of 11.41 in the 100 meters.
Below is a list of the highest ranked Ole Miss athletes so far this outdoor season.
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