OXFORD, Miss. – This week, the Ole Miss men’s track and field team earned the highest ranking in school history at No. 8 in the USTFCCCA poll.
The top-10 number in front of the Ole Miss name provides a certain validation of the hard work and talent within the Rebel program.
“We are thrilled to have our highest poll ranking ever,” said head coach Joe Walker, in his 30th and final season at Ole Miss. “It is good to see the outside world acknowledge our team, but we have believed all along that we are a top-10 team. Our kids and coaches ‘believe.’”
But the Rebel runners, jumpers and throwers have more to accomplish before they sit back and reflect on their achievements.
“The season is going great,” said senior leader Carson Blanks, who currently ranks second in the SEC and 13th nationally in the 400-meter hurdles. “It’s getting better and better with each meet. Our goals are to finish top three as a team at SECs and higher than eighth at Nationals.”
If the team can build on its record-breaking achievements thus far, then Ole Miss fans can expect the team to reach its lofty goals.
Already this year, school records have been shattered in the men’s 100 meters (Isiah Young), 200 meters (Young), high jump (Ricky Robertson) and pole vault (Sam Kendricks), while the women have broken school records in the 3,000 meters (Logan Waites), 5,000 meters (Waites), 3,000-meter steeplechase (Katie Breathitt), shuttle hurdle relay and distance medley relay.
Many Rebels rank at or near the top of their events in the Southeastern Conference, which is regarded as possibly the best track and field league in the country.
The Rebels are gearing up for the SEC Championships, which will take place May 10-13 in Baton Rouge, La. Last year, the men placed sixth in the league, while the women were ninth.
Following SECs, athletes will be selected for the NCAA East Regional (May 24-26 in Jacksonville, Fla.), which is the first round of the NCAA Championships. The NCAA will select the East region's top 48 athletes in each event (except decathlon, heptathlon and 10,000 meters) to participate at the regional.
The performances at the regional will determine who makes the field for the NCAA Championships (June 6-9 in Des Moines, Iowa). The top 24 decathlon, heptathlon and 10,000 meter qualifiers from across the nation will be sent directly to the NCAA Championships.
As of this week, the Rebel men would qualify 14 athletes in 11 different events for the NCAA East Regional, while the women would qualify 11 athletes in 10 events there – and McDonald would qualify for the NCAA Championships in the heptathlon.
Not only does Ole Miss boast some of the top times and marks in the SEC and NCAA, but Rebel athletes are among the world leaders in a few events.
Foremost is Robertson, who has the world’s top high jump this year of 7-7.25. Young has the seventh- and eighth-best 200-meter times of 20.33 and 20.34, while he also is 16th in the 100. Granger is right behind him at 17th in the 100. Kendricks is 23rd in the pole vault, and Blanks is 45th in the 400-meter hurdles. McDonald ranks 33rd in the heptathlon.
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