OXFORD, Miss. - Led by some of the top athletes in the country, the Ole Miss track and field teams have put together an outstanding season as they enter the stretch run, beginning with next weekend's Southeastern Conference Championships in Athens, Ga.
After the SEC Championships, athletes will be selected for the NCAA East Regional, 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. The top 24 decathlon, heptathlon and 10,000 meter qualifiers from across the nation will be sent directly to the NCAA Championships.
The NCAA East Preliminary Round will take place May 26-28 in Bloomington, Ind. The NCAA Championships will be held June 8-11 in Des Moines, Iowa.
If the season ended this week, Ole Miss would send male individuals from 15 different events, as well as two relays, to the East Regional. The Rebels would contribute female individuals from 14 events, as well as two relays. In addition, sophomore Brittany Bozeman would qualify for the women's heptathlon competition at the NCAA Championships.
Ranked No. 16 in this week's USTFCCCA poll, the Ole Miss men have several athletes ranked among the nation's top 24 in their events and are coming off a strong showing at the prestigious Drake Relays.
Sophomore Ricky Robertson was named SEC Field Athlete of the Week after his school-record high jump at Drake. The three-time defending SEC high jump champion cleared 7-05.75 to tie his own school record and move into the second-ranked spot in the nation this year among college athletes. He now ranks fourth in the high jump this year among American athletes, college or pro, and 10th among all high jumpers in the world. He has the highest jump by an SEC athlete this year - by two inches.
Senior Lee Ellis Moore earned a victory in the 400 meter hurdles last weekend, marking his second straight 400 meter hurdle title at the long-running meet. He became the fifth athlete in school history with multiple Drake Relays titles. He has a season-best time of 49.82 that ranks him fifth in the nation and first among East Division and SEC runners.
Junior Carson Blanks ranks eighth nationally in the 400 meter hurdles (50.50) and second in the East region behind his teammate.
The Rebel sprint duo of sophomore Mike Granger and senior Jonathan Juin have been among the nation's best all year long. Granger ranks 16th in the 100 meters (10.22), while Juin is 11th in the 200 (20.67) and 24th in the 100 (10.29).
Junior Caleb Lee is 15th nationally in the long jump (25-06.00), while sophomore Morris Kersh ranks 19th in the triple jump (51-07.75).
Both the men's 4x400 meter relay and the 4x100 meter relay squads are ranked in the top 24 nationally. The 4x400 team of Dante Oliver, Blanks, Christopher Bush and Moore rank 10th among all schools with a season-best time of 3:06.77. The 4x100 team of Granger, Ras-Len Bully, Lee and Juin are 18th with a season-best time of 39.88.
Other Rebel men that would make the NCAA East Regional as of this week include Granger in the 200 meters, Oliver in the 400 meters, Bully in the 400 meter hurdles, Martin Kirui in the 3,000 meter steeplechase, Robertson in the long jump, Kentrell Sanders in the triple jump and Benjamin Lapane in the javelin.
The Rebel women are up a few spots to No. 38 in this week's USTFCCCA rankings. They also have several athletes ranked among the nation's top 24 in their events following a good showing at the Drake Relays.
Senior Sofie Persson led the way in Des Moines with a season-best 57.56 in the 400 meter hurdles, which ranks her 14th in the nation this year and sixth among athletes in the East Region. She also anchored the 4x400 meter relay team of Lauren Hollingsworth, Sofia Hellberg-Jonsen and Kristin Bridges that ran a 3:33.22 to rank eighth among all NCAA Division I schools this year, second among East region squads, and second-best in school history.
Sophomore Neal Tisher ranks 12th nationally in the pole vault with a school-record leap of 13-09.25 earlier this year.
A pair of senior throwers rank highly in their events. Juliana Smith is 12th nationally in the hammer throw (school-record 202-11), while Betty Williams is 14th in the discus (school-record 176-11) and 28th in the shot put (52-05.50).
Bridges, a junior, is 19th nationally in the 400 meters (53.22).
Sophomore Brittany Bozeman is 22nd nationally in the heptathlon (5,290 points), which would automatically qualify her for the NCAA Champioships if she remains in the top 24.
Other Rebel women that would make the NCAA East Regional as of this week include Jasmine Williams in the 100 and 200 meters, Hollingsworth in the 400 meters, Hellberg-Jonsen in the 400 meter hurdles, Bozeman in the long jump and javelin, Marci Morman in the long jump, Aria Gaines in the triple jump and the 4x100 meter relay team of Bridges, Gaines, Jasmine Williams and LaJada Baldwin.
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