OXFORD, Miss. – Every year, Ole Miss is among the 14 teams that gather for the Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships, and every year it’s the same challenge.
Compete against many of the best college athletes in the United States and try to finish top eight in your events to score team points.
The task is formidable, but the 25th-ranked Ole Miss women and 28th-ranked men have trained for this moment and will put their best foot forward in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, this Thursday-Saturday at the Sam Bailey Track & Field Stadium.
The meet will be aired live on SEC Network+ on Friday (6:30-10:05 p.m. CT) and Saturday (3-6:50 p.m. CT). A two-hour highlight show will debut Sunday on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. CT. On-air talent includes play-by-play announcer Dwight Stones, analysts Larry Rawson and Jill Montgomery and field reporter John Anderson.
First-year head coach Connie Price-Smith will lead the Rebels into her first SEC outdoor meet after she helped direct the men to their best finish since 1984 with a third-place result at the SEC indoor meet in February.
The men are looking to make another strong statement this week with some of the highest rated athletes in the conference, including 1500-meter leader Craig Engels.
The 25th-ranked women are looking for a big jump in the team standings from recent years. SEC indoor shot put champion and outdoor leader Raven Saunders, who also ranks third in the league in the discus, leads the way. Several others are close behind her ranked highly among their SEC counterparts in their events.
The SEC boasts eight men’s teams and 10 women’s teams among the top 25 in the nation. Ranked men’s teams include No. 1 Texas A&M, No. 2 Florida, No. 3 LSU, No. 4 Arkansas, No. 6 Georgia, No. 9 Alabama, No. 13 Mississippi State and No. 22 South Carolina. Ranked women’s teams are No. 1 Kentucky, No. 2 Arkansas, No. 6 Florida, No. 7 LSU, No. 10 Texas A&M, No. 11 Georgia, No. 13 Tennessee, No. 16 Mississippi State, No. 24 Auburn and No. 25 Ole Miss.
“We are looking forward to the SEC meet this weekend. The athletes have been working really hard this spring, so now it's time to show what they can do. We have a small contingency on the men's side, but a lot of quality. On the women's side we have a larger group with just as much quality. I look for it to be a really exciting championship for the Rebels.”
The Ole Miss women are 25th in this week’s USTFCCCA national rankings, while the men are at No. 28.
Ole Miss looks to carry the momentum from SEC Indoors, where the Rebel men placed third for their best SEC finish since 1984, while scoring the most points in program history at an SEC indoor meet (80.5).
The Rebels finished 7th in the men’s team standings and 12th in the women’s team standings at last year’s SEC Outdoor Championships.
Sophomore Raven Saunders, the 2016 SEC indoor shot put champion, has posted outdoor personal bests in the shot put, discus and hammer throw this year - setting school records in the shot (18.75m/61-6.25) and discus (56.85m/186-6) and ranking No. 2 in school history in the hammer (56.91m/186-8).
Her shot put PR at the Alabama Relays moved her up to No. 7 on the all-time women’s collegiate outdoor list.
Saunders now has the best indoor and outdoor shot put marks ever by an SEC woman.
Saunders is currently No. 5 on this year’s world outdoor shot put rankings after finishing the indoor season at No. 5 in the world.
Saunders has the top six shot put marks in the NCAA this outdoor season ... Combining the 2016 indoor and outdoor seasons, she owns the NCAA’s best 17 puts of the year.
Ole Miss boasts four of the top 20 men’s 1500m runners in the nation ... Sophomore Craig Engels is No. 3 (school-record 3:38.82), junior Robert Domanic is No. 12 (PR 3:40.95), junior Trevor Gilley is 14th (PR 3:41.77), and junior Sean Tobin is 20th (3:42.14) ... They hold the top four spots in school history.
Engels also ranks 17th in the NCAA in the 800m with a time of 1:47.06 at the Payton Jordan Invitational.
For the sixth time in his two-year career, sophomore Dempsey McGuigan’s broke the Ole Miss hammer throw record, this time with a huge PR of 69.90m/229-4 at the Memphis Invitational that ranks him ninth in the NCAA.
Sophomore Lindsey Murray, the only female vaulter in Ole Miss history to clear 14 feet, broke the school record with a clearance of 4.34m/14-2.75 at the Memphis Invitational, which ranks her 11th in the nation this year.
Sophomore Emily Bean has enjoyed the Stanford track this year, shattering both the 5,000m and 10,000m school records there with her times of 16:30.33 and 33:39.36, respectively ... She ranks 17th nationally in the 10K.
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