Olympic Hopes Await Thirteen Rebels in Track Town USA
June 30, 2016

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OXFORD, Miss. – A large contingent of the Ole Miss track & field family will descend upon Eugene, Oregon, over the next week and a half for the U.S. Olympic Trials, in hopes of earning spots on Team USA for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Ole Miss will be represented by at least four current athletes, one future athlete, four former athletes and four current volunteer assistant coaches in Eugene, regarded as Track Town USA for its great enthusiasm for the sport. Portions of the meet will air live on NBC, NBCSN and the NBC Sports app (see schedule below).

One Rebel already knows for sure that she will be in Rio this August. Ole Miss head coach Connie Price-Smith is also head coach for the U.S. women. A four-time Olympian herself (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000) when she was one of the world’s best shot put and discus throwers, she hopes to see some familiar faces make the trip with her to South America later this summer.

“It’s special knowing that this will be the team that I’m going to lead over to Rio, and we have a few (Ole Miss) athletes that have the potential to make that team,” Price-Smith said. “So it’s going to be really exciting to see how everything plays out in Eugene. There are a lot of good competitions going on right now in the country and a lot of good, young athletes coming up.

“As a coach it’s a little hard to watch because you know everything is on the line and you have people that get a victory and people that are defeated. It’s a happy and sad time. Everybody there is a great athlete, obviously, and to see somebody who should make it and doesn’t is heartbreaking, but to see some of the young kids or the underdogs come up and make it is exhilarating, so you have a lot of emotions that go on.”


 

 

One of Price-Smith’s current prized pupils is Raven Saunders, who is coming off a tremendous sophomore season in which she broke collegiate records in the indoor and outdoor shot put and won the NCAA outdoor title. One of three women’s finalists for the prestigious Bowerman Award, college track & field’s highest individual honor, Saunders has used her goal of making it to Rio as a motivator all season.

“Rio has always been the main goal for me,” said the Charleston, South Carolina, native. “Everything else has been a tune-up, a way to work up to that meet. When I was dreaming about it, I had to dream in chronological order. So I’d have to dream, ‘this is what I’m going to do at conference, this is what I’m going to do at regionals, nationals, Olympic Trials, and then Rio.’ It keeps me grounded and thinking about the now while still being able to imagine what I’m going to do in the future.”

One of at least three current Ole Miss men who will line up in Eugene is senior Holland Sherrer, who placed 10th in the 800 meters at the recent NCAA Outdoor Championships in Eugene to earn second team All-America honors.

“It is an honor and a blessing to have made it to the U.S. Olympic Trials,” said the New Jersey native. “I am looking forward to competing against some of the world’s best athletes and representing Ole Miss the best way I know how.”

In order to make the Team USA roster, athletes have to place top three in their event at the trials and meet the Olympic qualifying standard at either the trials or during the qualifying period (which dates back to 2015).

Other current Rebels set to compete at the trials include junior Craig Engels (men’s 800m) and sophomore MJ Erb (men’s steeplechase). Engels will also hope to run the 1500 if a few runners ranked ahead of him opt out of that distance. Same goes for senior Ryan Walling in the 5000.

Rebel signee Brian Williams will compete for Iowa Central Community College in the discus.

Leading the way among the former Rebel greats is Brittney Reese (long jump), who looks to make the U.S. squad so she can defend her 2012 Olympic gold medal. Oxford native Sam Kendricks (pole vault) is currently No. 2 in the world and will try to make his first Olympic team. Isiah Young (100m, 200m) looks to return to the Olympics after he was a semifinalist in the 200 in London. Ricky Robertson (high jump) hopes to make his first Olympic team.

Current volunteer assistants who will compete in Eugene are Gwen Berry (women’s hammer), Isaac Presson (men’s 1500m), Jessica Ramsey (women’s hammer, shot put) and Jeneva Stevens (women’s hammer, shot put).

Below are brief bios on each Rebel and the schedule broken down by Ole Miss participants.

Current Athletes:

Craig Engels

  • Three-time All-American at Ole Miss
  • 7th place in the 1500m at 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championships
  • 2016 SEC Champion in the 1500m
  • 3rd place in the distance medley relay at 2016 NCAA Indoor Championships
  • 800m PR: 1:46.13, 1500m PR: 3:38.82 (school record)

MJ Erb

  • 2016 First Team Outdoor All-American
  • 8th place in the steeplechase at 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championships
  • 3rd place in the steeplechase and 5000m at 2016 SEC Outdoor Championships
  • Steeplechase PR: 8:34.13

Raven Saunders

  • Broke the all-time collegiate records for indoor and outdoor shot put in 2016
  • 2016 NCAA Champion in the outdoor shot put
  • 2016 Bowerman Award finalist
  • 2016 SEC Champion in the indoor and outdoor shot put
  • SEC Commissioner’s Trophy at SEC Outdoors (1st shot put, 2nd discus, 6th hammer)
  • Ranks No. 5 in the world and No. 7 in U.S. history in the shot put
  • Shot put PR: 19.33m/63-5

Holland Sherrer

  • 2016 Second Team Outdoor All-American
  • 10th place in the 800m at 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championships
  • Advanced to 2015 NCAA Outdoor Championships in the 800m
  • 800m PR: 1:47.13

Future Athlete:

Brian Williams

  • 2016 NJCAA Champion in the discus while at Iowa Central Community College
  • Broke the all-time junior college discus record in 2016
  • 4th place in the shot put, 9th in the hammer throw at 2016 NJCAA Outdoor Championships
  • Runner-up in the weight throw, 4th in the shot put at 2016 NJCAA Indoor Championships
  • Discus PR: 63.23m/207-5

Former Athletes:

Sam Kendricks

  • 4-time U.S. Champion in the pole vault
  • Currently ranks No. 2 in the world in the pole vault in 2016
  • Silver medalist in the pole vault at the 2016 World Indoor Championships
  • 2-time NCAA Champion in the pole vault at Ole Miss
  • Pole Vault PR: 5.92m/19-5

Brittney Reese

  • 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist in the long jump
  • 2008 Olympian
  • 6-time World Champion in the long jump
  • 8-time U.S. Champion in the long jump
  • American record holder for the indoor long jump
  • 2-time NCAA Champion and 5-time SEC Champion at Ole Miss
  • Long Jump PR: 7.25m/23-9.5

Ricky Robertson

  • Silver medalist in the high jump at the 2015 U.S. Indoor Championships
  • 12th place in the high jump at the 2016 World Indoor Championships
  • 3-time NCAA runner-up, 7-time All-American and 7-time SEC Champion at Ole Miss
  • High Jump PR: 2.32m/7-7.25

Isiah Young

  • 2012 Olympian in the 200m
  • Has competed at three World Championships for Team USA
  • 3-time silver medalist in the 200m at the U.S. Championships
  • 5-time All-American and 2-time SEC Champion at Ole Miss
  • 100m PR: 9.99, 200m PR: 19.86

Current Volunteer Assistants:

Gwen Berry

  • Currently ranks No. 2 in the world in the hammer throw
  • 3-time U.S. Champion in the indoor weight throw
  • 3-time All-American at Southern Illinois
  • Hammer Throw PR: 76.31m/250-4.25

Isaac Presson

  • 2-time All-American and 2-time ACC champion at North Carolina
  • Silver medalist in the 1500m at the 2011 Pan American Junior Championships
  • 1500m PR: 3:37.06

Jessica Ramsey

  • Placed 6th in both the shot put and hammer at the 2015 U.S. Championships
  • 2-time All-American and 7-time conference champion at Western Kentucky
  • Shot Put PR: 18.42m/60-5.25, Hammer Throw PR: 69.47m/227-11

Jeneva Stevens

  • 4-time World Championships participant for Team USA
  • Hammer Throw Gold Medalist at the 2013 World University Games
  • 13-time All-American, 3-time NCAA Champion and 15-time MVC Champion at Southern Illinois
  • Shot Put PR: 19.11m/62-8.5, Hammer Throw PR: 74.77m/245-3

 

Rebels’ Schedule at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials:

 

Friday, July 1

4:15 pm PT – M 800m 1st Round – Craig Engels, Holland Sherrer

5:10 pm PT – W Long Jump Qualifying – Brittney Reese

 

Saturday, July 2

10:30 am PT – M Pole Vault Qualifying – Sam Kendricks

11:45 am PT – W Long Jump Final – Brittney Reese (if qualified) (NBC | Web Stream)

12:00 pm PT – M 800m Semifinals – Craig Engels, Holland Sherrer (if qualified)

1:01 pm PT – M 100m 1st Round – Isiah Young

 

Sunday, July 3

4:19 pm PT – M 100m Semifinals – Isiah Young (if qualified)

5:53 pm PT – M 100m Final – Isiah Young (if qualified) (NBC | Web Stream)

 

Monday, July 4

3:30 pm PT – M Pole Vault Final – Sam Kendricks (if qualified) (NBCSN | Web Stream)

4:33 pm PT – M Steeplechase 1st Round – MJ Erb

5:51 pm PT – M 800m Final – Craig Engels, Holland Sherrer (if qualified) (NBCSN | Web Stream)

 

Tuesday, July 5

OFF

 

Wednesday, July 6

1:00 pm PT – W Hammer Throw Qualifying – Gwen Berry, Jeneva Stevens, Jessica Ramsey

3:00 pm PT – W Hammer Throw Final – Gwen Berry, Jeneva Stevens, Jessica Ramsey (if qualified)

 

Thursday, July 7

11:00 am PT – W Shot Put Qualifying – Raven Saunders, Jeneva Stevens, Jessica Ramsey

5:30 pm PT – M 200m 1st Round – Isiah Young

6:00 pm PT – M Discus Qualifying – Brian Williams

6:15 pm PT – W Shot Put Final – Raven Saunders, Jeneva Stevens, Jessica Ramsey (if qualified) (NBCSN | Web Stream)

7:21 pm PT – M 1500m 1st Round – Isaac Presson

Friday, July 8

3:30 pm PT – M Discus Final – Brian Williams (if qualified) (NBCSN | Web Stream)

4:00 pm PT – M High Jump Qualifying – Ricky Robertson

4:12 pm PT – M 1500m Semifinals – Isaac Presson (if qualified) (NBCSN)

5:23 pm PT – M Steeplechase Final – MJ Erb (if qualified) (NBC | Web Stream)

5:37 pm PT – M 200m Semifinals – Isiah Young (if qualified)

 

Saturday, July 9

5:42 pm PT – M 200m Final – Isiah Young (if qualified) (NBC | Web Stream)

 

Sunday, July 10

3:00 pm PT – M High Jump Final – Ricky Robertson (if qualified)

5:20 pm PT – M 1500m Final – Isaac Presson (if qualified) (NBC | Web Stream)

 

For more information on Ole Miss Track & Field, follow the Rebels on Twitter at @OleMissTrack, as well as Facebook and Instagram.

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