OXFORD, Miss. - As Brian O'Neal embarks on his first season as the head track & field coach at Ole Miss, he has the benefit of some elite talent on the Rebels' 2012-13 squad.
Foremost among the returning athletes that will lead Ole Miss into the Panther Indoor Icebreaker this Saturday in Birmingham, Ala., are senior studs Ricky Robertson and Isiah Young.
"I'm extremely excited about this season," O'Neal said. "Our fall preparation has gone better than I even expected coming in. The kids have totally bought in to what all of the coaches and myself are trying to teach them on a daily basis. This weekend I'm looking forward to seeing us in a competitive environment and to see who steps up under the lights."
Robertson is the reigning Southeastern Conference Indoor Field Athlete of the Year and one of the top high jumpers in the United States, college or pro. He has broken his own school record in the event on numerous occasions, most recently with an outdoor mark of 7-7.25 at the 2012 Florida Relays that helped him claim USTFCCCA South Region Outdoor Field Athlete of the Year. He has also become proficient in the long jump and triple jump and tied for the most points at the 2012 SEC Indoor Championships, earning him the Cliff Harper Trophy.
All Young did in his first full season as a Rebel was win an SEC outdoor 200-meter title and represent Team USA at the 2012 London Olympics, advancing to the semifinals in the 200. He broke the school outdoor records in the 100 and 200 meters and is poised for a big senior season.
Ole Miss is in its first season under O'Neal, an Ole Miss alum and former assistant coach who led the Florida Gators to four national championships and three runner-up finishes as an assistant in Gainesville over the past four years. He replaces longtime coach Joe Walker.
"I want our team to compete with pride and to represent the Rebel Nation well," O'Neal said. "It's important that we continue the culture and tradition of producing champions both on and off the track at Ole Miss."
The Rebel men, who were ranked as high as No. 8 nationally during the 2012 outdoor season, also return standouts Sam Kendricks (pole vault), Morris Kersh (triple jump) and Kentrell Sanders (triple jump) this season. Kendricks was an Outdoor All-American as a freshman last year.
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