OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss will get the 2014 calendar year of indoor track & field started with a trip to the highly competitive UAB Blazer Invitational, which takes place this Friday and Saturday at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
The Rebels will face stiff competition in their second meet of the season. Teams scheduled to compete on the men’s side include ACC powerhouse Florida State and SEC schools Florida, Mississippi State and Tennessee, among many other institutions. Florida was last year’s NCAA indoor runner-up, while Mississippi State, Florida State and Ole Miss all finished in the top 25 at the NCAA Indoor Championships.
On the women’s side, the Rebels will go up against host school UAB, Florida State and SEC foes Florida, Mississippi State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Florida, Florida State and Mississippi State all finished in the top 25 at last year’s NCAA indoor meet.
There will also be a handful of professional athletes competing in Birmingham, as well as Division II elite track programs Academy of Art and Johnson C. Smith.
“We’re excited to get started with our spring semester of competition,” said second-year Rebel head coach Brian O’Neal. “Our kids have come back from the three-week layoff in good shape and have had a solid week of practice. We’re going to face top-notch competition this weekend. It’s a good opportunity to see how we’re progressing compared to a year ago.”
The meet is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. on Friday with the women’s weight throw. Friday’s events will run through 9 p.m. and include prelims in the short sprints and hurdles, as well as finals in the triple jump, men’s high jump and men’s weight throw, among others.
Saturday’s events begin at 9 a.m. with the women’s long jump, men’s shot put and 5,000 meter run. The meet will go until approximately 4:30 p.m., with big events including the 60-meter and 60-meter hurdle finals, the 200, 400 and 800 meters, the mile, the long jump, shot put, men’s pole vault and 4×400-meter relays to cap it all off.
With one meet under their belts in early December, the Rebels have a number of athletes ranked highly in the national rankings in their events, as follows:
Ole Miss Athlete, Event, Mark (NCAA Rank)
Jalen Miller, 60m, 6.70 (1)
Mike Granger, 60m, 6.72 (3)
Robert Semien, 60mH, 7.91 (3)
Sam Kendricks, pole vault, 17-5 (5)
Jalen Miller, 200m, 21.48 (7)
Onyi Afoaku, weight throw, 62-6.75 (11)
Fabia McDonald, long jump, 20-3.5 (2)
Kierra White, long jump, 19-7.5 (8)
Taryn Hartfield, 60mH, 8.51 (9)
Asia Cooper, 60m, 7.53 (13)
Fabia McDonald, 60mH, 8.58 (16)
Ole Miss did not compete with a full roster at the BSC Panther Indoor Icebreaker back on Dec. 6 (also held at the Birmingham CrossPlex), but O’Neal will roll out most of his squad for this weekend’s meet, including a bevy of new faces that are part of the 46-person class of newcomers in 2014.
Freshman Jalen Miller will look to continue his torrid start after posting the NCAA’s best 60-meter time of the year in his first collegiate meet, as well as a fantastic 200-meter time. Both his 6.70 and 21.48 immediately put him into the top 10 in the school record books for those events.
Senior Mike Granger made his return after missing all of 2013 following ACL surgery with a quality 6.72 in the 60 meters that ranks him third in the NCAA in the young season.
Junior Robert Semien’s 7.91 in the 60-meter hurdles shattered his personal best and is third-best in the NCAA this year.
Junior Sam Kendricks had an easy victory in the opening meet with a 17-5 in the pole vault. The USTFCCCA announced on Wednesday that Kendricks, the reigning NCAA outdoor pole vault champion, is one of 10 student-athletes on the preseason watch list for college track & field’s top individual award, The Bowerman.
Senior Fabia McDonald had a big opening meet with personal bests in the long jump and 60-meter hurdles. She ranks second nationally in the long jump with her mark of 20-3.5. She now ranks top six in school history in both events, as well as being the school record holder in the indoor pentathlon.
Newcomer Kierra White, a junior college transfer, got her Rebel career started in style by jumping 19-7.5, which ranks her top 10 nationally this year and top 10 in school history.
With another quality showing, Ole Miss could find itself in the first national team rankings of the year, which are slated to be announced by the USTFCCCA onMonday, Jan. 13.
— Joey Jones, Ole Miss Sports Information
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