A total of 13 Ole Miss track and field athletes will compete beginning June 11 at Drake University Stadium, home of the annual prestigious Drake Relays..
To automatically qualify for the event, an individual must finish in the top five of their event at the recent regional meet, while the top three relay squads advance. Following the placement of declared automatic qualifiers, all other eligible athletes are placed into a pool from which additional competitors are selected as at-large bids.
The Lady Rebels, ranked 18th, feature nine athletes who are to compete in the championships that are broken down into seven sprinters and two jumpers. Reese, who automatically qualified in both the long jump and high jump with individual titles, will compete in only the long jump due to scheduling conflicts. Reese is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation in the long jump and owns the world's longest jump of the year with her mark of 22-09.00 she set at the LSU Alumni Gold.
Let that sink in a moment – the longest jump in the world this year.
"That's at any level, college, amateur, pro, all of them," said Walker, the veteran head coach of Ole Miss track. "She's the first female national champion we've had, and the most decorated female track and field athlete we've had."
If it all starts with Reese, there are certainly a number of other Lady Rebels who will compete for a national title.
Senior jumper Carmia Carroll is slated for the high jump following her second place finish in the event at the MidEast Regional. Carroll posted a new personal best height as she turned in the second best mark in school history at 5-11.25.
Sprinter Kenyata Coleman qualified for the NCAA Championships in the 400 meters following her fourth place finish with a time of 52.32. Coleman is ranked eighth in the nation in the event as she holds the school record time of 52.09 she posted at the SEC Outdoor Championships. Freshman LaJada Baldwin will also compete in the 400 meters as she turned in a fifth place finish last weekend with the second fastest time in school history with a mark of 52.51. Baldwin is currently ranked 12th in the nation in the 400 meters.
Senior Kasey McDaniel is scheduled to take part in the 100 meter hurdles as she earned an at-large bid in the event. McDaniel, who owns the school record in the 100 meter hurdles, is ranked 19th in the nation in the event following her time of 13.38 at the MidEast Regional.
Both Lady Rebel relay teams also earned automatic bids to the championships as the 4x100 and 4x400 meter relay teams each posted third place finishes at the regional. Ranked 10th in the nation, the 4x100 team is compiled of Kadeshia Fortune, Baldwin, Coleman and Reese. The quartet of Sirdonea Davis, Coleman, Britney Barnard, and Baldwin will compete for the ninth-ranked Lady Rebels in the 4x400 meter relay. Freshman Sofie Persson will also attend the championships and serve as an alternate for the 4x400 meter relay.
Currently ranked 48th in the nation, the men's team features four athletes that qualified for the NCAA Championships. Junior distance runner Barnabas Kirui posted a second place finish in the 3000 meter steeplechase at the MidEast Regional to earn his ticket to Des Moines. Kirui is currently ranked sixth in the nation in the event following his top time of 8:41.12 at the SEC Outdoor Championships.
Senior John Yarbrough finished in fifth place in the 110 meter hurdles over the weekend at the regional to automatically qualify for the championships. He currently ranks 11th in the nation in the event with his top time of 13.62 recorded earlier in the season at the Florida Relays. Freshman Lee Ellis Moore joins Yarbrough as the second Rebel hurdler to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Moore finished in sixth place at regionals in the 400 meter hurdles with the second fastest time in school history at 50.64 to enter the championships ranked 21st in the nation.
In field events, sophomore Justin Gunn will compete in the long jump after earning an at-large bid in the event. Gunn, ranked 15th in the country in the long jump, owns a personal best distance of 25-07.50 he set at the SEC Outdoor Championships.
"We're really excited about going," Walker said. "I believe we'll have a good meet. We've got some of our men back who've been injured. Our women have a shot at having a phenomenal meet."
CBS College Sports Network (formerly CSTV) will be airing live coverage of the NCAA Track and Field Championships Friday from 7-10 p.m. CST. CBS will also broadcast live coverage of the final day of competition from 3-5 p.m. CST.
*** Jay D'Abramo of Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations contributed greatly to this story.
UM track at NCAA Championships this week
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