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June 2013 Archives

This advertisement will appear in Sports Illustrated, Time and The Week. This advertisement will appear in Sports Illustrated, Time and The Week.
Considering the way Mark Stoops and his staff are recruiting, fans aren't likely to forget about Kentucky football even though the season is two months away.

UK's marketing department still isn't taking any chances.

In the coming weeks, advertisements for UK football will be in issues of Sports Illustrated, Time and The Week. The ad (pictured to the right) features a faceless player wearing number 13 for the 2013 season in a blue home jersey, along with UK's 2013 home schedule and the phrase "A Nation Awakes."

"Coach Stoops has generated incredible excitement around this program," said Nathan Schwake, UK's assistant athletics director of marketing and licensing. "Our goal is to keep building on it."

The magazine ad is part of a summer-long season-ticket sales campaign and will be complemented by billboards with the same "A Nation Awakes" theme. UK advertises football season tickets every year on those billboards, but this year opted to scale back its outdoor presence and purchase magazine space in the Lexington and Louisville markets.

Schwake worked with Lexington-based Cornett Integrated Marketing Solutions to design the ad. The space in the three magazines cost approximately $15,000.

"Just like with our Super Bowl spot in February, we had to make sure we created an ad that matched the prestige of the medium," Schwake said. "We want people to turn the page in these magazines and know UK football belongs."

Even though only readers in Kentucky will actually see the ad in any of the three magazines, awareness of it already extends well beyond the Bluegrass. When the first copies of Time containing the ad hit newsstands on Saturday, photos immediately began circulating on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Within hours, most sites covering UK had posted about the ad and media members wondered aloud how much the athletic department had spent for such exposure.

"The beauty of the Big Blue Nation is that anything we do is going to get around," Schwake said.

Schwake hopes fans will be buzzing about a few of the marketing department's other July plans, but he isn't willing to give anything away just yet.

To purchase season tickets using a new interactive seat map, visit Also, schedule posters will be available around July 19 at participating central Kentucky McDonald's, the Joe Craft Center and the football offices at Nutter Training Facility.

The University of Kentucky Athletics Department official website,, including UK Athletics' official blog Cat Scratches, will be undergoing maintenance and be unable to be updated starting Monday, July 1 at 11 p.m. ET and running through sometime Thursday, July 4. Although the website will not be able to be updated, most components will still be visible to all users.

UK Athletics encourages fans and frequent viewers of the website to go to Kentucky's official Facebook pages or to follow UK Athletics' official Twitter accounts for the most up-to-date information about UK Athletics during the maintenance days. Fans can also go to official Facebook and Twitter accounts for several sports and coaches for updated information. A full list of official Facebook and Twitter accounts are listed below.

The cause for the maintenance is due to UK Athletics' host site being moved from its core infrastructure to a new data center. As a result of this move, will see a significant expansion of its core infrastructure environment and network connectivity.

The move is expected to be completed within 48 to 72 hours. Throughout the move, will remain visible to the world, but UK Athletics will be unable to post new content to the website during this move.

UK Athletics thanks you in advance for your understanding and patience and wishes everyone a fun and safe Fourth of July. Go Cats!

Official Twitter and Facebook accounts:

Main news Twitter account - @UKAthleticsNews
Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart - @UKMitchBarnhart  
Facebook Fan Page

Link to a full list of Twitter and Facebook accounts:

Well, Coach Cal did it again. Another year, another draft with multiple first-round NBA Draft picks out of the University of Kentucky. While things may not have gone as hoped, planned, or expected, not many things did Thursday night in the 2013 edition. But that's OK. Two more Wildcats are into "The Association" and will be signing guaranteed contracts for the foreseeable future, and we could not be more proud of Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin, and we wish them luck in their NBA careers.

Here is a handful of links from several media outlets talking about last night's draft...

After draft snub, Nerlens Noel vows to 'make them pay' (Scott Gleason, USA Today Sports)

With a perplexed look on his face, Noel tried to force out a smile. When asked about the five teams who passed him, Noel tried to stay positive, but admitted he felt overlooked.

"Oh yeah, I'm going to make them pay," Noel confided to USA TODAY Sports.
Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams team back up with 76ers (Dan Feldman,

Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel have know each other a long time. A very long time.
"I knew him before the flat top," Carter-Williams said. "We'll say that."
Wild night for Nerlens Noel (Dan Duggan,

Nerlens Noel's introduction to the NBA was a whirlwind.The Everett native was favored to be the first pick in last night's NBA Draft and considered a lock for the top-three. But when David Stern came to the podium to announce the first pick, it was UNLV forward Anthony Bennett receiving a Cleveland Cavaliers hat.
Kentucky's Noel, Goodwin drafted in first round, then traded (Herald-Leader staff)

Nerlens Noel and Archie Goodwin got what they wanted but not in the way most expected.

Both were selected in the first round of Thursday night's NBA Draft at Brooklyn, N.Y.

The two University of Kentucky freshmen entered the draft after one season of college basketball hoping their choices would pay off in guaranteed first-round pro contracts.

That part of the dream was fulfilled.
Kentucky Wildcats' Nerlens Noel picked 6th by New Orleans (Kyle Tucker, Courier-Journal)

But that wasn't the last twist. Within minutes of his selection, according to Yahoo! Sports, Noel was traded along with New Orleans' 2014 first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for starting point guard Jrue Holiday and the 76ers' second-round pick this year (No. 42 overall). Only Noel didn't know that when he walked into his post-draft press conference.

Calipari Q&A at the NBA draft (Kyle Tucker, Courier-Journal)

Caught up briefly with Kentucky coach John Calipari here at the NBA draft. While we wait to see if Nerlens Noel becomes his third No. 1 pick in four years at UK, here's what he had to say:

Archie Goodwin: Steal of the Draft?
(Ben York,
"You can see he's got the feel," said Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek after Archie Goodwin's June 14 pre-draft workout for the team. "He's a guy out there that with some work and a couple of years, he can be a very good player."

Could the Suns have landed the steal of the 2013 NBA Draft?

Obviously, only time will tell.

Phoenix Suns move up to nab Archie Goodwin at end of round (Zach Buchanan,

It was probably more hardship than Goodwin was bargaining for when he picked Kentucky over the likes of Kansas and Connecticut. Playing with the Suns, who completed the second-worst season in franchise history by finishing 25-57 last year, will be an even tougher challenge.

Nerlens Noel's ACL tear and what to expect (Robert Senior,

"It's happening again!"
That was the initial reaction of many 76ers fans, as news broke that the team was trading All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of a package that would bring back much-heralded draft pick Nerlens Noel from the University of Kentucky.

Noel, Goodwin selected in first round of NBA Draft (Eric Lindsey,

Noel wasn't taken as high as predicted while Goodwin was selected higher than most projections had him, but in the end it turned out to be another banner draft night for UK. After Thursday night's draft, NBA teams have selected 17 players from Kentucky over the last four years - all under Coach Cal - including 13-first-rounders.

Goodwin goes 29th, joins Noel in first round

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The 29th overall pick, Archie Goodwin became the 13th Wildcat chosen in the first round the last four years. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) The 29th overall pick, Archie Goodwin became the 13th Wildcat chosen in the first round the last four years. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
When Archie Goodwin sat down to make an NBA Draft decision, John Calipari asked him whether he was prepared to cope with the worst-case scenario should he declare. Goodwin said he was, so Calipari gave his blessing as Goodwin took the next step in his basketball career.

On Thursday, however, Goodwin would have to deal with no such situation.

Goodwin was selected with the 29th pick of the draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder. But just as it happened with Nerlens Noel, it appears Goodwin won't be playing for the team that originally took him. Multiple outlets are reporting the Thunder have agreed to trade Goodwin to the Phoenix Suns via the Golden State Warriors.

"My phone has died and I had to borrow a cell phone to call (Deputy Director of Athletics) DeWayne (Peevy) and say, 'Hooray for Archie!' " Calipari said. "What a great thing and a great pick to Phoenix at 29. That's now 13 first-rounders in four years and 17 picks overall. Unbelievable!"

Unbelievable is an appropriate descriptor.

UK leads all schools over the last four years in both players taken in the first round and overall draft picks by a wide margin. Kansas is next in both categories with six first-rounders and nine total picks. Kentucky is also the only school to have multiple picks in the last four drafts and one of only two schools (Duke 1992-95) to achieve the feat since 1992.

But as impressive as that may be, Coach Cal is thinking more about what the night means for Noel, Goodwin and their families.

Even though he was prepared to potentially be drafted in the second round, being taken in the first is cause for celebration. Because he was selected in the first round, Goodwin will receive a guaranteed contract. Making the situation even better for Goodwin is he will have the opportunity to compete for immediate playing time on a young team.

Goodwin was UK's leading scorer as a freshman, averaging 14.1 points to go with 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per contest. He was the lone Wildcat to start all of his team's 33 games in 2012-13.

"I like this pick," Bill Simmons said on ESPN's draft broadcast. "I think he's talented, I really do, and also he's young."

One of the youngest players in the draft, Goodwin won't turn 19 until August, giving even more reason to believe he could develop at the next level.

"Goodwin's got talent," said ESPN's Jay Bilas. "He's a combo guard, a little bit more on the offensive end. He's athletic, he's really good in transition."

Nerlens Noel was selected sixth overall in the 2013 NBA Draft on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Nerlens Noel was selected sixth overall in the 2013 NBA Draft on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Nerlens Noel got his introduction to the unpredictable world of professional basketball at Thursday's NBA Draft.

After being projected by many as the top overall pick, Noel was selected sixth by New Orleans. When Noel put on a Pelicans hat and shook David Stern's hand, it seemed he would be joining Anthony Davis and Darius Miller in the Big Easy.

Moments later, that changed.

According to multiple reports, the Philadelphia 76ers agreed to trade for Noel. The shot-blocking former Wildcat learned of the proposed, though still-unofficial trade while answering questions from the media.

"Great history of players," Noel told ESPN's Andy Katz, one of the first to report the trade. "Can't wait to get there. Blue-collar city. I consider myself a blue-collar kid."

After the way he played during an injury-shortened freshman season, that approach should surprise no one. Noel averaged 10.5 points, 4.4 blocks, 9.5 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game in 24 games, flashing unquestioned defensive ability and a rapidly developing offensive game.

"He's a defensive savant and his energy, his freaky athleticism--he not only blocks shots, he gets steals," Jay Bilas said on ESPN's draft broadcast. "He can block shots from the weak side, he blocks shots from off the ball but he also gets two steals per game. He gets steals on the ball and he gets steals anticipating off the ball. That's really unusual for a guy his size."

That rare skillset is what convinced many experts that Noel would be the third Wildcat chosen first in four seasons. Instead, surrounded by family, friends and his college coach, he had a longer wait than expected.

"As always, very anxious moments at the NBA Draft," John Calipari said. "I like where Nerlens ended up in Philly. I think it's a great situation with a young team. I wish he would have been picked earlier, but that's part of the game. Now let's wait for Archie (Goodwin) and see where he goes."

As it stands, Noel became the seventh UK player taken in the top eight in the last four years.

While in Lexington, Noel gained praise for his motor and work ethic, which is reason to believe he'll turn draft night into more motivation.

"I think he's going to be a productive player regardless of where he is," ESPN's Jalen Rose said.

Continuing a series of videos profiling members of the football coaching staff, UK Sports Video sat down with Erik Korem to discuss the High Performance program he and Mark Stoops have brought to Lexington. Also, check out the following two features we posted on Korem if you haven't already:

UK football embracing High Performance revolution
Korem constantly pursuing next evolution of High Performance

Directors_cup_logo_FINAL_color.jpg With another year in the books, the University of Kentucky athletic department continues to advance toward its goal of building a comprehensive program that excels in all areas.

On Thursday, word arrived that UK has attained its best finish ever in one of the most recognizable measures of athletic department success: the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup.

UK is 25th in the final 2012-13 Directors' Cup standings, the first top-25 finish in school history. The previous record finish of 26th came in 1996-97. UK also tied a school record by placing sixth among Southeastern Conference schools even though the conference featured 14 teams for the first time this season. The SEC led all conferences with three institutions in the top 10 - Florida (second), Texas A&M (fifth) and Georgia (10th).

The finish continues a pattern of consistent improvement in the Directors' Cup during the Mitch Barnhart era. UK has now finished in the top 30 of final Directors' Cup standings in three of the last four years after a 50th-place finish in 2002-03, the first year after Barnhart's arrival. With that steady upward trend, Barnhart's ambitious aim of finishing in the top 15 by 2015 as part of the 15 by 15 by 15 Plan introduced in 2008 seems attainable.

Directors cup2.jpg The Directors' Cup was founded in 1993-94 as a result of a joint effort by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and USA Today. Points are awarded by sport when teams advance to the postseason in sports sanctioned by the NCAA. Fifteen of UK's 22 programs combined to score UK's 748 points, led by rifle's second-place finish, an Elite Eight appearance by women's basketball and trips to the round of 16 by volleyball, men's tennis and softball. (See left for complete scoring by sport.)

Rifle also brought home a conference championship in 2013, adding another tally toward Barnhart's goal of 15 conference and national titles won before 2015. Now at 11 since 2008, UK needs four more championships in the next two seasons to reach its objective. UK student-athletes also reached Barnhart's goal of a 3.0 department-wide grade-point average in both the fall and spring semesters for the first time in 2012-13, fulfilling the academic side of the 15 by 15 by 15 vision.

But even with all that success, improvement is on Barnhart's mind.

"When you have 22 programs, you have some highs and some lows, some things that you wanted to do really, really well and some things that you want to do better," Barnhart said in a recent interview with Gary Graves of the Associated Press. "Sometimes, we take it for granted because we've been steady the last few years in consistent growth. But clearly, the sports that gather the most attention, rightly or wrongly, are ones we've got to get better in."

The sports about which Barnhart is talking are, of course, men's basketball and football. Even though neither contributed toward UK's record Directors' Cup finish, there's reason to believe they will both be doing so soon.

"It's been an interesting year in that we've had some things to celebrate, and that's been fun," Barnhart said. "Fans look at three or four sports, first and foremost, and it's interesting that while we might not have had the success that we've wanted or been used to, excitement for those sports is at an all-time high."

Barely a year removed from its eighth national championship, John Calipari's men's basketball program will welcome one of the top recruiting classes in history next season and could be in line for a preseason No. 1 ranking. Mark Stoops, meanwhile, has whipped Kentucky's football fan base into a frenzy during his first seven months on the job. After UK signed an impressive class in February, 50,831 attended the Blue/White Spring game to help set the stage for what could be an even better 2014 class.

Barnhart is now challenging those teams to turn excitement into results during the next season and beyond and asking those that had success in 2012-13 to pursue even more.

This spring, he had t-shirts made and distributed to student-athletes, coaches and staff emblazoned with the phrase "Almost Isn't Good Enough." To put it another way, Barnhart is telling everyone involved in UK Athletics that pursuit of anything less than being the best is unacceptable.

"We've done a lot of great things in the last year and over the last decade," Barnhart said at the CATSPY Awards in April. "That's now just the foundation. We're on a new journey and much more is expected."

Video: Profiling OL coach John Schlarman

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Volleyball's Bergren keeps horse hobby in the family

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Volleyball setter Morgan Bergren has continued to ride horses during her year as she prepares for her sophomore season at UK. Volleyball setter Morgan Bergren has continued to ride horses during her year as she prepares for her sophomore season at UK.
Entering her sophomore year, volleyball setter Morgan Bergren feels more at home in Lexington than the average student-athlete.

Growing up just two miles from her father's farm, the Muncie, Ind., native began riding horses with her mother before she could even walk. Inspired by both her mother and father, who are still active in the horse industry, Bergren discovered her love for horses at a very young age.

Bergren's parents both grew up surrounded by horses and met for the first time at a horse show, so it's no surprise that Morgan took an early liking to the horse world.

"My mom showed at nationals when I was 3 months old, and there's pictures of me when I'm just a baby sitting in front of her on the saddle," Bergren said.

Bergren's "showing" career began at age 9 when her father got her started in halter, but she immediately decided that she was looking for something a little more fast-paced. Bergren describes halter as being similar to a dog show.

"They judge you on your trot, you walk one way and reverse, and they judge you on their walk," Bergren said. "Then you come to the center of the ring and stand them up and they judge their head, body, feet, legs, etc."

But despite her feelings about the event, Bergren continued to compete, and even took second place at regionals when she was 10.
One year later Bergren followed in the footsteps of her mother and began her riding career by competing in hunter. In hunter competitions, the rider actually sits on the horse and guides it through a series of tasks, including trotting, cantering, hand galloping, and walking.

Although the Bergren household is decorated with trophies and ribbons from successful competitions, there was adversity along the way.

"When I was 5, my first big experience on a horse was on our stallion named Razz. He was beautiful, but he was crazy," said Bergren. "He hated plastic, but my grandpa decided I should wear a plastic helmet for safety and I got bucked off and almost broke my middle finger."

Luckily, Bergren wasn't too traumatized by the incident, and like any true equestrian, she hopped right back on.

Another challenge came when Bergren started getting more involved in her club volleyball career.

"When I was younger we would go to three or four small shows and three regionals every year," said Bergren. "I didn't have to stop riding horses because of volleyball, but I only went to one regional and a few small shows during the year."

As Bergren continued to have success in volleyball - including leading her club team to an AAU National Championship in 2011 - she started getting attention from some elite programs.

"We came to Lexington every year, and I loved the horse park, but I never even saw the school," she said. "But when Kentucky started recruiting me, I thought it was pretty cool that it was so close. My parents really liked it here too."

Despite her demanding schedule as a student-athlete, Bergren still finds time to stay involved with her horses and take advantage of living in a city known as the "Horse Capital of the World."

"My mom and I went to a show this year and I got two first places and two second places," she said. 

Not surprisingly, Bergren "for sure" wants to continue riding and showing horses after she graduates from college.

"My dad knows horses so I'll have him pick me out a good horse to ride and show," said Bergren. "I love it."

Living in Lexington has allowed Bergren to watch her father compete in some big horse competitions, including an Egyptian event at the Kentucky Horse Park this June. At the same event, she also got to watch the hunter jumper competition, which is one of her many future aspirations.

"I've always wanted to go to Youth Nationals, and someday I really want to learn how to jump," Bergren said.

Because she grew up around mostly Arabian horses, Bergren didn't witness her first horse race until she went to Keeneland last year. Even though she enjoyed watching the race, Bergren doesn't foresee jockeying in her future.

"I have to ride our half Arabian, Junior, because I'm so tall, and my feet almost drag on the ground," she said.

However, there have been discussions about bringing the rest of the volleyball team out to Muncie to ride horses on the Bergren farm.

"I think it would be hilarious to see Lauren (O'Conner) on him," said Bergren.

Although you may not see the 6-foot-5 O'Conner on a horse anytime soon, Bergren will undoubtedly continue to pursue her passion for horses as much as possible during her time at UK.

Keith Hayes: Hurdling into UK history

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hayesflo.jpgKeith Hayes successfully battled through multiple injuries en route to one of the best seasons in UK track and field history, but a loving threat from an Olympic Medalist might have been the biggest reason he was so successful the past few weeks.

Following a loss in confidence resulting from a hamstring injury at the Southeastern Conference Championships, Hayes got a phone call from an even more decorated athlete: the 1992 Olympic Silver Medalist in the 100-meter hurdles. That former world-class hurdler also happened to be the wife of Hayes' head coach, LaVonna Floreal.

That drop in self-belief was quickly dispensed with after Hayes received a stern talking-to, which included that threat.

The sprint hurdler sent off a string of tweets shortly after he suffered the injury expressing disappointment about missing two SEC finals and doubting his prospects for recovering in time for the NCAA Outdoor Championships, which were just two weeks away.

Soon after seeing those tweets LaVonna Floreal gave Hayes a call. 

"After the setback at SECs we had a good talk and to be honest my wife actually called him," UK coach Edrick Floreal said. "She told him, 'I'm an Olympic Silver Medalist and if you ever do that again I will personally kick your butt. You don't that, I don't care if your leg is broken and blood is pouring out of it.' "

That conversation was apparently just what Hayes needed as the senior ended up clocking a season-best time in one of track and field's most grueling events, the 400m hurdles, just 11 days later. He then qualified for the NCAA Semifinals with another season-best time in the 110m hurdles two days after that.

Hayes would go on to reach his first NCAA Outdoor Championship Final in the 110m hurdles where he finished fourth, but his road to All-America status was filled with even higher obstacles than the 42-inch barriers on the track.

Indeed Hayes enjoyed perhaps the best hurdles season, and by extension career, in UK track and field history in 2013. He was All-American in the 60m hurdles indoors setting the school record in the process before he broke the UK 110m hurdles record at the NCAA Championships.

Hayes lowered that all-conditions record to 13.30 seconds last weekend at the United States Track and Field Championships where he ran alongside the world-record holder and 2012 Olympic Gold and Silver Medalists, among others.

Performing on the biggest stage

After what Hayes himself would admit was a difficult indoor season, he came through when the pressure was greatest time and again.
Keith Hayes at the NCAA Championships (Spencer Allen, Sports Image Wire)

Entering the last weekend of the indoor season Hayes had yet to produce one of the national top-16 times required to earn a spot at the NCAA Championships in the 60m hurdles. Yet Hayes was undeterred competing with one last chance to qualify for NCAAs.

He showed as much when he broke two-time Olympian Mikel Thomas' 60m hurdles record during the semifinal heat to post the nation's No. 9 time and make the NCAA Indoor Championship field. 

At NCAAs, Hayes lowered his personal-best time to 7.69 in the semifinal and then picked up First-Team All-America status in the final.

He also displayed just how much doing well for the team meant to him as he was the UK men's team's only participant at the NCAA Indoor Championships. He ensured the Wildcats didn't get shut out at the National Championships with a top-eight finish to get UK on the team scoreboard.

Indeed Hayes' indoor performance prompted his head coach to call him a "one-man team" in a plea for more Wildcats to perform at the NCAA Championship level.

Producing top performances on the biggest stage - in fact record-breaking ones - when the pressure was greatest became a trend for Hayes.

"The cool thing about Keith is the more the tension rises the more he focuses," Floreal said. "Some people lose sight of what's important when the tension rises. That's the difference between the great ones and the other ones. In the heat of the moment they still stay true to the process. In the end if they can just repeat to themselves the things they've done and how confident and ready they are they'll be fine."

He went on to break another of Thomas' school records, this time outdoors in the 110m hurdles, as he ran 13.32 to reach the NCAA Championship final. Perhaps even more impressive was the fact that Hayes had run season-best times in two events at the NCAA Preliminary Rounds, less than two weeks after suffering an injury that often lingers with sprinters for weeks if not months.

"Breaking Mikel's records meant a lot to me because I know what an impressive career he has had," Hayes said. "I really enjoyed training with him during my first season at UK. He texted me congratulations after I got the 60m hurdles record. We still have a great relationship. It means a lot when you get a record that belonged to someone who has been to two Olympic Games."

Reaching new heights under Floreal

While Hayes had enjoyed an impressive career before his senior season - he was a three-time All-American going into 2013 - he reached a new level of success in Floreal's first year at the helm of the UK program.

Hayes drastically improved in 2013, but making the adjustment to a new coach didn't happen overnight. 

"I had to buy in," Hayes said. "I didn't do it smoothly at first because I second-guessed myself coming off injury having redshirted last year on my mind, but it came together."

When Floreal began coaching Hayes, the first step was finding the best way to communicate with one of the team's only athletes with All-America credentials. In Hayes, Floreal inherited an accomplished athlete coming off a foot injury that kept him out for the entire 2012 season.

Floreal is happy to admit that one of the biggest challenges in coaching hurdlers is striking the right balance between working on technical race elements and encouraging athletes to relax so they don't stress about executing the technical aspects of a race.

Striking the right chord in Hayes' training proved to be a unique challenge for the UK coach.

"There are some adjustments you have to make," Floreal said. "The hurdles are so complicated that you have to make some changes. Some athletes require the information, but others require the confidence and the information is not that important.

"When you come in and look at what he's accomplished you're like that guy needs a lot of information, we've got to get him technically sound. Then we realized we just needed to give him confidence and when we did that you started to see the results."

Perhaps the greatest example of Floreal's coaching choice paying off was Hayes' school record during the final regular-season meet indoors.

Floreal in fact did not travel with Hayes to Virginia Tech, instead having assistant coach Roderick Dotts make the trip alongside the veteran hurdler.

"It was one of those things where me and Coach Flo had a conversation and decided I may have been struggling because I was overthinking it," Hayes said. "I needed to be more comfortable. He sent Coach Dotts with me to chill and have fun with it. We did everything under the sun to try not to think about that race."

While Floreal stayed in Lexington as his hurdler was off getting ready to run a personal-best time and book a spot in the NCAA Championship field, the two did remain in contact.

"By that point in the season he just had to figure it out for himself," Floreal said about his leap of faith. "We texted back and forth that whole day where he'd tell me he just finished his warm-up, how he was feeling good and I just said 'great.' There was nothing I could do except nod my head. 

"If I would've gone with him to that last-chance meet I would have just been a crutch. My not being there helped him kind of figure things out."

Hayes earned a great deal of his coach's trust that weekend in Blacksburg, and he cashed it in at the Heart of the Bluegrass Classic, Kentucky's first home outdoor meet since 1997.

On top of being the first outdoor competition in Lexington in 16 years, the UK track and field program also celebrated Senior Day for the first time ever.

Given the novelty of the day, Hayes wanted to perform for the home fans as much as he could. As such, he asked Floreal to enter him in four events, despite the fact that one of the season's biggest meets, the Penn Relays, was just a week away.    

That level of trust has certainly paid off in 2013.

"It's become more of a father-son relationship," Hayes said. "He has expectations of me, but he doesn't always have to tell me. He will tell me 'you know what to do, right?' That comes with being a senior. 

"It's really good to know when he's confident in me. Before he used to be very technical with me, but he realized I think a lot when I'm training and racing. I've been running four events every weekend and I like it. I love to compete especially when I can hear my teammates cheering me on."

Hurdles along the journey

Despite all his success in 2013, many goals remain unmet.

By all accounts - in terms of reaching goals - he came up just short of a major one this past weekend at the USA Championships where he placed 16th overall in arguably the world's deepest National Championship fields.

The senior finished second in his USA Championship prelim heat, ahead of the aforementioned defending World Champion and 2012 Olympic Silver Medalist Jason Richardson to reach the semifinal as the fifth-fastest qualifier.

Races with U.S. World Championship team berths on the line are not decided in the prelims, however. Hayes learned that the hard way at his first major race competing head-to-head with world-class professionals.

He was unluckily drawn into a stacked semifinal heat, which featured Richardson, World Record-holder and reigning Olympic Gold Medalist Aries Merritt and former American Record-Holder David Oliver.

Hayes got out of the blocks about as well as any of the top professionals and was right there with all three midway through the semifinal race before he began hitting hurdles, and eventually did not finish.

The disappointing result left the Wildcat alumnus looking for more in future races and seasons.

Despite the tough end to his UK career, LaVonna Floreal offered up some more advice at the first sign of Hayes venting via Twitter on Sunday evening. Floreal (@SilverMedal2) told her talented protégé (@HurdlingYoMamma) he was just beginning his "hurdling" journey. 

Indeed the next step in that journey remains to be taken, but given the trajectory of his career in recent months the future certainly looks bright.

CATS site.jpg The 2012-13 academic year was a memorable one for UK student-athletes. For the first time ever, Wildcats on scholarship met Mitch Barnhart's goal and achieved a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.0 for both the fall and spring semesters. For their accomplishments, UK student-athletes received deserved praise.

Remaining in the background, however, was another group of hardworking members of the athletic department: Center for Academic and Tutorial Services employees, graduate assistants and tutors. CATS staffers dedicate themselves every day to the academic, personal and social growth of the student-athletes with whom they work and have played an important role in building the culture of UK Athletics beyond the playing field.

Last week, that role was put on more prominent display on a new website:

In conjunction with Assistant Director of Media Relations Pete Camagna and Assistant Director of Multimedia Cailyn Huston, CATS developed its new website to showcase the extensive support network that UK provides for student-athletes. It features profiles of an award-winning staff and a look at the facilities and services offered. In addition, the site will be updated regularly with news about recent accomplishments by Wildcats and relevant information and deadlines for current and prospective student-athletes and their parents.

Click here to visit

Vote for Noel's draft night suit

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On NBA Draft night, prospects' wardrobe choices always draw attention. This year, former Wildcat star Nerlens Noel is putting the decision in fans' hands.

Noel has narrowed his choices to three and voting is open right now on's style blog. I expect UK fans will be choosing based on which look best represent his Big Blue background, which leads me to believe No. 2 and No. 3 will have the edge.

Cast your vote here

Watch Noel's prospect profile here

During his six-week High Performance Tour, Erik Korem (second from left) and Joe Scola (right) spent time with the Richmond Tigers, an Australian football club in Melbourne. (Photo via @ErikKorem on Twitter) During his six-week High Performance Tour, Erik Korem (second from left) and Joe Scola (middle) spent time with the Richmond Tigers, an Australian football club in Melbourne. (Photo via @ErikKorem on Twitter)
In the second of two stories spotlighting Erik Korem, we take a look at the roots of UK football's High Performance program as well as Korem's six-week High Performance Tour. Read our feature from last week here.

There Erik Korem was, in New York City at the Leaders in Performance conference. The event was designed to bring together performance and sporting directors from some of the world's most prestigious athletic organizations and allow them to exchange ideas.

Surrounded by the likes of new Manchester United manager David Moyes and New York Giants President John Mara, Korem seemingly had reason to be intimidated. He was, after all, the only attendee there on behalf of an American collegiate football team.

"Everybody else is from these major, elite sporting organizations around the world," Korem said. "I actually had some people come up to me and say, 'We've heard about the great things going on at UK.' "

Korem was certainly impressed by his company, but Kentucky football's High Performance Coach was more than qualified to participate.

"What we're doing here is the leading edge of college sports and really, I think, the leading edge in American sports because I don't know of any organizations that are doing this," Korem said.

The High Performance program Korem and head coach Mark Stoops have brought to Kentucky football uses sports science in the development of student-athletes in a way teams from the NFL are only now beginning to do. Korem's endeavors have attracted the attention of his peers across the country, but he isn't resting just because he's ahead of the curve.

While UK football players got a break after final exams and before returning to campus for summer classes and workouts, Korem was on a six-week "High Performance Tour." He made stateside stops in Kansas City, Mo., Boston and New York, but the centerpiece of the trip was a week-and-a-half stop in Australia.

"If I want to learn and exchange ideas, it's best to get out of the United States because that's where most of the information is," Korem said.

With its "Big Four" sports leagues and success in international competition, America is often thought of as the center of the sporting universe. While that may be true in general, it certainly isn't when it comes to sports science. Korem sees the U.S. as lagging behind many other nations in that area.

"We're spoiled in the U.S.," Korem said. "We have something that nobody else has: We have the greatest population of athletes on the planet."

Korem's reasoning may seem a bit counterintuitive, at least until you apply one of his patented metaphors.

"It's like being in the Middle East," Korem said. "You've got all this oil, right? Are you going to be constantly searching for other natural sources of energy? No."

Because America has the richest supply of athletes in the world, not as much needs to be done to develop them for high-level competition. Looking to keep up, other nations have begun to pursue every conceivable means.

"Countries like (Australia) have started these state-sponsored sports programs because the government itself realized, 'We're getting our rear ends handed to us in Olympic competition so we want to develop our athletes to the highest capability,' " Korem said.

Australia has invested heavily in the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and now a high performance program called "Australia's Winning Edge." By closely monitoring and measuring performance, Australia is looking to move from "world class to world best." That culture spreads across all of the nation's sports, including the Australian football game that inspired much of Korem's interest in high performance.

While he was still at Florida State, Korem learned about athlete tracking during a summer trip to Australia, building relationships with numerous football teams in the process. Seeing how well sports science was being used abroad, he began to apply the same principles to American football. Now that he's heading up a full-blown high performance program at UK, he returned to Australia in May.

"It just brings a totally different perspective because, as we saw, we're still pretty far behind in the U.S. when it comes to sports science," Korem said. "Now, they learn a lot from us from the coaching side: the way we look at tactics, the way we view film. There's a great information exchange that can take place there, and it has. We keep the doors open."

With Director of Player Development Joe Scola, Korem spent the first week in Melbourne with the Richmond Football Club. The Tigers - winners of 10 "premierships" - were preparing for a matchup with Essendon in the Indigenous Round, a weekend of games honoring the nation's indigenous culture.

 "We watched their players as they went through the whole process of a training week through a game, how they recover after a game, all the science behind how they do recovery," Korem said. "That was awesome."

To top it off, Korem was invited to sit in the coaches' box on game day at the 100,018-seat Melbourne Cricket Ground. There, he got what could perhaps be a glimpse of the future at UK. During games, coaches work in an environment that resembles an air-traffic control center, interacting with tactical and sports-science data in real time.

"It was wild," Korem said.

The next week, he moved to the Greater Western Sydney Giants, an expansion club in its second season competing in the Australian Football League. As the Giants look to build a championship-level club, they are making high performance a central part of what they do.

"It's interesting because they basically got the equivalent of 30 first-round draft picks," Korem said. "But these guys are 18 years old when they're coming in and they're playing against 26-, 27-year-old men. They're getting hammered right now, but it's because they're boys."

While in Australia, Korem also visited Catapult Sports, the company that provides the athlete tracking technology UK uses. Interestingly, Catapult was founded in 2006 as an outgrowth of the work done by the AIS. Korem works closely with Catapult and the time spent at their headquarters in Melbourne gave him a chance to identify how he can better utilize the tools and data provided by the company to fulfill the ultimate goal of the High Performance program.

"Our best players at 50 percent, that's not what I want," Korem said. "I want our best players at their best. It's very hard, but there are things we can do to monitor that and get ahead of the curve."

As the High Performance Tour proved, there's no means Korem won't pursue to gain the smallest edge. He is constantly searching for the next idea he can bring to the table. Though the nature of his field means there's no way of knowing exactly how things will look even a year from now, Korem still spends plenty of time thinking about the future.

"Oh man, I have a vision," Korem said. "I have a big vision."

Korem wants to play a role in turning UK into a championship program, but knows that doesn't happen overnight. Similarly, it will take patience to develop the student-athletes with whom he works. But on both fronts, Korem foresees big things with High Performance playing an important role.

"My goal is, by the time these guys leave here, they come through four or five years and they have mastered their skills, they have elevated their physiological capabilities to their highest possible level and they do not walk out the door saying, 'Shoulda, coulda, woulda,' " Korem said. "They walk out that door saying, 'Man, I got a degree, I maximized my abilities and I had a ton of fun doing it."

The following is a letter from Kyle Wiltjer to the Big Blue Nation. Read John Calipari's letter here.

Big Blue Nation,

I would like to take this moment to thank Coach Cal, the entire staff, my teammates and the BBN for a memorable two years thus far.

Heading into college my dream was to win a National Championship and compete with and play against the best players in the country. Without a doubt, I accomplished both of these goals in my two years at Kentucky.  Now as I head into my junior year, I recognize that my new and adjusted goals require me to make some very difficult upcoming decisions.  Coach Cal has been everything I expected him to be, as I have felt very comfortable talking with him about my situation.  I cannot stress enough how supportive Coach has been during this period. He is more than a coach to me, and for that I am forever grateful.

During this next year, I will be working on my body so that I am able to compete the way I know I can.  I want to find a situation that will help me do this as well as play a more significant role, wherever that may be. Even though I might physically leave Lexington, I will never forget the support and kindness that everyone has shown my family and me.  It is difficult to put into words how hard it is to possibly leave BBN, yet I am confident that whatever I choose, I will give it my all. Regardless, I will always bleed blue and will never forget these amazing last two years at Kentucky.

Thank You,

Kyle Wiltjer

Gymnastics coach Tim Garrison finally took some time off this summer after a record-breaking season in 2013. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Gymnastics coach Tim Garrison finally took some time off this summer after a record-breaking season in 2013. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Usually vacation for UK gymnastics coach Tim Garrison and his family is just a recruiting visit masquerading around as a trip to a new and exciting location. The Garrisons have been to Florida, Virginia and even Hawaii among other places on trips that each was planned around something gymnastics-oriented.   

This summer, the Garrisons were off to California, not to recruit, but to attend a wedding of one of Tim's former club gymnasts that had asked his children (Taige 12, Teagan 11 and Reece 3) to be a part of the ceremony. It was yet another gymnastics-centric trip, even though no actual work was scheduled.

So the Garrisons packed up, drove up I-71 to the Cincinnati Airport, and boarded the plane in late May on their way to the West Coast.

Garrison's wife Rachel - at the time six months pregnant - began to feel light headed once the cabin closed and the plane began to pressurize. So Garrison alerted the flight attendants and got Rachel some oxygen. All was well.

The plan began to approach the runway. The pilot took to the intercom system to address the passengers and alert them that they were next for takeoff. But then Rachel began feeling faint once again.

So for the second time, Garrison pressed the button to alert the flight attendants. It was becoming less and less likely that the Garrisons were going to make it to California. Garrison ultimately made the decision that that would be the case, and the plane turned around and was taxied back to the gate.

Flying was not an option, and the Garrison's weren't going west.

Unsatisfied with the thought of staying put, Garrison left traveling up to Rachel.

"I said, 'Well, forget that. You find a place we can drive to and we're going," Garrison said to his wife.

So Rachel settled on two destinations: Destin, Fla. and Hilton Head, S.C. With Memorial Day weekend on the horizon, Destin was out of the question, so they settled on Hilton Head, and it couldn't have worked out much better if they had planned that out from that start.

"I mean you talk about the best vacation ever," Garrison said. "We sat on the beach, the hotel was right on the water, had three or four different kinds of pools. They had a cafe right on the water and a wooden deck overlooking the beach."

The best part about all of it? No gymnastics. Well, for the most part, anyway.

"Rachel understood when I had to take a phone call because I was only gone for five minutes and then back to vacation again," said Garrison.

In the past, he was happy just to get away from the office and spend some time with his family, but with limited work obligations, Garrison never realized just how crucial it was to spend legitimate time to recharge the batteries.

"I don't think I knew how important it was until I did it," said Tim Garrison. "It was one of those deals where you go through it and you're like, 'Yeah, that was needed.' That kind of thing. Yeah, it was nice to not have anything to do with it for a week, even though I was still answering emails and calls.

"It was great because I got to connect again with my family and not go recruit and rush off from the hotel. I didn't have to leave at all."

As enjoyable and relaxing as Hilton Head was, that wasn't the only family time that he was able to spend so far this summer. Last Christmas, Garrison bought his daughters tickets to the One Direction concert in Louisville, Ky. The concert just happened to fall on a weekend: a Sunday.

One Direction, if you're not familiar, is a huge hit boy band with quite a following that is made up primarily of girls in the age range of 8-16 (roughly). The date of the concert was not only a Sunday, but it also happened to land, unbeknownst to Garrison, on June 16, otherwise known as Father's Day.

"I had no idea. Had no idea," said Garrison. "But really, it was a great Father's Day because they were so happy."

Taige and Teagan as sisters could not have much more different personalities. Garrison describes Taige as a "girly-girl" that can be shy until you get to know her. Tegan, on the other hand, is like, "Whatever, dude. That kind of girl."

So as One Direction was introduced to the stage -as the screams of tens of thousands of screaming girls pierced the eardrums of the patrons occupying the KFC Yum! Center - Garrison took video footage of his girls instead of watching the introduction itself. And those exact personalities manifested on camera.

"It was so funny to watch, if you didn't know them at all, their personalities were revealed as soon as One Direction was introduced," said Garrison. "It was cute. I'm filming them and not paying attention to what's going on the stage and Taige bawls. She is just bawling and crying. Real tears streaming down her face. And Tegan is just like, 'Yeah!' and jumping up and down. And that was perfect. That was them to a T."

Garrison also said that after that experience that it might be his first and last One Direction concert.

"I think I'd rather stick my head into a jet engine rather than do that again," Garrison said. "I actually really enjoyed the show, but once that Harry (Styles) would start talking it was like someone had an ice pick drilling into my ears."

The fun and games are for all intents and purposes over for the summer, however, as Garrison and his staff make their final preparations for camp, which is up to 145 campers, and the third straight season in which the camps have grown. The growth is no surprise, however, after Garrison has made great strides in just two seasons at UK as his Wildcats have rewritten the record books.

With their success and a more visual presence on television and other media outlets, the word is spreading about Garrison's program. As soon as camp is finished, it will be time to get back in the gym and continue to build on the foundation that's been laid in the past couple of seasons.

"All of these things that point to us being better this year, we've got to avoid thinking like that," Garrison said. "Other than gaining confidence from it, but thinking you're good to the point that you're inactive, that's what we need to avoid."

If Garrison's team can remain as active and enjoy their time in the gym as much as he has this summer, Kentucky will be in for a banner year in 2014.

Late dive coach Mike Lyden is being remembered by his daughters through a charitable act. (UK Athletics) Late dive coach Mike Lyden is being remembered by his daughters through a charitable act. (UK Athletics)
Allison Perry of UK Public Relations has written a fantastic piece about the daughters of late Kentucky dive coach "Iron" Mike Lyden who passed away from lung cancer in 2008. Lyden's daughters (Jessica 22 and Brittany 14) have come up with a way to give back to the UK Markey Cancer Center where Mike received treatment.

The daughter's decided to make homemade bracelets with white ribbons representing lung cancer, and at seven dollars a piece, they have raised more than $1,000 to date which all goes toward the Mike Lyden Patient Support Fund.

Not only has their experience with their father produced this charitable endeavor, but it's also helped strengthen Jessica's drive to pursue her medical career to help others.

"I've wanted to pursue a medical career since I was very young, and the experience we went through with my dad's illness and passing has only strengthened that dream," Jessica said. "I hope that one day as a physician, I will be able to confidently tell patients, 'We have a cure, and you will never have to worry about cancer again.' That may not be a reality for every type of cancer, but we can't stop working toward that goal."

To read the rest of the story from Perry about the Lyden family, click here.

Nerlens Noel is the consensus top pick for the 2013 NBA Draft. Nerlens Noel is the consensus top pick for the 2013 NBA Draft. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Let's face it. The talent pool in the 2013 NBA Draft isn't exactly loaded. That shouldn't take away from the fact that another Kentucky player may (and probably should) be drafted No. 1 overall next Thursday.

The Cleveland Cavaliers were the winners of this year's draft lottery. They've won it a total of three times since 2003 including two of the last three. With those picks, they've selected LeBron James (2003) and Kyrie Irving (2011). That's a pretty impressive track record of not missing with the draft's top pick. Obviously James was a no-brainer at the time, but Irving was questionable and he's blossomed into one of the top point guards in the game.

Will the Cavaliers strike gold again this time around? Will they take Noel with the first overall pick making him the second consecutive Wildcat to go No. 1 overall and third in four years? We'll find out the question to the latter next week, but here's a look at why the Cavaliers should draft Noel, how he would fit in, and if Cleveland chooses poorly... err... otherwise, we'll show you how and where else the Big Flat Top could land.

No. 1 Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers have two centers on their roster from last season that would pose any threat of a roadblock for Noel at the No. 1 spot. They have an eight-year veteran in Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller who is coming off his first season in the league after four seasons at North Carolina. Varejao is a proven player in the league, averaging 7.7 PPG and 7.6 RPG, and is coming off the best season of his career in which he averaged 14.1 PPG and 14.4 RPG though he appeared in just 25 games. Zeller was a solid backup for Varejao, until he was thrust into a starting position due to an injury that limited Varejao to just those 25 games. Of the 77 games Zeller played in last year, he started 55 of them averaging 5.7 RPG and 7.9 PPG in 26.4 MPG.

Center might not be Cleveland's greatest need, but good centers are a valuable commodity in a game that lacks dominant big men. Drafting Noel would not only be a luxury for the Cavaliers, but it would give them a trading chip to help them add another piece to the puzzle for 2013-14 if they decided to take Noel. Noel, as you know, is coming off knee surgery, and is still rehabbing in Birmingham, Ala. He likely won't be ready to suit up for the team that drafts him until mid season. That's been part of the hesitance in committing to and investing in Noel as well. Part of the luxury in taking Noel, however, would be that the Cavaliers would be deep at the center position while they waited for Noel to get healthy and make his NBA debut.

If the decision comes down to Zeller and Noel, based on track record, the decision shouldn't be that difficult to make. In college, while Zeller had four years of experience to Noel's shortened one season, Noel still had better overall numbers and has a much higher projected ceiling.

Zeller (2008-12): 117 G, 27.3 MPG, .543 FG%, .808 FT%, 6.7 RPG, 0.6 AST, 0.7 STL, 1.1 BLK, 12.8 PTS
Noel (2012-13): 24 G, 31.9 MPG, .590 FG%, .529 FT%, 9.5 RPG, 1.6 AST, 2.1 STL, 4.4 BLK, 10.5 PTS

It sounds as if Cleveland is intent on taking a big man, however. Cleveland is rumored to have strong interest in Maryland center Alex Len.  Len is healthy, could play immediately and is more polished thus far offensively than Noel while still posing a defensive threat.

Len (2011-13): 60 G, 24.5 MPG, .538 FG%, .663 FT%, 7.0 RPG, 0.8 AST, 0.2 STL, 2.1 BLK, 9.7 PTS

Noel still bests him in minutes per game, field goal percentage, rebounds, assists, blocks, steals and points over their collegiate careers.

There is no clear-cut No. 1 pick this year as there was last season with Anthony Davis, but Noel played an even bigger role than Davis did last season due to less talent around him. Noel still has a way to go offensively, but he can step in day one (once healthy) and hold his ground defensively and be a factor. Cleveland struggled to rebound as a team and finished 22nd and also charted the second lowest number of blocks in the league. With the Cavaliers in the bottom five of +/- differential at -4.0, Noel would affect that figure after the Cavs allowed one of the highest field goal percentages in the restricted area last season.

No. 2 Orlando Magic

The Orlando Magic would be awfully lucky to have Nerlens Noel fall to them at No. 2. With only one true center on their current roster in seven-footer Nikola Vucevic, Orlando could be a great opportunity to for Noel to come in and play immediately once healthy. However, the breakout season from Vucevic made him one of just four players in the NBA last season that averaged better than 12 points and 11 rebounds and is likely the future of the center position for Orlando.

Vucevic is one of the bright spots at the center position in the NBA right now, and with plenty of other needs on the roster, maybe Noel doesn't make the most sense, but it would give Orlando a huge, youthful back line of defenders at the rim and a pair of big men who can rebound the basketball if the elected to go that route. He would also become a teammate of former Wildcat Doron Lamb. Where Orlando could gain the most value from having Noel fall to No. 2 is on the market where suitors would line up to trade for the No. 2 pick or for Nerlens' draft rights.

No. 3 Washington Wizards

It would be difficult to imagine a scenario in which Noel slides past No. 3 in the draft, except for when the third team picking (the Washington Wizards) has four centers on its roster already including Nene and Emeka Okafor and many experts believe they will take Georgetown swingman and homegrown talent Otto Porter.

Nene and Okafor, a formidable duo in the front court for the Wizards, are aging, however. Nene is on the backside of his career, though still productive, and Okafor is a year away from free agency. Maybe Noel is the pick here as the Wizards try to continue the momentum they gained upon John Wall's return from injury as they made a very late playoff-push. They could continue as is, draft Noel, allow him to take his time rehabbing and putting on weight, and when he's ready, throw him to the wolves and let him learn on the fly and build up his stamina as they fight for a playoff spot. He would also become the second Kentucky player to be drafted No. 1 overall by the Washington Wizards (Wall - 2010).

If the first six months of the Mark Stoops era and the Blue/White Spring Game are any indication, Commonwealth Stadium should be a popular place to be in the fall. And as always, buying season tickets remains the best and most cost-effective way to attend every game in 2013.

Season tickets cost $277 for sideline seats and $242 in the end zone. Paying single-game prices, you would spend $420 to attend all seven games, which translates to a savings of at least $143 per ticket plus getting to know where you will be sitting for every home game.

To purchase season tickets, visit today.

Fans who buy season tickets before July 14 will receive them in new "All-In" books and those who buy before June 28 will have an exclusive first chance to select home and away single-game tickets by that date. Print this form to place your order.

If you're eager to see UK football in action as soon as possible, your first chance will be in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday, August 31 when the Wildcats face Western Kentucky University. Tickets are $63 for club level, $43 for lower sideline, and $38 for lower end zone.  Order tickets online or by calling (800) 928-2287. Seats will be assigned according to K Fund points after the June 28th priority deadline.

Video: Profiling DL coach Jimmy Brumbaugh

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UK football embracing High Performance revolution

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Erik Korem is in his first year leading Kentucky football's High Performance program. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Erik Korem is in his first year leading Kentucky football's High Performance program. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
This is the first of two stories on Erik Korem and the High Performance program he and Mark Stoops have brought to Kentucky football. Stay tuned next week to read about the international roots of the program and Korem's continual learning process.

Looking around Erik Korem's workspace, football isn't the first thing that comes to mind.

Other than a detailed report of a few pages he'll soon be presenting to his boss, his desk is clean. He scrolls through color-coded spreadsheets on the two monitors set up in front of him, but Korem talks of custom-built software that will eventually replace much of Microsoft Excel's everyday function. He uses phrases like "best practices" and "predictive models" sure to be repeated in board meetings inside skyscrapers in New York or Chicago.

But Korem works on the ground floor of the Nutter Training Center. His spreadsheets analyze the performance of Kentucky football players. His boss is Mark Stoops.

In essence, his office is the heart of the High Performance initiative taking over all facets of the program. With Korem - UK's High Performance Coach - leading the way, the goal is simple.

"What we want to do is make sure that, physiologically, they're at their optimal level," Korem said.

Simple as that guiding philosophy may be, putting it into practice is anything but.

To that end, Korem, his staff and his technology are involved in everything from strength and conditioning to developing practice plans to monitoring the sleeping and eating habits of UK student-athletes.

"What I am constantly investigating is: How do we get our guys ready?' " Korem said. "How do we monitor their state of readiness? Are they fatigued? Are they psychologically stressed? Are we overloading them? Where do we need to back off? Are we susceptible to injury?"

The program is the first of its kind in college athletics and even American sports, says Korem, but what's going on at UK didn't come together overnight. Korem began to apply sports-science principles when he was at Florida State and Stoops took note. When he was tabbed to become a head coach for the first time by UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart, Stoops knew he wanted to bring Korem with him.

But as important as Korem may be to its execution, he makes it clear that High Performance is Stoops' baby.

"It's his brainchild," Korem said. "He's made it all possible. He's just letting me and my staff roll, which is fun."

The installation of the High Performance program has not been without its challenges. Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot is the lone assistant on Stoops' staff to have worked with Korem, which made spring practice a training ground for coaches as much as players as they learned how to interact with Korem and the information he provides.

"This doesn't really happen any place where you've got this guy explaining to you about practice and why we need to back off or push this guy harder," Korem said. "That's a new concept. At first, there's a learning curve."

Over the last six months, Korem believes the learning curve has been scaled.

"I think everybody's getting really comfortable and they realize, number one, that this is Coach Stoops' idea; this isn't Erik Korem's idea," Korem said. "And then number two, I'm here to support them. I'm here to help support their decision-making, I'm here to help make them better coaches in any way I can. It's more about a servant attitude than it is me telling people what to do. That's not what it's about. It's about serving our coaches and serving our players."

In many ways, Korem's primary function with the coaching staff is to be a funnel. He has a wealth of data at his disposal, but he knows there is such a thing as too much information.

"We just have very simple things so these coaches can make fast decisions," Korem said. "That's the whole deal: You can have all the information in the world, but if you can't make a quick decision off of it, you're wasting your time."

For example, Korem is developing a stop-light system for coaches to use in practice to protect against injuries. If a player is designated green, he's good for full-speed work. Yellow means the player should be treated with caution.

As for educating the players, Korem is taking a slow and steady approach.

"We don't want to overload our guys with questionnaires or things to do after training," Korem said. "We start with a couple things to get them really comfortable and have them master that. And then we move on and add another little piece."

During the summer, coaches are prohibited from working with players, but not Korem. Not everyone may like the NCAA rules that limit practice time, but Korem believes they benefit student-athletes.

"This is a superior model in my opinion," Korem said, referencing the international sports programs that have inspired much of what is being installed at UK. "They need a time where they can purely focus on biological development: power output, getting healthy."

Korem is certainly taking advantage of that time. He has devised 12 different training programs tailored to fit different positional groups. Beyond that, workouts are customized further based on individual injury history and a number of other factors.

"Our linebackers don't train the way our quarterbacks train," Korem said. "There's some crossover, but that's why we have all these different groups."

Always looking to put High Performance tenets into more accessible terms, Korem has a come up with a metaphor to describe what he wants to accomplish in the summer months.

"I tell the guys we're developing bigger batteries, so we're going to go from triple-As to Ds," Korem said. "And then we want to develop a bigger and better gas tank. June is more about the battery and July is about the gas tank."

The battery part of the process is about improving maximum outputs in terms of power, speed and strength. In July, the Cats will work on their capacity to repeat.

Korem likes the way the student-athletes have embraced that message.

"We want these guys to take ownership of it, because it's not really what happens in the two hours they're with us; it's what happens in the 22 hours they're not with us," Korem said. "I want them to be their own coaches."

"They've done an awesome job. I couldn't be more proud of these guys because we come in with all these sweeping changes and telling them we want them to eat this way and eat that way. They have latched on and they have carried the ball and done well with it."

By doing that, Korem believes the Cats are positioning themselves for improvement on the field.

"We're going to push these guys hard, we're going to work them very hard, but we're going to work them very intelligently," Korem said. "I think that's the beauty behind what we do: We're maximizing what we've got."

Accordingly, Korem sees himself as executing the latter half of Stoops' "Recruit and Develop" mantra, but his High Performance endeavors have been a factor in UK's unprecedented success on the trail too. Visiting recruits might not want to comb through spreadsheets with Korem, but they can't help but be impressed when they stop by his office.

"They love it," Korem said. "We offer something nobody else offers, we really do. They come in and we'll show them things we're doing and they don't see this anywhere else. It's exciting for them."

The book is closed on UK Athletics' 2012-13 season, but a record is still within reach.

On Friday, updated Directors' Cup standings were released and UK came in 25th. UK scored 120 points since the latest standings update on the strength of solid performance by softball (advanced to super regionals) and men's track and field (finished 18th at NCAA Championships).

With no more Wildcat teams competing, UK won't score any more points. However, if UK remains in 25th place, it would set a school record for the highest finish in the 20-year history of the Directors' Cup, making progress toward Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart's goal of finishing in the top 15 by the year 2015. The previous record is 26th, set in 1996-97.

UK also ranks sixth among Southeastern Conference schools in the latest standings. That would tie a school record also set in 1996-97.

UK teams reach APR requirements once more

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The NCAA released new Academic Progress Rates on Tuesday and, once again, the University of Kentucky's 22 teams surpassed requirements and avoided any penalties.

This release has more information on the news and the APR - which the NCAA uses to measure academic eligibility and student-athlete retention - but here are some additional notes.

  • As you can see in the chart below, 14 of UK's 22 teams exceeded the national average APR score for their respective sports, led by men's and women's golf with perfect scores of 1,000. Additionally, 15 UK teams exceeded the average public school APR for their respective sports.
  • The emphasis on APR scores has increased in recent years and UK has responded. Seventeen teams have improved their scores since 2004-05 and 16 improved or received the same score compared to last year.
  • APR requirements will become even more stringent next year. To maintain postseason eligibility will require either a 930 four-year APR or a 940 two-year average beginning in 2015. Even though the new threshold is a year away from coming into effect, UK's scores also exceed those tougher requirements.
  • Below is a chart with UK's four-year APR scores by sport this year, last year and in the first year of the APR, as well as national averages.

11-12 APR.jpg

Video: Davis, McWhorter winners Moir, Oswald

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Last week in Sandestin, Fla., UK's Megan Moir (women's golf) and Chelsea Oswald (track and field/cross country) were recognized at the Southeastern Conference's Spring Meetings.The two videos below were shown before Moir accepted the SEC's Brad Davis SEC Female Community Service Leader of the Year and H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards. Take a look.



Rifle head coach Harry Mullins and Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart chat at the rifle range. (UK Athletics) Rifle head coach Harry Mullins and Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart chat at the rifle range. (UK Athletics)
Year in and year out Harry Mullins manages to field one of the nation's top rifle programs. He's been at Kentucky for going on 27 productive seasons and is responsible for building its rifle program into a perennial contender.

Then Mullins goes home at the end of each workday and tends to his real job: fatherhood.

During the season, both jobs become much more difficult, yet Mullins continues to have success in each. In season, Mullins spends more time at work and on the range with his athletes in addition to traveling to competitions. That time with his team means less with his wife and two children.

Now, many Division I coaches have families and children. Time away is a sacrifice that comes with the territory.

For both Mullins and his athletes, rifle season never truly ends. Currently, multiple UK shooters are competing abroad in international competitions as they continue to improve their skills and attempt to stay sharp for the upcoming season. Meanwhile, back home, Mullins is keeping tabs on his athletes and setting up his game plan for the 2013-14 season.

Ideally, Mullins would be traveling with his shooters.

"Typically I would be out there, but for family reasons and meetings here I wasn't able to stay at the nationals," said Mullins. "Typically I would be there for a lot of the matches."

Mullins takes seriously responsibilities he has as a father. And during the summer, he takes advantage of the additional spare time to be with his kids. His two children, Taylor (12) and Ethan (9), provide an escape from the job, but in several ways, he draws inspiration for his profession from the experiences with his kids.

Ethan is spending his summer much like most 9-year-old boys. He's playing baseball, going fishing with his dad and hanging out with friends. He leads what most would call a "normal life."

His sister Taylor does not.

Taylor is a special-needs child. She doesn't speak. She struggles to grasp concepts that other 12-year-old girls understand readily. She is essentially a 2-year-old in a 12-year-old's body. Taylor also suffers from epilepsy, experiencing anywhere from one to 10 seizures a day. Some are very small while others are of a greater magnitude.

Both children, despite their differences, manage to teach Mullins something new nearly every day.

When he gets to go check out one of Ethan's baseball games, Mullins' mind is never far off from his rifle team, even though the two sports have little in common.

"The crazy part about it is, when you experience something in your personal life, nine out of 10 times you relate it back," said Mullins. "A prime example is my son's little-league team. I've enjoyed watching them play, and I've learned so much from them.

"As I watch, I sit there and watch them go through those dynamics and I'm like, 'We need to do this with our team and we need to do that.' "

The lessons learned from Taylor have been abundant as well as she approaches her 13th birthday in July. As often as he can, Mullins takes advantage of the opportunities he has with his daughter. His goal this summer is very simple: take time.

"It's fun because she starts to grasp concepts more and more," said Mullins. "To celebrate the time with her to take the nice and pretty days to go to the park or to do things like that, I look forward to that."

But taking time isn't always easy, especially when it comes to Taylor. Sometimes that fishing trip with Ethan takes two years organize between balancing a hectic schedule between Mullins and his wife and finding someone who can watch over Taylor, which is a difficult task on its own.

It's not easy, Mullins will tell you. Life with Taylor is a challenge. Mullins will also tell you that Taylor is his "best buddy" and that she has taught him some of life's most valuable lessons, which makes that time completely gratifying.

"She probably is the epitome of unconditional love and faith and trust to where it doesn't matter what you do, she's still going to love you because you're her dad," said Mullins. "The smile that she has on her face kind of makes a lot of the rough stuff go away."

She helps Mullins keep everything in perspective. While there are others out there searching for the cure for cancer or trying to devise alternate energy sources, Taylor is trying to learn to dress herself, for example.

"It makes you appreciate life a little bit more on the tough days and realize that we have the ability to lead what we would consider a normal life and to embrace that," said Mullins. "The things she goes through weren't choices. It wasn't the result of poor choices. It's just the cards that nature dealt her and she tries to make the best out of it.

"As a caregiver, as her parent, you have to make the best of it. You have to look at yourself in the mirror and say, 'I can sit here and feel sorry for myself and bury my head in the sand, or accept it.' Not that you necessarily want to. You constantly fight to try to make things better, find cures, whatever you want to call it, to make her life the best that it can be under the conditions. It's kind of acclimating her to the world and the world to her, and then creating a world around her within means to lead somewhat of a fruitful life in her world.

"Learning from that, I think, in the day-to-day operations in the thing that you do, I've learned that you can go to bed mad, but you better not wake up mad. You've got to start the day with some positive motivation. You can let some things drag you down, but at the end of the day, you refill your tank and get back to it."

Mullins lives out that philosophy as each and every year his Wildcats have a chance to be special. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they win the national championship as they did in 2011 or fall just short with a runner-up finish like in 2013. Regardless of the result, it's not long after that Mullins is refueling, looking forward and putting a plan in place for the following season.

Those lessons are entirely applicable to the range. The only problem is getting them across to the athletes. Without having to deal with those challenges, it's much more difficult to appreciate the concepts that Mullins hopes to convey.

That will be Mullins' next challenge in 2013.

"If you are having a tough day in the classroom, you have to leave that outside the training facilities," said Mullins. "Sometimes, I actually get frustrated and I try not to tell them, 'Woe is me. I just spent the morning cleaning up and caring after Taylor. Your life is not that tough.' I can't compare myself to them, though. I'm 50 years old. But to get them to understand and grasp that you have to put things behind you, but learn from them so that in the future great things can be achieved."

That is Mullins' hope for his returning group of shooters who just missed out on a national championship last season. Kentucky will need to be able to move on from the disappointment of not cashing in while remembering the lessons they learned along the way.

If there's been one aspect of Taylor's life that has inspired Mullins the most, it's her determination to get what she wants. Often Taylor will approach one parent when she wants something, and if she doesn't get the desired answer, she'll move to the next one. That's one concept that she understands quite well.

"We always strive to get better. Sometimes the scoreboard goes in your favor," said Mullins. "Now we're not going to be happy when it's not, just like when Taylor is frustrated and does things, she's not happy, but trying to get her to understand.

"To learn from her, to have to back up sometimes and look at the problem from a different angle or different viewpoints that aren't exactly in the norm, that I definitely think has impacted me because I study her when she wants to get things."

It's a simple concept, but determination and motivation are two keys to success in sports and life every day. Mullins wants to get another national championship, but more importantly, he wants his athletes to give their best effort and be hard workers, because as a father, that's what he values most.

That is why each and every season Kentucky has a chance to be great: because a great man - and a great father - is leading the way.

Video: Neal Brown profile

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Kyle Wiltjer's trip to China is off to a good start.

The rising junior UK forward is playing for the Canadian Development Men's National Team this week in the Four Nations' International Invitational Tournament and the Canadians secured a pair of wins over the weekend. Team Canada took down host nation China on Saturday before facing the United States on Sunday. Canada built a double-digit lead in the third quarter, but Team USA rallied to tie the game at 73 in the final minute.

Enter Wiltjer.

He was fouled with five seconds left and drilled a pair of free throws to give the Canadians an exhibition win over their across-the-border rivals. Wiltjer had a team-high 17 points in the victory.

"It was a great team effort tonight," Wiltjer said. "For me, it is always fun to play against the USA since I live there. The guards did a good job of making good passes down the stretch and finding me when I was open. We got some good calls down the stretch which also helped."

Team Canada moved to 3-0 on Monday by defeating Latvia.

After a travel day on Tuesday, Team Canada will finish off the tournament with three games in three days beginning on Wednesday including a Thursday rematch with Team USA. During the exhibition tournament, Wiltjer is making his case to be included on the 12-man roster Team Canada will bring to the World University Games (July 6-17 in Kazan, Russia).

Before then, Wiltjer is enjoying his trip to China. He is regularly posting updates on Twitter, Instagram and Vine, so make sure you are following him. He might just run into another former Kentucky star.

Kyle Wiltjer ran into UK alumnus Josh Harrellson in China on Friday. (Photo via Instagram) Kyle Wiltjer ran into UK alumnus Josh Harrellson in China on Friday. (Photo via Instagram)

Avery Williamson, Jonathan George and Kevin Mitchell spent a week serving in Ethiopia in late May. (Photo by Jeffrey Burns) Avery Williamson, Jonathan George and Kevin Mitchell spent a week serving in Ethiopia in late May. (Photo by Jeffrey Burns)
Within hours of landing in Ethiopia, Avery Williamson began to wonder what he had gotten himself into.

After a 13-hour flight, Williamson and his two UK teammates landed in Bole Bulbula, a village in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital city. They stepped off the plane, immediately distributing water filters to residents without clean water.

Williamson was excited about the athletic department-sponsored service trip before he left, but amid wholly unfamiliar surroundings, anxiety began to set in. By the end of his week in Ethiopia, however, it disappeared.

"The first day I got there I was really homesick, honestly," Williamson said. "I was ready to come back. But after being over there for a week, I wasn't ready to come back home."

In spite of some initial nervousness, Williamson embraced everything the trip had to offer. He allowed his perception of poverty to change when he saw the conditions in the leper colony of Korah. He didn't try to avoid seeing children as young as five years old begged for spare change or food.

"I was really surprised but the living conditions and stuff," Williamson said. "You see it on TV but until you really see it in person it starts to hit you. You start thinking about it and like, 'I could not live like this.' That is how those people live out their lives and they are accustomed to it."

By the time it was all over, he wasn't thinking about sleeping in his warm bed, changing into clean clothes or raiding a stocked refrigerator. Instead, he was trying to figure out how he could do more. Williamson, Jonathan George and Kevin Mitchell spent much of the flight home to the United States thinking about finding their way back to the country that had so deeply affected them.

"I was really glad to go over there and be able to help," George said. "In the future, I would really like to go back and do some more stuff for the people in Ethiopia."

But before they can make a return trip, Williamson, George and Mitchell have to resume their normal lives as Kentucky football players.

All three will be seniors on new head coach Mark Stoops' first UK team. Summer workouts are already underway and they are all expected to play important leadership roles in 2013. That, in fact, is a major reason why their coaches tabbed them to make the trip.

"It is more people that are working hard and being leaders on the team that get selected," Williamson said. "I thought it was a big honor for me to get chosen because there have been some great guys that have went on this trip in the past and I was very humbled by it."

Danny Trevathan and Stuart Hines went on the inaugural trip in 2011 and Mikie Benton, Matt Smith and Larry Warford followed last May. All five brought their changed perspectives home and used them to help guide their teammates. Williamson, George and Mitchell will now look to do the same.

Though his thoughts won't be far from the people with whom he built relationships in Ethiopia, George believes an increased awareness of how blessed he and his teammates are to have so many opportunities will make them even hungrier to capitalize.

"One of the things I took from this trip was being thankful and being appreciative for the things I do have," George said. "I've always felt that way about things being appreciative of what you have because there is always somebody that has it worse, but I feel like this opened up my eyes even more to that topic because some of the things I saw and experienced it was real rough to see people going through those types of things."

On Thursday, Avery Williamson, Kevin Mitchell and Jonathan George - the three Kentucky football players who made a service trip to Ethiopia in late May - spoke to the media about the week they spent in the East African nation. See what they had to say in the video below.

I'll have a story a little later this afternoon about the trio hoping to return to Ethiopia soon to continue their service. Before then, here are links to the three travel logs we posted with Williamson, Mitchell and George in case you missed them.

Mitchell embracing experience
George, Cats visit local prisons
Williamson thinking about the people as trip ends

Video: Attack Every Day

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Video: UK football freshman move-in

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With the summer session about to begin, freshmen from numerous UK teams are beginning to arrive on campus for the first time. Included among them is football's highly touted incoming class. Take a look at this video from their move-in.

Senior Luis Orta will compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at nationals in Eugene, Ore., beginning Wednesday. Senior Luis Orta will compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase at nationals in Eugene, Ore., beginning Wednesday. (UK Athletics)
Over the last five years, distance runner Luis Orta has been a mainstay for the Kentucky track and field team. Orta, a senior, will compete in his final event this week for the Wildcats with a chance to leave one final mark.

Orta is going to do everything in his power to advance to the finals and go out with a bang this week. No matter what, he knows he has laid everything on the line every day and has given his best effort day in and day out. He couldn't ask for anything more.

"Whatever happens if I make it to the final or break the school record again or not I will be very pleased with my college career," Orta said. "It's been five beautiful years. I've met awesome people and have had incredible experiences here. I wouldn't choose another school if I could go back, UK has been awesome to me and I'm happy with whatever happens this weekend."

Kentucky travels to Eugene, Ore., this week to compete in the NCAA Outdoor Championships. UK, which had just three athletes compete in last season's nationals, will send 10 this year, including Orta.

The Caracas, Venezuela native will race in a 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinal on Wednesday at 9:45 p.m. ET. The semifinals consist of two 12-person races with the top-five finishers from each advancing to the final, along with the next four fastest times. The 14-athlete final will take place on Friday at 8:40 p.m.

Orta qualified for nationals by breaking the school record in the steeplechase at the NCAA East Preliminary Championship. He crossed the finish line with a time of 8:42.22, good enough for seventh place in the event and an automatic bid to Eugene.

With the days dwindling in his illustrious UK career, Orta is after that record once more.

"I want to try to break the record again and try to run under 8:40 and make it to the final," Orta said. "If I am able to do that then hopefully I can run in the low 8:30s in the final."

In his first season at UK, Orta broke the freshman school record in the steeplechase at the Southeastern Conference Championships with a time of 8:52.39. After finally reaching his goal at regionals by surpassing the overall school record, he had assistant coach Hakon DeVries go over and double-check the final result following the race to ensure the time was correct. From there, Orta has turned to Jason Dunn - the coach with whom he's primarily worked all season - to help him make a run at breaking the record again.

Orta has been a strong distance runner for UK in several events, but the steeplechase is his best. He finished second at SECs as a freshman, sophomore and junior and has qualified for nationals for the second consecutive year.

He finished 22nd at nationals last year, falling short of the finals. Orta will be the first to say he didn't have a good race last season. He was nervous and just wasn't comfortable during the event - something any coach will tell you is very common amongst first-time competitors at nationals. This week could prove to be different as the new coaches have implemented different training methods and, having already competed in one national competition, he thinks he will be more at ease when he steps up to the starting line.

"The training has been so much different," Orta said. "We are actually training for the steeplechase whereas last year was more of a middle-distance type of training. I've been hurdling a lot and working on my mobility and doing a lot of workouts in hurdles and over the water jumps which is important. I think I'm more comfortable when I'm racing which helps a lot."

With 10 athletes making the trip northwest, Kentucky has improved immensely from last season. With so many teammates with him on the trip, Orta hopes to draw inspiration from his fellow Wildcats.

"If they do good I feel like I have to do something good," Orta said. "I don't want to go home and feel like I didn't do as good as them. It definitely helps to see my teammates do well because it helps me get focused for the race."

In just one year, head coach Edrick Floreal has helped UK's track and field program make remarkable strides. Not only are the Cats sending additional athletes to nationals this year, but the team showed progress with its finish at the SEC meet. The men and women each finished seventh at the conference championships, jumping several spots from last season's performance.

There is no doubt in Orta's mind that Floreal is taking the program in the right direction and UK will be among the elite in the coming years. Even though he will no longer be competing as a collegian as the program develops, Orta has played a role in building a foundation that will allow that to happen.

"With Coach Floreal, it's different. He wants to move this program forward and he's working for it right now," Orta said. "I'm sure it's going to get better and better and in four years from now or even less than that. We are definitely going to be a top-five program in the nation. No doubt in my mind it's going to improve a lot."

Orta is currently working on a master's degree in sports leadership. After one more year of school, he would like to stay involved in sports once he's done running for UK and wants to work in the administrative side of sports.

However, he will not give up on his true love of running. Orta will continue training and hopes to try to make it to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2016 Olympics, while also competing in marathons along the way.

He attributes much of his success to his time at UK and says he would not be the man he is today had he not attended school at Kentucky.

"I think this has prepared me for life because it shows you that if you work hard for something then you are eventually going to get it if you really want something and you work really hard for it," Orta said. "It teaches you that life is not easy and there are going to be people that are faster than you and there is nothing you can do about it, but keep trying and keep going. It's going to be hard to train, going to school and working but life is hard you have to man up and do it."

Last season, three UK student-athletes qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championships. This year, 10 are in Eugene, Ore., to participate in college track and field's top event.

How's that for improvement under first-year head coach Edrick Floreal?

The meet lasts from Wednesday until Saturday and four Wildcats - Bradley Szypka, Chelsea Oswald, Keilah Tyson and Luis Orta - will compete today. will broadcast all of Wednesday's events from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET, while and ESPNU will show much of the competition on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. For complete broadcast information and a meet schedule, check out the release on

Cory Weigel will have a story on Orta's final collegiate meet later, but in the meantime here are a few links to stories written this week about UK track and field's trip northwest.

UK track and field program on the rise after Floreal's first season as head coach (Jon Hale,

Six men -- Andrew Evans (discus), Raymond Dykstra (javelin), Bradley Szypka (shot put), Luis Orta (3,000-meter steeplechase), Matt Hillenbrand (1,500 meters) and Keith Hayes (110-meter hurdles) -- will participate in the NCAA Championships for UK this week. They will be joined by UK women Chelsea Oswald (5,000 meters and 10,000 meters), Rebecca Famurewa (discus), Keilah Tyson (100 meters) and Kayla Parker (100-meter hurdles).

One year after sending just three athletes to the NCAA National Championships, UK team members credit the new coaching staff for much of the improvement.

"It's completely different," Orta said. "Now it's all about winning, performing well, doing good, running fast, running more. You can see the change now. We're all doing way better than last year. We're doing more miles, we're working harder, we're training twice a day and stuff like that, things that we were not doing last year."

Chelsea Oswald aiming high again at NCAA track meet (Leigh Dannhauser, Lexington Herald-Leader)

This week marks Oswald's first time at the outdoor national meet but she is not new to the national stage. She is a three-time All-American in cross country and indoor track and field.

Both she and Floreal have said that the goal is for her to finish in the top eight in both of her events. But Oswald has set her goals even higher.

"I'm hoping I can get a qualifying time for (the USA National Championships)," Oswald said. She does not think that her current times are fast enough to gain entry into the meet in either event.

10 Kentucky Wildcats heading to NCAA track championship (Kyle Tucker, Louisville Courier-Journal)

Still, in Year One under Floreal, the Wildcats have doubled their number of NCAA-qualifying men (six) and gone from no female qualifiers to four, including junior Chelsea Oswald, who won the Southeastern Conference 10,000 meters in league-record time. She qualified for nationals in that and the 5,000 and is ranked top 16 among the 24 qualifiers in both events.

UK has top-16 athletes in seven events: Rebecca Famurewa (No. 3 in women's discus), Andrew Evans (No. 5 in men's discus), Oswald (No. 10 in 5,000, No. 16 in 10,000), Raymond Dykstra (No. 12 in men's javelin), Keith Hayes (No. 13 in men's 100 hurdles) and Luis Orta (No. 14 in men's steeplechase). At the NCAA Championships, the top eight finishers in each event are first-team All-Americans, and the next eight earn second-team honors.

"With the new coaches, everything is different now," Orta said. "Now we're there to win, to get All-American, to make it to the finals. ... You can see the change now. We're all doing way better than last year. We're doing more miles, we're working harder, we're training twice a day, things we were not doing last year."

Photo gallery: Cats train in Eugene

Former University of Kentucky men's golfer, Russ Cochran won his fourth Champions Tour event on Sunday after clipping Jay Don Blake by one shot at the Principal Charity Classic on Sunday. Cochran finished the 54-hole tournament at 11-under-par, 205 after firing back-to-back 5-under-par, 67s in the final two rounds. The tournament was played at the Wokonda Club in Des Moines, Iowa.

Cochran lost the lead after missing a 4-foot par putt on the 16th hole but regained first after Blake bogeyed the 17th. The two parred the final hole to give Cochran the victory.

"I feel for Jay Don," Cochran said in a televised interview. "He's a great player and I feel like I dodged a bullet."

Cochran, a southpaw from Paducah, Ky., was a two-time first team All-Southeastern Conference selection (1978 and 1979) at UK. Cochran turned pro in 1979 before joining the Professional Golf Association in 1982. He became the first lefty to win at the Charity Classic.

Kyle Wiltjer, the SEC's reigning Sixth Man of the Year, is trying out for the team Canada will bring to the World University Games. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Kyle Wiltjer, the SEC's reigning Sixth Man of the Year, is trying out for the team Canada will bring to the World University Games. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Kyle Wiltjer will be following in his father's footsteps this summer.

The soon-to-be-junior is currently attending training camp in hopes of making the Canadian Development Men's National Team. He and 15 fellow collegians are currently in Portland, Ore. - Wiltjer's hometown - as Canada prepares for World University Games (July 6 to 17 in Kazan, Russia). Among those also participating are Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga), Melvin Ejim (Iowa State) and Brady Heslip (Baylor).

Wiltjer, even though he was raised in America, is able to compete internationally for Canada because his father, Greg, is a native of the country. The elder Wiltjer played for the Canadian national team in multiple events, including the 1984 Olympics. Participating in training camp, an exhibition series in China and the World University Games - if he makes the cut - could provide Wiltjer quite the springboard as he looks to assume a leadership role on UK's 2013-14 team.

While Wiltjer trains for international competition, his UK teammates will be on campus for an eight-week summer session beginning early this month. Many of them were eligible for the Under-19 United States team, but opted to come to Lexington instead. Check out this story from Mike DeCourcy to read why.

Video: UK track on NCAA preparations

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Ten UK track and field student-athletes will participate in the NCAA Outdoor Championships this week in Eugene, Ore. As Jake Most wrote on on May 25, their qualification marked a "major step forward" for first-year head coach Edrick Floreal's program.

Look for a feature on the 10 Wildcats reaching the national championship meet - which takes place Wednesday through Saturday - on Tuesday. Before then, watch these videos from last week as Floreal, Chelsea Oswald, Luis Orta, Kayla Parker and Raymond Dykstra previewed NCAAs.


Oswald, Orta, Parker and Dykstra

Slow week on the way

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It's beginning to quiet down around the Joe Craft Center, which means we don't have as much to talk about at Cat Scratches. Ten Wildcats will be competing in the NCAA Outdoor Championships this week, but after that the 2012-13 season in UK Athletics will be officially over.

While most UK-centric websites shift their summer attention to recruiting, we are prohibited from doing so due to NCAA rules. Nonetheless, we are working on a few feature ideas to help you pass the time before Southeastern Conference Football Media Day next month.

In the meantime, we'll continue to cover any UK news that should come along and pass on links to stories from around the Internet.

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