Russ Pear needs a clone. At the very least, he could use another two or three hours in a day.
Pear, senior associate athletics director for facilities and operations at Kentucky, unofficially owns the title as the busiest man in the UK Athletics Department this summer. Pear and Scott Clark, as the two officials heading UK's numerous facility projects this summer, haven't had much time to enjoy the offseason.
"The schedule has been really hectic," Pear said. "Every year Scott Clark and I say, 'If we can just get through this year, there is no way it can be this busy next year.' "
But few - if any - summers have been as busy as this one for Pear and Clark as they march through the heart of their most important season to date.
In an ongoing effort to upgrade and renovate UK's facility infrastructure, Pear and Clark are leading five major facility projects this summer, in addition to planning for future developments and maintaining the current foundation.
The five projects include:
The installation of two Daktronics high definition video boards, light-emitting diode ribbon boards and a new sound system at Commonwealth Stadium
A brand new $12 million track facility
A new playing surface at the UK Soccer Complex
An interior renovation of the Shively Training Facility
The Commonwealth Stadium upgrades, which will include new sod, are expected to be ready for the home opener against Central Michigan on Sept. 10.
With the addition of the video and sound system, which is expected to cost close to $6 million (demolition and installation included), UK Athletics has invested more than $14 million in renovations and upgrades to football facilities at Commonwealth Stadium, Nutter Training Center and Nutter Field House over the last six years.
Last year, Pear and his crew renovated the Nutter Training Facility, revamping the football team's weight room, locker room and meeting rooms. Where folding chairs used to sit in small rooms, expanded meeting rooms, similar to miniature theaters, have been refurbished.
"When you've got six or eight offensive linemen in a room that's smaller than this office, it's just not very functional," Pear said of the previous meeting rooms.
Also, a main meeting room, equipped with projection screens and "smart" technology, has replaced old racquetball courts in Nutter. The room can be used for team-wide film sessions, presentations or recruiting purposes.
Even if the upgrades aren't just a case of keeping up with the Joneses of the Southeastern Conference, the additions were imperative for a program that's trying to rise in the nation's strongest league.
"I don't see us engaging as much in the arms race as much as I see us getting things functional and up to date for today's athletes," Pear said. "That doesn't mean we weren't paying attention before, but if someone builds one for $2 million, that doesn't mean you go build one for $3 million."
One might raise an eyebrow at the upgrades to football if they were the only additions going on, but Pear has had his hands full with plenty of other sports and facilities.
The front facing of one of the two old scoreboards at Commonwealth Stadium is nearly complete. The installation of the new Daktronics video boards is expected to start in early August. (photo by Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
"We know what keeps the overall ship afloat, but every sport is important," Pear said. "Mitch (Barnhart) started that attitude from an overall operations standpoint. We place just as much importance in our softball program, our baseball program and our gymnastics program, just like we do with our football program."
Case in point: Pear's biggest project this summer is the $12 million track facility being constructed between the old Shively Track and baseball's Cliff Hagan Stadium. As Pear termed it, it's a "complete redo" of the facility.
Nothing more than a smoothed dirt field at the moment, the new track facility is expected to be operational for the spring 2012 season. Without an outdoor track facility for the next few months, the track and field and cross country teams will use the Nutter Field House as its practice facility. Other designated areas around UK's campus will be set up for track and field's throwers.
The construction is an inconvenience for the teams during the building process, but the previous facility was bordering on unusable. Last year, Barnhart tabbed the existing track's conditions as "unacceptable."
"We've basically had a track that's been non-functional from a collegiate competitive standpoint," Pear said.
Pear is hopeful the foundation of the actual track will be completed before winter arrives, allowing the team a means of outdoor practice while the stadium seating, concourse and other structures are built around it.
The hope is to host six to eight collegiate and high school meets a year, including the Southeastern Conference Championships and the state high school track meet, but no events have been scheduled for the 2012 spring season as a precaution for potential construction delays.
"It brings people to campus both from a competitive standpoint for recruiting but also just to our campus," Pear said of the advantage of a new track. "A lot of the things we've done over the years with state high school tournaments, there are probably only a select few that may be SEC-caliber athletes, but the bottom line is you get people on campus who say this is a nice place and they want to come to school at the University of Kentucky."
Just down the street, Pear and his crew are about to embark on a $950,000 interior facelift of the Shively Training Facility, which houses the locker rooms and weight room of several Olympic sports, including the baseball and men's and women's track and field teams.
Pear said the bare basics of the facility - the heating, the ventilation and the structure - are still in good shape, but the complex is in need of some updates. Beginning in about a week, new drywall, new ceilings, new floors - the "whole bit," as Pear described it - will be laid at Shively, specifically in the locker rooms of each team.
By the completion of the project, which should end in November, the goal is to give Shively the look and feel of a modern facility.
"The hallways, we're going to transform those so that when you walk in to Shively, you don't know if you're walking into the Craft Center or into Shively Sports Center," Pear said.
The new field at UK Soccer Complex is perhaps the smallest project that Pear and his crew are managing this summer, but right now it's the most critical to get finished in preparation for the Aug. 23 women's soccer home opener. A construction crew dug up the old field months ago, but a freak weather year has delayed the crew from laying the new sod.
"It's been one of those crazy years for weather," Pear said. "It wasn't like we had rain for two weeks straight, but we would get rain for two days straight and it would be so wet that you'd have to wait. By the time you were about to get back on it, it would rain again. We're just at a critical point right now at trying to be ready for the first game."
Pear said the renovation of the field isn't just new sod. Old drains are being repaired and the base of the field is being reconstructed. Because of the draining problems of the old soil, the new soccer field will be a sand-capped surface with moisture sensors in the field that will allow the Sports Turf department the ability to monitor soil moisture levels and reduce overwatering. Six inches of sand will sit on top of the base of the soil and then Bermuda grass will grow on top of that.
Other minor renovations will be made to the UK Soccer Complex in addition to a permanent tower to shoot film.
Of course, with all these projects going on, many might ask when a new baseball stadium might come or what the update is on a new basketball arena. The city of Lexington is currently studying the feasibility of redesigning and renovating Rupp Arena and the Lexington Center.
Future projects that are on the docket include moving the fences back at the UK Softball Complex and the addition of a new video/scoreboard. Pear also said men's tennis coach Dennis Emery is working hard to get some supporters to the table to fundraise an expansion at Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex. That renovation, which is still in the planning stages, would include an expansion of four courts to six courts in the indoor facility, plus updated locker rooms.
Pear has a giant board in his office to organize the numerous projects going on and to help him look to the future. Prioritizing what needs to be done for an aging infrastructure can be a difficult job, but Pear said they have to look at UK's facilities situation as a need-to-need basis.
"We've gone around and looked at everything and said, 'That would be nice, but that's not exactly what we need. What we need is this,' " Pear said. "Mitch has made it a priority now to make sure that when he retires, that part of the department is in good shape to where another AD won't have to worry about it."
Fundraising, of course, also factors into prioritizing the facilities projects, as does the year-to-year fiscal budget. The list can change on a frequent basis, and capital dollars must also be allocated to Kentucky's normal facility operations, like painting and sprucing up UK's current facilities.
"You want a plan of the things we're looking at down the road and try to attack those in order of whatever priority you set them in," Pear said. "Sometimes the priority changes because of certain circumstances. If a donor comes forward and says, 'I'd like to do this and here's what I'd like to do,' you need to listen. Unless we're going to get in a capital campaign, this is how we have to do these things."
It's made for one busy summer for Pear and his crew.
Although it's been a relatively quiet summer in terms of news, it's been an active summer for UK Athletics facilities.
In an effort to strengthen and improve Kentucky's athletic infrastructure, several of UK's facilities are undergoing renovations or complete overhauls. The facility projects include Commonwealth Stadium, a new track facility and the UK Soccer Complex.
I decided to drive around to each facility today to snap a few pictures of the process. For those of you that aren't in Lexington, it should give you a better idea of the kind of activity going on this summer on UK's campus.
New track facility
The new UK track facility is expected to be completed by the spring 2012 season. Situated between Cliff Hagan Stadium and the old track facility, the new facility will include will include a practice area, team meeting and storage building, meet administration building, stadium seating, plaza and concourse, in addition to the track, pits and throwing lanes.
Commonwealth Stadium has been re-sodded for the upcoming 2011 season. The field will continue to use Bermuda 419 grass.
The front facing of UK's two scoreboards, located at the end of each end zone, are scheduled to be removed over the next month. Two new high definition Daktronics video boards, measuring 37 feet high by 80 feet wide, will be installed in their place. The project, which will also include LED ribbon boards and a new sound system, is expected be completed by the season opener on Sept. 10.
UK Soccer Complex
The UK Soccer Complex is getting a new playing surface for the 2011 season, which will continue to feature Bermuda grass. The field will have a new baseline irrigation system that will have motion sensors in the field, which will allow the Sports Turf department the ability to monitor soil moisture levels and reduce over-watering.
Move over Tonys. Take a backseat Oscars. The Scratchies (again, not a skin disease) are back.
I know it's been an unbearably long and grueling six-month wait since we introduced the Scratchies, but fear no more, it's time to introduce the 2011 spring semester winners.
Not to be confused with ESPN's Herbie Awards or UK's end-of-the-year CATSPY Awards - although I must confess, many award winners will repeat the CATSPYs - the Scratchies offer no actual hardware or glitzy awards show. Instead, these honorees have earned the appreciation of a lowly blogger trying to pass the beginning weeks of a long offseason.
A couple of the award names have changed, but the objective is the same - to look back at another semester of UK Athletics. Remember, these award winners only constitute the spring semester of UK Athletics action. The fall winners can be found here.
Please feel free to disagree and comment on who you think should have won in the comments section below. Keep in mind, this is all for fun.
Without further ado, here are the semiannual Scratchies:
MVW (Most Valuable Wildcat) Brandon Knight, men's basketball - There were a lot of candidates for this semester's awards. There is Eric Quigley, who guided the men's tennis team to a national quarterfinals berth and finished the season ranked No. 7 in the nation. There is Megan Yocke, the heart and soul of the record-setting softball team. And let's not forget about Ethan Settlemires' clutch performance in the rifle national championship. But it's hard to ignore what Knight did in this year's NCAA Tournament. Knight's dramatic game winners against Princeton and Ohio State were the highlights of a Final Four run that fans will never forget. Stepping into the gargantuan shoes of John Wall and the sensational freshman class of 2009-10, Knight and the 2010-11 team proved it could play a little basketball as well. Next week, Knight is expected to be a top-five pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Honorable mention: Megan Yocke (softball), Eric Quigley (men's tennis), Ethan Settlemires (rifle), Victoria Dunlap (women's basketball)
The Dream Team (team of the semester) Rifle - Much like the previous award, this could have gone to a number of squads, including the men's basketball, men's tennis and softball teams. But the rifle team won a national championship. You know, that ultimate goal that every team sets out for at the beginning of the year that only a select few ever win. Ethan Settlemires didn't know it at the time, but his last shot in air rifle - the final shot of the match - would determine the national championship. Settlemires needed at least an 8.0 to capture the elusive title. The junior came through in the clutch with a 10.7, winning the program's first national championship. Honorable mention: Men's basketball, men's tennis, softball
Harry Mullins has been the one constant staple in the success of the UK rifle program over the last three decades. (UK Athletics)
The Adolph Rupp Award (coach of the semester) Harry Mullins, rifle - As sweet as that rifle national championship was, it was even sweeter for Mullins, the longtime coach and most important figure in program history. Since 1982, Mullins and the UK rifle team have been one in the same. In his journey from a former student-athlete to a part-time coach to the symbol of the program, Mullins has taken the rifle team from its infant stages and built it into one of the nation's top programs. Year after year, Mullins and the rifle team came agonizingly close to winning the whole thing, only to fall short with seven top-three finishes. Whether it was by a string of fate or pure coincidence, Mullins finally won that coveted national title in the same town where his late father served as a sergeant in the military and raised his family. Honorable mention: Rachel Lawson (softball), John Calipari (men's basketball), Dennis Emery (men's tennis)
The Josh Harrellson Award (most improved player) Josh Harrellson, men's basketball - Harrellson's turnaround his senior year was so significant and so inspiring that we've renamed the award after him. Before this year, Harrellson had played a total of 403 minutes and scored 151 points for Kentucky. By the end of his senior year, Harrellson had transformed himself into the nation's most improved player and one of the best big men in the NCAA Tournament. Transforming his body and work ethic after the legendary tweet about his head coach, Harrellson went on to average 7.6 points and 8.7 rebounds this year, including an 11.0 scoring average in the NCAA Tournament against some of the nation's top post players. Harrellson's spirit and leadership were just as valuable to the team's Final Four run as his presence in the paint and unpredictable production. Harrellson's storybook season will be remembered decades from now. Honorable mention: Alex Musialek (men's tennis), Meagan Aull (softball), Samantha DeMartine (softball)
The Butler-VCU Award (surprise team) Women's golf - In her first year as head coach, Golda Johansson Borst wasn't expected to do much with the Kentucky women's golf team. After all, the program had been to just one NCAA Tournament since 2000. But with just one senior on the team and a wealth of midseason injuries, including two to the top two players, Ashleigh Albrecht and Betsie Johnson, UK returned to the NCAA Tournament for the 16th time in school history. With most of the team returning next year, the future is bright for women's golf. Honorable mention: softball
One Shining Moment (best moment) Annie Rowlands and Meagan Aull's hits send softball to Supers - The Kentucky softball team went to its third straight regional appearance with bigger expectations and higher hopes. The coaches and players talked about making it to their first Super Regional in program history, but as the third-ranked team in the Ann Arbor Regional and with the second-ranked team in the nation in the same regional, the reality of advancing was pretty slim. And yet, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, with one win over No. 2 Michigan standing in the way of a historic march, Kentucky entered the bottom of the seventh trailing 1-0. With Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Jordan Taylor dealing a gem and the nation watching on ESPN, Meagan Aull belted a changeup over the fence in right field to tie the game. Five batters later, with one out and the bases loaded, senior Annie Rowlands, a sub-.150 hitter, came through with the biggest hit in program history, a game-winning single over the first baseman's head. The RBI bloop advanced UK to its first Super Regional, which the school would go on to host. Honorable mention: Brandon Knight's game-winning layup vs. Princeton; Knight's game-winning shot vs. Ohio State; Ethan Settlemires' winning shot to capture the national championship; Alex Musialek's match-clinching win vs. Louisville; gymnast Andre Mitchell's 39.550 score in the all-around, UK's highest score in 15 years
The "Band is Out On the Field" Award (best game/match) Men's tennis vs. Louisville in the NCAA Tournament - What happens when you combine your archrival with postseason play? You get some edge-of-your-seat theater. That's what the Kentucky-Louisville men's tennis match brought in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. After UK grabbed the doubles point, the singles matches went back and forth in front of a raucous crowd at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex. Every 10 minutes it looked like the match was going to go a different way. With Kentucky holding a 3-2 lead and courts No. 1 and No. 2 split in a 1-1 tie, everyone raced to the center courts to watch the decisive matches. Eric Quigley, UK's top player, dropped his match in three thrilling sets to tie the match 3-3. Moments later, though, after dropping the first set 5-7, Alex Musialek won the third set in dominating fashion, 6-0, to clinch the match and send UK to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year. Honorable mention: softball's win over Michigan in the regional finals; men's basketball's upset of No. 1 Ohio State
Brandon Knight hit a game-winning jumper over Ohio State's Aaron Craft with seconds remaining to send UK to the Elite Eight and eventually its first Final Four since 1998. (photo by Chet White, UK Athletics)
The Doug Flutie Hail Mary Award (best play) Brandon Knight's game-winning jumper vs. Ohio State - Once again, there was plenty to choose from, but Knight gets the nod on this one given the magnitude of the situation. Against the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and with the game tied 60-60, Knight pulled up from just inside the arc and drilled a jumper with five seconds left to send Kentucky to the Elite Eight and eventually the Final Four. For a team that failed to close during the regular season, it was an unforgettable moment in an unbelievable season. Honorable mention: Brandon Knight's game-winning layup vs. Princeton; Ethan Settlemires' winning shot to capture the national championship; Brittany Henderson's game-winning layup vs. LSU
The Jimmer Fredette Award (breakthrough player) Alex Meyer, baseball - Alex Meyer's first two years in the at UK were defined by potential and upside. In 2011, Meyer broke through with the type of year that everyone expected years earlier when Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein showed up on his doorstep at the end of Meyer's high school career with a lucrative multi-million dollar contract. Meyer, with big-league stuff, finished the year as the Southeastern Conference leader in strikeouts, complete games and complete-game shutouts. Two weeks ago, Meyer was selected by the Washington Nationals with the 23rd overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, UK's highest draft pick since Joe Blanton went No. 24 in 2002. Honorable mention: Meagan Aull (softball), Greg Ferrucci (swimming and diving)
All-Calipari Team (all-freshman team) Greg Ferrucci, swimming and diving - Named SEC Male Freshman Diver of the Year and advanced to the NCAA Championships Terrence Jones, men's basketball - Tabbed SEC Freshmanof the Year after averaging 17.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in his first year Doron Lamb, men's basketball - Not to be overshadowed by Knight and Jones, Lamb averaged 12.3 points, hit a team-high 38 3-pointers and poured in a then-freshman record 32 points in December Emily Holsopple, rifle - Appeared on the fall semester's list, but she certainly qualifies again after earning first-team All-America accolades and winning a national championship Bernisha Pinkett, women's basketball - On a team with talented freshmen, averaged 7.0 points in just 18.7 minutes of action
All-Up-and-Comers (non-freshmen on the rise) Jessica Stiles, women's tennis - Led a rebuilding women's tennis program with 11 wins Darius Miller, men's basketball - Came on late in the season to win SEC Tournament MVP Chanda Bell, softball - UK's all-time strikeout leader will enter her senior season as one of the top pitchers in the nation Thomas McCarthy, baseball - Ranked third in the SEC with .371 batting average, including 19 doubles and 39 RBI Brittany Cervantes, softball - UK's career home-run leader will be the centerpiece of next year's offense
All-Wildcat Team (the Scratchies equivalent of the All-America Team) Brandon Knight, men's basketball - Replaced No. 1 overall pick John Wall by averaging 17.3 points and leading UK to the Final Four, plus first-team Freshman All-America honors Victoria Dunlap, women's basketball - Program's No. 2 all-time scorer led the team to its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance and became the highest WNBA draft pick in school history Eric Quigley, men's tennis - The nation's No. 7 player finished the year with a school-record-tying 45 wins Megan Yocke, softball - Heart and soul of record-setting softball team became just the second player in school history to earn All-SEC accolades all four years Colin Boevers, track and field - Won the SEC discus title and was one of nine student-athletes to advance to NCAA Outdoor Championships
All-Rex Ryan Team (when you need a sound bite, these are your go-to guys) Josh Harrellson, men's basketball John Calipari, men's basketball Matthew Mitchell, women's basketball Harry Mullins, rifle Amber Smith, women's basketball
Stacey Eden of the UK track and field team (second from the left) confessed that he's owned the jacket he wore to the 2011 CATSPY Awards since middle school. (photo by Chet White, UK Athletics)
The Craig Sager Award (best/worst dressed) Stacey Eden, track and field - Depending on your taste in style, Stacey Eden of the track and field team was either the best dressed of the year or the worst. One thing is for certain: he caught people's eyes at this year CATSPY Awards. Eden (pictured to the right) attended the annual end-of-the-year awards show with a shiny gold suit, a patterned button-up, blue bowtie and sunglasses. Top that, Craig Sager
The Streak (strangest stat or streak) Men's basketball in the clutch - Before the NCAA Tournament, the Cats couldn't hit a shot to save their lives. UK entered the tournament 1-6 in games decided by five points or less, which included missed last-second shots that could have won or tied the game against Florida, Arkansas and Ole Miss. But when the season was on the line and the stakes mattered most, Kentucky - particularly Knight - came through with game-winning shots against Princeton and Ohio State.
She said what? (quote of the semester) Rachel Lawson, fighting back tears after losing to Cal in the Lexington Super Regional - "I feel really good about the future of the program. But I feel best about the fact that this group was - nobody thought they could win. I love (Samantha) DeMartine and (Meagan) Aull, (Megan) Yocke's OK. I know (Annie) Rowlands, for her to be able to come up with that big hit. I wanted them to go to the World Series. So far I'm the only one who's been there and I'm tired of having the upper hand on them."
The Best Dougie (best dance/celebration) Jarrod Polson, men's basketball - In 2009-10, the John Wall Dance was the unofficial celebration of the Wildcats. This past year it was, without question, The Dougie, a dance made famous (or infamous) by Matthew Mitchell at Big Blue Madness. Jarrod Polson continued the craze on national TV after Kentucky defeated North Carolina and advanced to the Final Four. Check out his rendition below.
After a fantastic (and much-needed) vacation, I'm back in the saddle for a little bit, at least until I take another vacation in the coming weeks. A big thanks goes to Guy Ramsey for filling in for me while I was gone. It looks like he kept everyone up-to-date on the Southeastern Conference meetings in Destin, Fla., as well as kicked off the "Where are they now" series with a great story on Dicky Lyons Jr.
Here are a few notes that we didn't get around to that should catch you up on everything going on around Big Blue Nation:
- Alex Meyer became Kentucky baseball's highest MLB Draft pick since 2002 when he was chosen by the Washington Nationals with the 23rd overall selection Monday, but the draft is far from over for current Wildcats. Rounds 2-30 will take place Tuesday, starting at noon, followed by rounds 31-50 on Wednesday. Current Wildcats Chad Wright, Thomas McCarthy, Jordan Cooper, Braden Kapteyn, Michael Williams and Taylor Black could all hear their names called over the next couple of days. Wright, McCarthy, Cooper, Kapteyn and Williams are underclassmen and could return to UK next year.
- One thing that wasn't mentioned on here last week from the SEC meetings was the new oversigning limit for football scholarships. The presidents and chancellors of the league voted unanimously last week to cut the number of scholarship players a school can sign from 28 to 25. It was a pretty fair compromise between the SEC coaches, who didn't want any restrictions on how they manage their rosters, and the critics of the critics of oversigning. Jon Solomon of The Birminghman News has a pretty good recap on the new limit here.
- Former UK women's golfer Mallory Blackwelder will play in her first U.S. Open on July 7-10 after qualifying for the major tournament this past weekend. Blackwelder, the daughter of former Kentucky coach Myra Blackwelder, finished third out of 69 players in the qualifying event with a 14-over-par 156 total. The U.S. Open will take place at Broadmoor East in Colorado Springs, Colo., the same course where Blackwelder qualified.
- Men's basketball head coach John Calipari continued his "State of the Cats" series last week on his website, CoachCal.com. In last week's address, he talked about UK's draft-eligible players and gave his opinion on each. You can read his full thoughts here, but the most interesting part, I thought, was that Enes Kanter would be his No. 1 pick if it were his decision. Here is an excerpt of what Calipari had to say:
This one is so hard for me because as more and more people see what we saw all year at the Joe Craft Center with Enes, I can't help but think how much more special last season could have been if our big teenager had been able to join us for our Final Four run! He just turned 19 a few weeks ago. There is a strong possibility that Enes could be the No. 1 overall pick. If it were my decision, Enes is who I would pick at No. 1. Here's why: he can truly be a dominating kind of player; he can be a Karl Malone-type big man. As the league gets smaller (size-wise) his ability to dominate his position will grow. He's got a position and a true size. If he doesn't go No. 1 he will go shortly thereafter and the teams that passed on him will look back and wince at that decision. I'm biased because I love him, but I'm also talking in pragmatic terms.
- The final UK Athletics event of the 2010-11 athletics year takes place this week in Des Moines, Iowa, for the NCAA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Sean Hilen is traveling with the team and should have the full details of the event later Tuesday in a release. The championships begin Wednesday.
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes.
These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, May 15:
Track & Field: Colin Boevers
Senior Colin Boevers claimed his second-straight SEC discus title on Sunday at the Spec Towns Track in Athens, Ga. Boevers used a career-best throw of 196-00/59.74m to secure his second-straight discus championship on his opening throw of the competition. The senior eclipsed the field by 12 feet, seven inches, defeating a pair of Auburn freshmen Stephen Saenz (183-05/55.92m) and Marcus Popenfoose (179-11/54.84m). The title extends UK's streak of discus champions to four straight dating back to Chase Madison in 2008 followed by Rashaud Scott in 2009.
Baseball: Thomas McCarthy
Junior third baseman Thomas McCarthy carried Kentucky to three wins during a four-game week, including a huge series win over Georgia ... McCarthy swung the bat at a blistering pace, batting .684 (13-for-19) with nine RBI during the four-game week and batting .714 (10-for-14) with two doubles, two homers and eight RBI during the three-game series with Georgia ... McCarthy got UK out of the gate strong on Friday night, batting 3-for-4 with his 18th double of the year ... During Saturday's series-clinching win, McCarthy had a career game, launching two homers and charting a career-high four hits, adding four RBI ... In the Sunday game, McCarthy again totaled three hits, adding three RBI and another double, his conference-pacing 19th of 2011 ... The Corvallis, Ore., native extended his hitting streak to a club-best seven games and owns five consecutive three-or-more-hit games ... In a win on Tuesday over Indiana, McCarthy went 3-for-5 with an RBI ... McCarthy's offense put the Wildcats on his shoulders during the week, helping UK to its first series win over Georgia since the 2007 season, falling just shy of sweeping the Bulldogs for the first time since 1993 ... On the year, McCarthy leads UK with a .359 average, totaling 19 doubles, one triple, seven homers and 34 RBI, swiping eight bases ... In SEC play alone, McCarthy has hit a club-best .392 with eight doubles, one triple, five homers and 19 RBI ... The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder leads UK with 27 two-out hits and has added 17 two-out RBI, hitting .403 with two outs ... In addition, McCarthy has charted a team-pacing 17 two-strike hits in 2011.
Softball - Kentucky has advanced to the NCAA Tournament as an at-large bid for the third consecutive season. - The Wildcats are one of just 31 teams in the nation to achieve three straight bids. Seven teams from the SEC have matched UK's feat. - Sophomore Kara Dill led the Wildcats in their opening round loss to eventual-champion Tennessee in the SEC Tournament. Dill was 3-for-4 with a triple and a run driven in. - Senior Megan Yocke was tabbed to the SEC first team for the second straight season. She is now just the second player in school history to earn All-SEC status in all four seasons. - Senior Meagan Aull was tabbed the SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year. She is the first UK player to win the award. Aull and teammate Kara Dill were named to the All-SEC second team. Emily Jolly was tabbed to the All-SEC Freshman team.
Baseball - Behind the blistering bat of junior Thomas McCarthy and a red-hot offensive attack, the Kentucky baseball team posted three wins during a four-game week, including the first series win over Georgia since the 2007 season, falling just shy of the first UK sweep of the Bulldogs since the 1993 season. - The Wildcats rode a dynamic offensive approach during the four-game week, batting .393 overall with nine homers, 59 hits and 33 runs scored as a team. UK was led by McCarthy throughout the week, with the third baseman batting .684 during the four games and .714 (10-for-14) during the three-game weekend. McCarthy tallied his first career multi-homer game on Saturday, as UK clinched the series with a dominating 12-5 win. - The Wildcats have been led offensively by McCarthy, who paces UK with a .359 average, adding an SEC-leading 19 doubles, one triple, seven homers and 34 RBI and eight stolen bases. Chad Wright has hit .345 with 14 doubles, six homers and 34 RBI, swiping 16 bags. Shortstop Taylor Black has added a .308 mark with three homers and 37 RBI, while UK's two-man catching tandem of Luke Maile and Michael Williams have combined for 16 homers and 57 RBI. - On the mound, UK has been led by one of the top starting pitchers in the country, junior right-hander Alex Meyer (6-5, 3.06 ERA), who leads UK and the SEC with 101 strikeouts in 94 innings. In relief, UK lefty Alex Phillips (1-2, 2.36 ERA) has appeared in a team-high 26 games with two saves and only one walk in 34.1 frames. Freshman Trevor Gott (2-4, 2.73 ERA) has added two saves in 22 relief outings, with 32 strikeouts in 26.1 innings.
Men's tennis - With the score tied 3-3 and a spot in the NCAA Championships Sweet 16 on the line, University of Kentucky men's tennis junior Alex Musialek downed Louisville's Viktor Maksimcuk 6-0 in the third set, giving No. 10 Kentucky a 4-3 victory over No. 24 Louisville in the second round of the NCAA Championships. - The win for Musialek advances Kentucky to its second consecutive Sweet 16 of the NCAA Championships. It is the first time UK has advanced to consecutive Sweet 16s in 19 years when the 1991 team fell in the round of 16 and the 1992 team fell in the quarterfinals. The Wildcats are now 42-3-1 all-time against the Cardinals. - Kentucky continues to add to its school record for wins in a single season, moving the record to 28 wins. The Wildcat are now 6-2 this year against teams ranked 11-25 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings and 17-8 overall against ranked foes. - Kentucky finishes the season with an 18-3 record at the Boone Tennis Center and improves its home record to 46-9 since the start of the 2009 season.
Track and field - Senior Colin Boevers won his second-straight SEC discus title with a career-best throw of 196-00/59.74m on his opening throw of the competition. The title extends UK's streak of discus champions to four straight dating back to Chase Madison in 2008 followed by Rashaud Scott in 2009. - The leading point scorer for the Wildcats was senior Mary Angell, who, after a career performance on Saturday in the discus, put together a personal-best throw of 53-06.25/16.31m in the shot put to finish third. The senior is now third on both UK's discus and shot put all-time lists. - Keith Hayes finished third in the 110m hurdles with a career-best time of 13.70, which ranks second all-time at UK. Hayes continued his streak of personal records in the 400m hurdles with a time of 50.96, improving his place on UK's all-time list to third. - In two grueling long-distant events, the 3,000m steeplechase and 5,000m run, junior Luis Orta claimed top-five finishes in both. Orta added to his second-place finish in the steeplechase with a fifth-place performance in the 5,000m run with a time of 14:25.68. - The men's team finished seventh overall with 54 points while the women's team finished eighth with 42 points.
Tuesday, May 17 Baseball hosts Western Kentucky - 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 19 Men's tennis vs. Florida - 3 p.m. (Stanford, Calif.) Baseball at Florida - 7 p.m.
Friday, May 20 Softball vs. Notre Dame - 5:30 p.m. (Ann Arbor, Mich.) Baseball at Florida - 7 p.m.
Saturday, May 21 Softball vs. Michigan/W. Michigan - Noon/2:30/5 p.m. (Ann Arbor, Mich.) Men's tennis vs. Southern Cal/Ga. Tech - 3 p.m. (Stanford, Calif.) Baseball at Florida - 4 p.m.
Sunday, May 22 Softball vs. Michigan/W. Michigan/Notre Dame - 1 p.m./3 p.m. (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
An aerial view of the demolition process of UK's old track facility. The new track facility, which will begin construction at the end of the demolition process, is expected to be completed by next spring. (photo courtesy of Aerial Innovations)
Softball - Kentucky has clinched a spot in the SEC Tournament for a school-record third consecutive season. - UK had all five of its SEC games canceled last week due to weather-related incidents. - The Blue and White wrap up regular-season action with a three-game series at home against Auburn. On Sunday, UK will host Senior Day for Meagan Aull, Samantha DeMartine, Annie Rowlands and Megan Yocke.
Baseball - The baseball team completed a four-game week, highlighted by a sweep-clinching win over rival Louisville, before falling in a series sweep at six-time NCAA Champion LSU. - Kentucky posted a 7-1 win over Louisville on Tuesday, clinching a series sweep over the Cardinals, the first sweep in the series since UK won two in 2006. - UK fell 9-5 Thursday night as LSU plated eight runs in the eighth inning to erase a 5-1 UK lead and post the series-opening win. UK junior Alex Meyer turned in another dominating outing, striking out 10 and allowing only four hits, with two hits going as infield hits. On Saturday, LSU used big innings to secure a 12-4 series-clinching win. In the series finale, LSU got a three-run inning in the first and rode a strong pitching outing from Ben Alsup and closer Matty Ott to a 8-4 win. Senior Neiko Johnson had the best weekend of his injury-shortened year, collecting four hits in five at-bats, including three doubles and four RBI. - Kentucky has been led offensively by junior Chad Wright, who has hit .331 with 11 doubles, two triples, four homers and 29 RBI. Senior shortstop Taylor Black has added a .324 average with 13 doubles, two homers and 31 RBI, while third sacker Thomas McCarthy has added a .311 average with an SEC-leading 16 doubles, four homers and 23 RBI. - On the mound, Meyer (4-5, 3.32 ERA) has established himself as one of the top starting pitchers in college baseball, making 11 starts on the weekends and tossing seven quality outings and three complete games. He leads the SEC with 91 strikeouts in 78.2 innings, allowing only 11 extra-base hits in his 61 hits allowed.
Men's tennis - Four men's tennis players were named All-SEC performers, setting a new school record for honors in a season. - Junior Eric Quigley was named to the first team, while senior Alberto Gonzalez and junior Alex Musialek were named to the second team. Freshman Tom Jomby was named to the freshman team. - The first-team honor is the second consecutive for Quigley, while Musialek has been named second team in back-to-back seasons. The All-SEC honor is the first for Gonzalez.
Track and field - Senior Keenan Hall captured the Kentucky school record in the triple jump with an event-winning leap of 15.72m/51-07.00, surpassing current teammate David Banks who set the previous school record of 51-05.50 in Columbus, Ohio, last season. - Junior Keith Hayes finished second at the Drake Relays with a career-best time of 13.76 in the 110m hurdles, shooting him to second in the SEC and on UK's all-time list. - Senior Sharif Webb collected the top spot among his collegiate competitors in the 800m run with a time of 1:48.48. The senior was the only collegiate athlete to run in the final, finishing sixth. - Six underclassmen recorded personal bests Sunday at the Payton Jordan Invitational, including sophomore Cally Macumber who moved up to No. 4 on UK's all-time 5,000m run list with at time of 16:19.13.
Women's golf - The women's golf team will begin play Thursday in Daytona Beach, Fla., in the East Regional of the 2011 NCAA Women's Golf Championships. - The Cats will field junior Ashlee Rose, sophomores Ashleigh Albrecht, Betsie Johnson and Heather Lott, and freshman Liz Breed. - Albrecht enters the East regional with the lowest scoring average on the team (75.40).
Thursday, May 5 Women's golf at NCAA Regionals (Daytona Beach, Fla.)
Friday, May 6 Baseball hosts Vanderbilt - 6:30 p.m. Softball hosts Auburn - 7 p.m. Women's golf at NCAA Regionals (Daytona Beach, Fla.) Track and field at Billy Hayes Invitational (Bloomington, Ind.)
Saturday, May 7 Softball hosts Auburn - 1 p.m. Baseball hosts Vanderbilt - 6:30 p.m. Women's golf at NCAA Regionals (Daytona Beach, Fla.)
Luis Orta doesn't remember what he was thinking a few months ago during a typical 10-mile run for the Kentucky track and field team, but there are few times when he has thought more clearly.
When Orta discarded this pair of shoes into a nearby trash can, he felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. Track and field athletes go through shoes like napkins, but Orta didn't feel right throwing away something that still had use to it.
Feeling at fault with himself, Orta went home and talked to his roommate and teammate Josh Nadzam about the shame he was feeling. Together, they came up with an idea.
Instead of just throwing away the shoes, what if they gathered them up and shipped them to developing countries and people in need, they thought. Sure, the shoes had been worn, but they were in perfectly good shape for anything outside of a track athlete's use.
In an impromptu meeting, Orta and Nadzam turned the idea into a plan. They were going to start a shoe drive on UK's campus and donate the footwear to Soles4Souls, an organization of Nashville, Tenn., that has found new homes for more than 13 million pairs of gently used shoes within the last six years.
"As runners we go through a lot of shoes throughout the season," Nadzam said. "Every 400 miles we get a new pair to prevent injury. We realized that instead of throwing these shoes away, we could round them up and given them to people in desperate need. We then thought, 'Why stop at the track team? Let's make it campus-wide and city-wide.' "
The two went to work that day. They texted, called, emailed, "Facebooked" and "Tweeted" anyone they knew, including UK student-athletes. They also sought help from Kentucky's media relations department and got the word out through the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Kentucky Kernel.
After the first day of the drive, they had collected 100 pairs of shoes. By the 10th day, they'd amassed more than 400 pairs.
Nadzam, as the male winner of the Community Service Award at Monday night's CATSPY Awards, had a chance to plug the shoe drive on stage and has received hundreds of pairs since. As of Wednesday, they've collected more than 1,000 pairs.
"The response we have gotten is tremendous," Nadzam said. "So many people have offered to help. Many people have told me that they are doing their own small shoe drive and will bring us the shows they collect at their church, work, fraternity, sorority or other organization. It's incredible."
The two are hoping UK's student-athletes realize the impact they can have on people and how they can make a difference around the world.
"We are so thankful and appreciative of our opportunities as athletes here at UK," Nadzam said. "We want to do as much as we can to give back to those who are not as fortunate."
The shoe drive will continue through next week and conclude May 6. Those interested in donating to the drive can drop off shoes at UK's Center for Academics and Tutorial Services, which is located at the front of Memorial Coliseum.
Orta and Nadzam are so driven to collect as many shoes as they can that they've offered to come get them and pick them up. Contact Orta and Nadzam at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a pickup time.
Before Kentucky can build its new track facility, the old one next to Cliff Hagan Stadium must be torn down. That process started Monday, which you can read about here. I stopped by Monday and snapped a few photos of the demolition process. They should give you a pretty good idea for how badly a new facility was needed.