Kentucky track and cross country athletes Cally Macumber and Chelsea Oswald have had a season to remember. In their first year competing for a new coach staff, Macumber and Oswald were both All-Americans in cross country and are days removed from finishing first and fifth, respectively, in the 3,000-meter race at the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships.
RT: You went 1-3 at SECs (in cross country) and then 1-3 again at the Southeast Regional, pretty remarkable. And then you got to return to Louisville for Nationals. What was your goal going in? Was it All-American (top 40)? Top 20? What were you thinking?
CM: I really had no idea how it would go because I'd never been to a national competition. If I wanted to be All-American I knew I had to be top 40 but in the back of my mind I was thinking maybe top ten. But again I had no idea what to expect. And I was really nervous but it turned out well.
RT: The indoor season has been more of the same -- running at a higher level than previous track seasons and seeing your names up among the best in the country. You've both raced three times indoors and have set personal bests. Can you keep improving?
CM: Obviously there was a lot of momentum at the end of cross country season and we didn't really want to take a break, but we did take a week off and then kind of picked up where we left off. I feel I can definitely improve because I've finished all my races feeling that I have more to give.
RT: Both of you will be back for two seasons during the 2013-2014 academic year, Cally for cross country and outdoor track and Chelsea for both indoor and outdoor track but not cross country. You're obviously a successful training duo and must be looking forward to keeping this going a while longer, right?
CO: We both have our strengths and our weaknesses, but luckily my strengths are her weaknesses and her strengths are my weaknesses. So we definitely complement each other a lot. We're both very competitive people, but we don't get upset with each other if one of us does better than the other. Everyone has good days and bad days. I'm done with cross country but I'll definitely be back and ready for action on the track.
Men's basketball - Kentucky captured a pair of critical home victories this week including an overtime thriller against Missouri. - Senior Julius Mays poured in a team-high 24 points in the win over Missouri on Saturday. He launched four 3-pointers and has now connected on at least one shot from long range in 16 straight games. - Freshman Willie Cauley-Stein notched a career-high 20 points to push UK past Vanderbilt earlier in the week. He followed that performance with a career-high tying 12 rebounds against Missouri to go along with a career-best seven blocked shots. - Alex Poythress scored 21 points, while Archie Goodwin notched 18 - all coming after the half in the win over Missouri.
Women's basketball - Kentucky split road games last week, defeating No. 10/13 Texas A&M 70-66 in College Station on ESPN2's Big Monday before falling at LSU on Sunday in Baton Rouge 77-72. - Against the Aggies, junior center DeNesha Stallworth flirted with a triple-double as she charted 12 points, 12 rebounds and a school-record seven blocks. . - Mathies netted a team-high 20 points at LSU, passing former Wildcat great Victoria Dunlap as UK's No. 2 all-time leading scorer with 1,863 career points.
Gymnastics - Kentucky recorded its best score of the year at Florida on Friday. The Wildcats finished with a total score of 196.075, dropping the meet to the Gators' score of 196.975. - UK's score was good for the sixth best in program history. - The Wildcats used season-high event scores on vault and beam to reach 196 for the first time this season. - Audrey Harrison also notched her sixth all-around title of the season and fourth in a row, scoring a 39.225.
Rifle - The Kentucky rifle team finished second at the Great America Rifle Conference over the weekend, shooting a 4690 over the course of the weekend. - Freshman Connor Davis won the GARC individual air rifle title, shooting a 596 before winning with a 105 in the Final. - Senior Henri Junghanel placed second overall individually with an aggregate score of 1179.
Softball - The UK softball team continued its winning ways over the weekend with a 3-0 record, taking down Georgetown, Howard and USC Upstate. - Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner led the Wildcats offensively with a .583 (7-for-12) average with two doubles, two homers, eight RBI and four runs scored. - Pitchers Ellen Weaver, Katie Henderson and Kelsey Nunley all recorded wins, while Weaver going five strong innings, allowing only one hit and no runs against Georgetown and Henderson allowing only one hit over five innings against Howard. Nunley threw the final nine innings against Upstate to get the win.
Baseball - No. 8 Kentucky continued its season-opening six-game road trip with the Caravelle Resort Invitational, hosted by Coastal Carolina in Myrtle Beach. S.C., picking up wins over CCU and Elon and suffering its first loss of the year to Kansas State in the opener on Thursday. - UK finished the weekend with a ninth-inning win at Coastal Carolina, 2-2. - UK has hit .314 as a team through six games, slugging .435 and reaching base at a .311 clip. UK has stolen 12 bases and on the mound, owns a 3.57 ERA, with 16 walks and 42 strikeouts in 53 innings.
Track and field - The women's track and field team finished seventh in the SEC Indoor Championship team standings with 34 points, and the men finished 10th with 30. - Cally Macumber led all Wildcats with 15 points earned throughout the meet. Matt Hillenbrand led the men with 11.25. Macumber won the women's 3,000 meters SEC championship. - Hillenbrand won the SEC mile championship with a time of 4:01.55. Hillenbrand's time was a new personal best, and the seventh-fastest in school history. The junior became the first Kentucky athlete to win the SEC men's mile since David Freeman took home the title in 2004.
Men's tennis - The No. 6 men's tennis team traveled to Birmingham, Ala., this weekend and collected two wins in a doubleheader with Samford University and Jacksonville State, both by a score of 5-1, to move to 12-2 on the season. - No. 90 Anthony Rossi picked up his 93rd and 94th career wins in a UK uniform on Sunday with wins in both matches for the Wildcats. - Also picking up wins in both ends of the doubleheader for the Wildcats were Beck Pennington, Kevin Lai and Juan Pablo Murra.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team defeated the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks 5-2. - Freshman Nadia Ravita improved to 7-1 in the No. 1 singles slot after defeating Christiana Raymond 6-1, 6-2. - Senior Jessica Stiles and sophomore Stephanie Fox won their singles matches in straight sets, with Stiles winning 6-4, 6-3 and Fox taking the No. 6 singles point 6-3, 6-1. - The Wildcats moved into the rankings for the first time this season, landing in the No. 63 spot.
Men's golf - The Kentucky men's golf team opened up its 2013 spring season, placing 10th out of 16 teams in the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate. UK finished 37-over-par with a final score of 901. - Senior Chase Parker was the low golfer of the week for the Wildcats, finishing tied for 16th overall at 4-over-par. - Junior transfer Ben Stow made his Kentucky debut, placing tied for 27th at 6-over-par.
Swimming and diving - The UK men's and women's swimming and diving teams competed in the 2013 Southeastern Conference Swimming and Diving Championships last week with both the men (368.5) and the women (452.5) finishing in ninth place. - Junior diver Greg Ferrucci earned two second place finishes on the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard events and earned an eighth place on the platform. He broke the program record on the platform in the preliminaries with a 435.5. - Junior swimmer Lucas Gerotto broke multiple program records at the Championships including the 200-IM (1:47.20) and the 100-backstroke (47.29).
Thursday, Feb. 28 Women's basketball at Ole Miss - 8:00 p.m.
Friday, March 1 Softball vs. Illinois - 11:30 a.m. (Tampa, Fla.) Women's tennis at Arkansas - 1:00 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Arkansas - 1:00 p.m. Softball vs. USF - 2:00 p.m. (Tampa, Fla.) Baseball hosts Akron - 4:00 p.m. Track and field at NCAA Qualifying (South Bend, Ind./Fayetteville, Ark.)
Saturday, March 2 Baseball hosts Akron - Noon Softball vs. Loyola Marymount - 12:15 p.m. (Tampa, Fla.) Softball vs. Central Michigan - 2:45 p.m. (Tampa, Fla.) Baseball hosts Akron - 3:00 p.m. Men's basketball at Arkansas - 4:00 p.m. Swimming and diving at Last Chance Meet (Knoxville, Tenn./Athens, Ga.) Track and field at Last Chance Qualifier (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Sunday, March 3 Softball vs. Western Michigan - 9:00 a.m. (Tampa, Fla.) Men's tennis hosts LSU - 1:00 p.m. Women's tennis at LSU - 1:00 p.m. Gymnastics at Ball State - 1:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Akron - 1:00 p.m. Women's basketball hosts Tennessee - 3:30 p.m. Men's golf at USF Invitational (Tampa, Fla.) Swimming and diving at Last Chance Meet (Knoxville, Tenn./ Athens, Ga.)
Throws coach Andrew Ninow has implemented a new training program since his arrival at UK. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
When Edrick Floreal decided to uproot his staff at Stanford and try and rebuild the Kentucky track and field program, he envisioned a program-wide change in philosophy.
That change was immediate and implemented on the spot. When he first met with his team, the message was clear.
"The first team meeting we had with Coach Floreal he basically said everyone needs to improve or you're going to be gone," said junior thrower Isiah Kent. "I think that kind of hit home with some people. I know for the throwers squad, as soon as we heard that, we knew we had to get going."
One of the most important carryovers from Floreal's staff was throws coach Andrew Ninow, who spent four seasons coaching with him at Stanford.
Ninow, one of bright young minds in the sport, was a key hire for Kentucky as he was taking over an already established stable of talent. The throwers at Kentucky had two All-American throwers before Ninow ever arrived on campus in Andrew Evans and Raymond Dykstra.
Early on this season, however, it's been Kent and his training partner Bradley Szypka that have been making waves for the UK throwers. Ninow might have something to do with that.
"I came out the first meet this year and threw a personal record in the shot put," said Kent. "I have to give all the credit to (Ninow). He knows what works for me."
UK currently has two throwers in the top 17 in the nation in the indoor shot put. Kent sits currently No. 17 at 59-02.75 and is chasing Szypka who is knocking on the door of the top10 at No. 11 with a throw of 60-03.00. After strong 2011-12 seasons, both are reaping the benefits of the new throwing program. It's been a complete overhaul in philosophy for the throwers and the results are already showing as UK track and field prepares to host the Rod McCravy Memorial Meet on Friday and Saturday.
"I'm throwing farther," said redshirt freshman Beckie Famurewa. "Not as far as I'd like, I'm obviously never happy, but I know I have the potential in me. I'm a lot more positive about my throwing now, so that's a good thing."
The biggest change in Kentucky's training regiment has been a shift from the weight room back to the track. While there is still a strong emphasis on weight training, Ninow believes that the key to quality throws is increasing the "volume" of throws, or the amount, each day.
"We do lift hard and we're aggressive in the weight room, but our focus is more on the throwing and the movement and a lot, a lot of throwing," said Ninow. "So we probably double the amount of movements they do each day. I think that's my big philosophy because they're more comfortable with what they do."
Ninow's throwers at Stanford had an impressive track record. During his time there, he coached five conference champions and five top-10 and three top-three NCAA finishers. His outside-the-box training philosophies have played a big part in those performances.
Though he's quick to give credit to his former coach at UCLA, Art Venegas, for most of the basics of his coaching and lifting philosophies, he's made several tweaks of his own.
At UCLA, athletes focused heavy on mechanics of the throwing motion with sophisticated movement and drills. But there, they put great energy into high-intensity, low-volume throwing while undergoing high-intensity weight training. He's also added speed training.
"I feel like we're athletes now," said Kent. "We're not just weight-room strong. We can go do a whole variety of things. The increase in volume was big because obviously if you want to get better at what you do, you need to do it more."
When he got to Stanford as a coach, he started tailoring that system to best fit his athletes. With such high academic standards at Stanford, only a few athletes each season could even qualify to compete. In other words, Ninow didn't so much pick his prospective student-athletes. They picked Stanford. That's where the real work began.
"It forces you as a coach to be more creative," said Ninow. "Through that creative process I just kind of liked what I saw. So I've just kind of built on it."
That's why Floreal felt it was important to bring Ninow along with him to the Bluegrass.
"Andrew is a student of the sport," Floreal said. "He eats, drinks and breaths throws. That's his passion."
The transition from Stanford, a place where Floreal and his staff flourished, was a process. For Ninow, it was nearly seamless. It was an important opportunity for him and his wife to start a family with a lower cost of living. While dealing with the obvious culture shock of his new environment, Ninow quickly got to work with his new group of athletes.
Luckily for him, he had arguably the strongest unit of the UK program when he arrived.
"For me, it wasn't as much of a challenge," said Ninow. "I came with some great athletes. I think the throwers are definitely the most productive and talented squad right now. It was an easy transition because they work so hard and they are just very talented and hard-working people.
Instead of having to start from scratch with each of the athletes, Ninow got to focus on the finer details of his craft. With the returning crop of throwers already throwing at a high level, it was his responsibility to elevate them to the next level. Some of those finer details include throwing different weight implements, how many throws each athlete makes every day and their weight lifting program.
"With them, it's more about adding some paint, a little decor and some lawn and you can get going, so it's a little easier," said Ninow, using an apt metaphor for a group of coaches who have had to find new homes in Lexington.
The Kentucky throwers have maintained a high performance level while facing adversity over the last two seasons. This season marks the third straight season that UK will have a new throws coach.
For Famurewa, she was recruited by one coach. She had a different coach when she finally got to UK. Now she and the rest of the throwers have a modicum of stability with Ninow in the fold.
"The change has been nice," said Famurewa. "I like it personally, but I don't know. I was just a freshman, so last year I didn't know any better. This year, I'm more like, 'OK, the change is out of the way. I'm ready to throw.' That's all that really mattered to me."
Floreal, Ninow and the rest of the staff's new philosophy has their athletes thinking big.
Famurewa and Kent each expressed their desire to make the NCAA championships. Kent went on to say he has his eyes set on joining Evans and Dykstra as All-Americans. With the way things are looking for the throwers so far, those seem more like than just hopes and dreams.
"I think the strength in any program is in who gets to nationals," said Ninow. "Getting people to the 'Big Dance' so to speak, that's what you shoot for. For them, it's about getting to those marks.
"It's getting to nationals and getting an opportunity to do something on the national stage for the team. That's the highest level for us collegiately and that's where I want them to be to at the very least experience it and maybe get a few points and put up an All-American on that wall."
Men's basketball • Kentucky dropped its first SEC home opener in the John Calipari era to the hot-shooting Texas A&M Aggies behind a 40-point effort from Elston Turner on Saturday. • UK freshman Nerlens Noel had his best game in the blue and white with 15 points, 11 rebounds, seven blocks, six assists and four steals. He's the first player in the NCAA to put up those numbers in a single game since 1996-97. • Sophomore Ryan Harrow scored in double-figures in the sixth-straight game with 14 points, while freshman Archie Goodwin led the squad with 17 points. Women's basketball • No. 6/6 Kentucky improved to 16-1 overall, 4-0 in the SEC and increased its school-record winning streak to 15 after hard-fought wins over the league's newest members No. 20/21 Texas A&M (65-52) and Missouri (69-43) last week. • Against the Aggies, the Wildcats rallied from a six-point half time deficit, using its tenacious defense along with the hot shooting of reigning SEC Player of the Year A'dia Mathies and redshirt sophomore point guard Jennifer O'Neill. Mathies hit three of her four 3-pointers in the second half for 11 of her season-high 23 points, while O'Neill added 15 points and a career-high eight assists in the win. • The Cats traveled to Missouri for the first time in program history on Sunday and again, it was their pressure defense that sealed the victory and snapped the Tigers' 11-game home winning streak. The Tigers, who came into the game leading the nation in 3-pointers made per game with 9.9, were limited to a season-low two 3-pointers. UK also held Missouri's Morgan Eye, the nation's leading 3-point shooter, to just six points and zero treys for the first time this season.
Gymnastics • The University of Kentucky gymnastics team performed solidly on all four events to gather an overall team score of 195.525, in a win at Auburn on Friday night. • The win was Kentucky's first SEC road victory in a dual meet since 1999, and the first SEC season-opening win since 2008. • The Wildcats are off to the best start in school history as they've compiled two straight scores more than 195 to begin a season for the first time ever. • Junior Audrey Harrison posted a 39.2 to win her first career SEC dual all-around competition, and her fifth career all-around title. • Overall, Kentucky earned 13 season or career-high scores in the meet. Rifle • The Kentucky rifle team won its first match of the spring Sunday with a 4705 - 4687 victory over No. 4 Alaska-Fairbanks. • Senior Henri Junghänel led the Wildcats with an aggregate score of 1184, delivering a 590 in smallbore to go along with a 594 in air rifle. • The Wildcats had a strong showing across the board in air rifle with all six shooters breaking the 590 barrier.
Track and field • Bradley Szypka, Cally Macumber and Darryl Bradshaw dazzled the home crowd in Nutter Field House as all three took event titles on Saturday at the Kentucky Invitational, the Wildcats' first home meet of the season. • Szypka won the shot put for the second consecutive meet with a personal record of 18:36m/60-03.0, which came on his final throw. The mark gave him the No. 4 shot put in the nation this season as of Saturday evening. • Macumber won the mile in PR time of 4:42.30, as she pulled away from the field, which included two unattached runners who competed in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials at 800 meters. • The cross country All-American's time - in her first run of the indoor season - currently ranks as second-fastest mile in the country this season. • Bradshaw won the men's 60-meter hurdles in 8:07, while Brandon Bagley took fifth in the event with a time of 8.24. • Kadeem Kushimo also turned in a PR time of 47.85 in the 400m, which was the best run by a collegiate competitor in the event. The sophomore finished second overall. Upcoming schedule
Head coach Edrick Floreal makes his home debut this weekend at the Kentucky Invitational. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Friday evening marks another important first for track and field head coach Edrick Floreal. Though the 2012-13 track and field season is already underway, this weekend's Kentucky Invitational marks Floreal's first home event since taking over last summer.
When Floreal arrived in Lexington, he knew changes had to be made and that a new era in the Kentucky program would begin under his leadership. It didn't take long him start making a serious impact on the program.
The cross country team went to new heights in 2012, including impressive seasons for Cally Macumber, Chelsea Oswald and Luis Orta with the assistance of coaches Jason Dunn and Hakon DeVries. Macumber and Oswald were both All-Americans and Macumber an SEC champion and sixth-place finisher at the NCAA National Championships.
With the rapid rate of improvement, it's fair to wonder if the track and field results will parallel the cross country success.
"I certainly expect so," said Floreal.
Floreal's success is tied to the desire and dedication of college-age student-athletes and motivating them to achieve greatness with so many distractions can be an ongoing battle.
"You're at the mercy of 18 to 22 year olds," said Floreal. "We are powerful, but we're also powerless because in the end 18 year olds have to deliver the goods. They have to deal with their own nerves."
The day-to-day realities of a college athlete can be overbearing. There are relationships, school, family and countless other variables that could affect performance. The challenge is finding ways to break through and continue to propel his athletes to greatness to meet his goals for the program.
So far, the plan to get there is right on schedule.
"The first goal was to change the culture to get our kids to believe and compete at the highest level of the SEC," said Floreal. "That they belong here. They belong in the SEC."
If the cross country performance last fall wasn't enough validation of that, the first indoor track and field meet of the season in Bloomington, Ind., should have sealed the deal. The Wildcats won nine individual events at Indiana including a record-breaking performance from Morganne Phillips.
Phillips broke a 25-year-old Gladstien Fieldhouse record in the 300 meters with a winning time of 37.70 seconds. Bradley Szypka and Isiah Kent each had huge performances in the shot put that day and their marks stood as the first- and third-best throws in the country respectively at that point.
Those three, along with another handful of athletes on Kentucky's men's and women's teams, would be categorized by Floreal as "elite." There are several more on the cusp of that status, but it's an ongoing process to get those in-between athletes to believe they belong.
Floreal likened his athletes to students who only see themselves capable of getting Cs in school. If they don't think they can be A students, then they never will be. Floreal is constantly pushing his athletes to see themselves as an A athlete before they can perform like one.
"You've got to see an A before I got out there and perform like an A," said Floreal. "Changing the image, the reflection in the mirror, is sometimes easy for some people and very difficult for others."
That change, not only for the program but for the individual athletes as well, can come from many different avenues.
Floreal - much like head men's basketball coach John Calipari, he explained - wants his athletes to fall in love with training just as Calipari wants his players to fall in love with the gym. Whether it's voluntary or forced isn't important. For the head coach, it's by any means necessary.
"Drag them, kicking and screaming, a swift kick in the butt to get them there, encourage them, and pat them on the butt," said Floreal. "Any way you can get the better result. There are no limits to what coaches will do."
Once they get there and commit to working hard, the hope is that it becomes a labor of love, especially once they start to see the results.
"Your hope is that by being in the gym so long shooting, after awhile it's like, 'Alright, fine. I'll just keep doing it,' " said Floreal. "Or you've got a guy that realizes that, 'I've been in the gym all these hours and my shot's beginning to fall.' So then they fall in love with time in the gym and it equals better points per game.
"Then the addiction comes because the guy thinks, 'More time in the gym, I'll hit the shots even better.'"
Another way the team improves is via the self-motivated athletes. Athletes like Macumber, Phillips and Szypka are raising the bar not only for themselves and the team, but at the national level. They are becoming the stars. The motivation for their teammates comes from trying to match or outdo their friends and teammates while creating a competitive atmosphere within the training process.
"They don't just help (the staff)," said Floreal. "They help their teammates because the bar is raised so high that anybody that aspires to be a star of the team, well this is the new bar. This is the person you have to take down. It's the biggest motivator."
What might prove to be a larger motivator would be a packed Nutter Fieldhouse this weekend when UK hosts its first indoor event of the season Friday beginning at 5 p.m. It's been Floreal's goal from the onset to build the fan base. The first home meet of the Floreal era is an important one in the continuing process of growing his program.
Floreal sees an improved fan experience as a way to get more fans to attend. More fans equal a better home atmosphere. A better home atmosphere could lead to a home field advantage for the athletes. It could be the extra push his athletes need to take their performances to the next level.
"People have to come because it makes the student athletes feel like, 'Oh my goodness. There are people in the stands. I want to perform for them,' " said Floreal. "If there's nobody else there, it takes their zip away."
So how does Floreal hope to improve the atmosphere other than an improved team?
They've brought the bleachers closer to the finish line so that fans can "reach out and touch the athletes." They are bringing fans into the infield for a more intimate perspective. They've shortened the length of the meet so that it's no longer an all-day affair.
Floreal is excited, and anxious, to show off the culmination of all the changes they've made as a program to the home crowd.
"I think it's a mixture of excitement and nerves," said Floreal. "You want people to leave with a good impression of what you're trying to display, what you're trying to put out there from a Big Blue Nation track standpoint. I'm a little nervous because I want things to be perfect. It's a new era and we're trying to do things a little different."
Just months into his tenure as head coach of Kentucky track and field and cross country, Edrick Floreal has already seen results.
During the cross country season, the Wildcats improved significantly, with Cally Macumber and Chelsea Oswald each earning All-America honors and Luis Orta joining them at the NCAA Championships. The Cats also participated in their first track meet of the season last week at Indiana with encouraging finishes by many athletes.
As head track and field coach at the University of Kentucky, Edrick Floreal sometimes morphs into his alter ego:
Edrick the Entertainer.
Hired by UK last July to replace the retired Don Weber, Floreal and his staff are on the brink of bringing new twists to the program.
For instance, the annual Rod McCravy Memorial meet in Nutter Field House will feature elevated runways on the infield and temporary stands that will reduce the homestretch to six lanes.
A new facility will enable UK to host a collegiate outdoor meet for the first time since the Southeastern Conference Championships in 1996.
Floreal says he learned plenty at Stanford, where he succeeded Vin Lananna as head coach when the latter took over at Oberlin and, later, Oregon. Lananna stressed making the sport fan friendly.
"I don't want to just be a track coach," Floreal said Wednesday at his desk inside UK's Joe Craft Center. "I want to be sort of an entertainer -- a guy that's out there with the public doing community service, get the community to know you a little bit more. You really worry about the fan and about the community enjoying the sport."
Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart (left) and track and field head coach Edrick Floreal (right), spoke during the grand opening of the new outdoor track and field facility. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
The baton has officially been passed.
The outdoor track and field facility was filled with celebratory emotions and several members who played key roles in the entire process Friday evening, as the grand opening was held in effort to unveil the new facility to the public.
The outdoor facility has been a long awaited for project and was only made possibly by the help of many members within the University of Kentucky athletic department and its supporters.
"This has been a long time coming for a lot of people," UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said.
Barnhart got the night started by speaking in front of many track and field boosters, former coaches and athletes, members of the UK athletic department and special guest and Lexington native, Tyson Gay.
Perhaps the biggest influence in the entire plan was former track and field coach Don Weber. Weber coached the Wildcat track program for more than three decades and was a devoted member of the athletic department.
"Don is a guy that has been absolutely critical in getting this thing going and he was so patient," Barnhart said. "He has been an unbelievable guy in our department for 30 years and he waited his turn. He didn't have the luxury of this facility to recruit but he did have a vision for what he wanted it to be and we owe him a great deal of gratitude for that."
What Coach Weber did was pretty amazing and it takes a special person to build a program up and pass it on to someone else. Barnhart described Weber as an unbelievable person with great humility.
Weber did joke with the attendees saying that after coaching 34 years, had he known the new track would open up this year he may have hung around for a 35th season. Weber did speak very highly of the two people he left the program to and is confident they will take it to the next level.
"The most significant thing that ever happened in UK athletics, happened in 2002 when (then-UK president) Dr. (Lee) Todd hired Mitch Barnhart as the Athletic Director," Weber said. "Mitch is building quality, competitive teams in every sport we have here. A lot of people are very grateful for what he has brought us."
First-year head coach Edrick Floreal is taking over for Weber and the two have a personal relationship with each other. They have associated with each other in the past and Weber knows just what kind of work Floreal is capable of.
Weber assured the crowd that Floreal would take the program to new heights and has no doubt he will be a force for years to come.
"I know Coach Floreal and when I think of him, the one thing I know about Edrick, he is a worker," Weber said. "I described him to (UK administrator and head strength coach) Stephanie (Tracey-Simmons) and Mitch, he's a worker, but he's more than a worker, he's a force."
One of the greatest moments in UK track and field history came back in 1992, when the indoor track and field facility was built. Now that Kentucky has added the outdoor venue, Weber believes UK has the best infrastructures in all of college track and field.
With the new additions, Weber says Floreal and his staff will build the most competitive track team in the history of the University of Kentucky.
It then was Floreal's turn to take the microphone, just as it is now his turn to lead the track program.
He opened up thanking everyone for supporting the program and allowing this to happen, but he quickly shifted gears and gave everyone an example of the type of coach he will be. He will not settle for anything and always wants to keep improving.
"If you have gone this far, I figure you can go a little bit further," Floreal said. "My message is simple, if you guys have gone this far in supporting Don, I'm hoping you can go a little further...This is just the beginning, it's the warm-up. Now we've got to get to the actual workout."
Now that the baton has officially been passed, it's time to get the track program rolling again and soaring to greater heights.
As Floreal was wrapping up his message, he explained to the fans where the program currently stands. He assured them that he is not here to fail and he and his staff will work tirelessly in order to win. In the end, he gave the crowd a hint that trophies will start piling in.
"If you guys thought the job was done, we are just starting," Floreal said. "Don got the basement going, he got it insulated. Now we've got to get a first floor, we've got to get a second, we have to get a third and if we are lucky we might even get an attic and that's where you keep the trophies."
Luis Orta started his senior season with a first-place finish in the Belmont Opener this weekend. (UK Athletics)
There is a bit of a buzz around the University of Kentucky's track and field/cross country program. Those around the athletic department see the sport as ready to take off under newly appointed head coach Edrick Floreal, but it won't happen overnight. Floreal and his staff have brought along a system from Stanford that many of his athletes are new to.
The athletes' bodies are taking a toll from the jumping and hurdle training Floreal and the staff are presenting to them but, overall, the athletes have responded positively to the adjustments.
In Floreal's first meet as the head coach, he saw his Wildcats take home second place in both the men's and women's races at the Belmont Opener in Nashville, Tenn.
Senior men's runner Luis Orta claimed first in the season opener for the third consecutive season. Although Orta's finish followed suit with his previous seasons, not everything went as planned.
"We didn't race with spikes," Orta said. "For me winning the race and for my teammates finishing so close to me without spikes was huge."
Wearing spikes is a different type of running for distance athletes and can cause their calves and legs to become sore if they have not trained long enough with them.
The decision to not wear spikes was surprising amongst the team but that did not hold them back from competing. Instead, they put all of their trust in the coaching staff.
"Yeah I kind of opposed it at first because when I race I want to win and I don't want to give my opponents an advantage," Orta said. "Coach told me everything will be all right and there will be a time for that. I said, 'Okay coach I'll do whatever you tell me to do.'
"The first two miles I thought about it and didn't feel that fast but then in the last mile it didn't matter and I think I can race like that any day. I felt super strong in the end."
Compared to what the team has gone through in the offseason, the spikes were a minor change in the system the coaching staff has presented.
Perhaps the biggest change the cross country team has experienced is the amount of miles run in training. The team has upped their total miles from 50 to over 80 a week. Another addition to the coaching transition has been the exercises aimed to strengthen each runner's body. The team has worked a lot on their core, upper body and legs, including push-ups and abs workouts.
The reactions to the adjustments are seemingly unanimous. The players and coaching staff agree it will take time before they see great results but sense positive signs they are headed in the right direction.
"I think for them it's just getting used to the way I do things," Floreal said. "I think everything has been positive so far. We are excited about the way things are going with the changes and I think the team is excited about doing more together as a team.
"I think there is a good foundation that Don Weber put together and now we are taking the baton and building the rest of the house. We've got a basement and now we've got to build a first, second, and third floor and sometimes it's a little more difficult but nonetheless it's the challenge we have at hand."
The squad is not set to race again until Sept. 22, when they travel to Charlottesville, Va., for the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational. Assistant coach Jason Dunn works with the male distance runners, while assistant Hakon DeVries is in charge of the females.
Dunn and DeVries came to UK with Floreal and experienced their first meet this past weekend in Nashville. With the race being the first of the year, Dunn knew the team wouldn't be flawless, but he did like what he saw.
"It was exciting to have the first meet for me in Kentucky blue," Dunn said. "We know we've got a lot of work and training to do so we didn't expect to be at the top of our game by any stretch, but it was encouraging to see where some of the guys are at. It was nice to see Luis win the race and it was a good start to the season."
Orta won the heat with a time of 15:16.70. The Caracas, Venezuela native was a first team All-Southeastern Conference selection and garnered three SEC Runner of the Week accolades in 2011.
Orta has been a committed runner for UK since his freshman season and continues to show leadership and determination even through the transitions over the summer. He constantly wants to get better and will do whatever it takes to help himself and the team improve.
"He's going to have to be a guy for the entire team that people can look at and say that's the model that is needed to be successful at UK," Floreal said. "He's a unique and special kid that accepts the demands from the coaching staff and understands the expectations and leadership that is going to be put on him. He's willing to do whatever it takes to become the best athlete he can possibly be and set an example for the rest of the team."
The season is young, and a second place finish at the Belmont Opener is a teaser for what this program could offer to UK Athletics this year and in years to come. The coaches are sticking with the same philosophy they have always believed in and have the players buying in on the process.
One of the biggest hiccups is trying to change the habits that have been instilled in the athletes. Weber was a very successful coach and accomplished many great things at UK, producing numerous NCAA and SEC champions. That time is over and Floreal is bringing a new era to the program.
"It's going to take time because you cannot make a change so drastic that quickly," Orta said. "Everyone is happy with the new coaches because we know they are great coaches and it reflects from the training. I've worked harder than I've ever worked in my four years at Kentucky and the team is excited about the change."
Over at UKNow, Sarah Geegan has a story about Cailin Harris and Daniel Buckles from the women's soccer and track and field teams, respectively, Harris - a freshman - and Buckles - a sophomore - are both students in the University of Kentucky's Honors Program, in addition to competing for UK Athletics.
The story talks about Harris and Buckles balance school and sports. Here's an excerpt:
Each year, more than 500 UK students get involved through UK Athletics, programs that carry rich tradition. However, freshman Cailin Harris and sophomore Daniel Buckles took their involvement one step further, engaging in a program that upholds another aspect of the UK tradition -- the UK Honors Program.
Buckles, a decathlete on the Men's Track and Field team estimated that he spends at least 20-25 extra hours per week between the two programs, unsurprisingly touting time management as the most important factor in balancing his commitments. However, he and Harris, a member of the Women's Soccer team, both said that this double involvement actually enhanced both programs -- allowing them to gain skills from one program and apply them to the other.
"It can be really easy to make excuses in terms of grades, but the soccer program is an environment that responds to any mistakes with hard work," Harris said. "I think that translates really well to school. If I don't understand a concept, do I mope about it or do I go get extra help? Do I try to find resources that are going to help me get the grade I want? That is something that I have built up, in the short time I've been with this soccer program."