Cats Step Up as SEC Preparations Begin
Feb. 11, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The University of Kentucky track and field team completed a successful first day at the Tyson Invitational, highlighted by two victories that were a result of lifetime-best performances from junior Precious Nwokey and freshman Shelby Kennard on Friday in a snow covered Fayetteville, Ark.
With Southeastern Conference Championships just two weeks away schools send split squads across the nation in search of the best competitions in each event area. Kentucky sent sprinters, jumpers and vaulters to the Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark., distance runners to the Husky Classic and mostly throwers to the Akron Invitational. Fayetteville was the center of attention Friday for the Wildcats with all but one UK athlete competing at that location.
Nwokey came away with personal-best marks in two crucial events, the 60-meter hurdles and long jump, that will help her make a championship run in the pentathlon at the SEC Championships. The junior began the day with an event-winning jump right out of the gate, completing her first jump at a distance of 20-02.50/6.16m. Nwokey's mark eclipsed her previous personal best of 19-08.00 and elevated her from eighth to fifth on UK's all-time long jump list.
"Precious took another giant step in her attempt to become a nationally competitive multi-event athlete," assistant coach James Thomas said. "She actually predicted her distance in the long jump so it's good to see the mental and physical preparation meeting in a positive way."
The native of Houston, Texas wasn't done rearranging the records book in her next event, the 60m hurdles. Nwokey used a personal-best time of 8.46 to finish 12th in the semifinal round, while moving up three spots on UK's all-time 60m hurdles list to No. 7.
Also early in the competition, Kennard took control of the women's pole vault as the only athlete to clear 12-09.50/3.90m, securing a first-place finish. After passing at 11-03, she clipped the bar at 11-09 and needed a second attempt before passing with ease. Next, Kennard would go for a personal-best height of 12-03, and with no hesitation, she passed on her first attempt, moving on to 12-09.50. The mark was only half an inch away from the school record held by teammate Samantha Stenzel. The freshman failed on the first pass but came back strong on the second, clearing the bar for the win and second place on UK's all-time pole vault list. Kennard took three attempts at 13-01.50 but was unable to clear.
"This was a breakout meet for Shelby," Thomas said. "She made some incredible technical adjustments and looked like she competed to win. This is a great time of year to build some confidence."
Junior Keith Hayes continued his consistent running as he made his way through two qualifying rounds to the finals with times of 7.95 and 7.86, respectively. With a gap of nearly seven hours between the prelims and the finals, the junior claimed his fourth consecutive top-five finish with a time of 7.90. It was the first time this season that UK runners were faced with a preliminary round, a semifinal round and a final due to the number of entrants, showing the magnitude and strength of the Tyson Invitational.
The Cats will continue action Saturday in Fayetteville, with field events starting at noon and running events starting at 2:00 p.m. ET. The Husky Classic will be available on Flotrack.org beginning at 5 p.m. ET with live results available throughout the event at gohuskies.com. The Akron Invitational will begin Saturday at 9:30 a.m. ET with live results available at gozips.com.
For continuous updates follow the UK track and field team on twitter @KentuckyTrack, and at UKathletics.com.
Women's Pole Vault (Auto: 4.30m)
1. Shelby Kennard - 12-09.50/3.90m
8. Samantha Stenzel - 11-09.75/3.60m
Women's Long Jump (Auto: 6.38m)
1. Precious Nwokey - 20-02.50/6.16m
Women's 60m Hurdles Prelims (Auto: 8.14)
17. Precious Nwokey - 8.55q
Women's 60m Hurdles Semi-Finals (Auto: 8.14)
12. Precious Nwokey - 8.46
Women's 400m Dash (Auto: 52.60)
40. Shiara Robinson - 56.29
60. Jazmyn Shorer - 57.41
Men's 60m Hurdles Prelims (Auto: 7.70)
11. Keith Hayes - 7.95q
Men's 60m Hurdles Semi-Finals (Auto: 7.70)
6. Keith Hayes - 7.86q
Men's 60m Hurdles Finals (Auto: 7.70)
5. Keith Hayes - 7.90
Men's 60m Dash Prelims (Auto: 6.60)
30. Kyron Joseph - 6.88
49. Kadeem Kushimo - 6.95
Men's 400m Dash (Auto: 46.15)
51. Cody Miller - 49.20
64. Ben Mason - 49.97
70. Cortlandt Harris - 50.28