Saunders & Hackworth's Gold-Silver Finish Ignites UK at SEC Indoor

By Ryan Cox, Jacob Most and Chris Shoals
Feb. 27, 2015

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Sha'Keela Saunders and Kenyattia Hackworth won respective gold and silver medals to spark the No. 9 Kentucky women's track and field team to an early 18 points on the first day of the Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships inside Nutter Field House on Friday.

Saunders, who is the defending NCAA Silver Medalist in the long jump outdoors, improved her school record with a best mark of 21-feet 6 inches/6.55 meters, which is the NCAA No. 2 mark. Hackworth jumped 21'3.5"/6.49m, which ranks No. 4 in the nation and No. 2 on the UK all-time performers' list.

"Definitely a good start, going 1-2 is big time," UK head coach Edrick Floréal said. "And I think the momentum carried on to most of the other events. I think we fizzled out at the end with the distance races, but I think overall good effort."

UK's Tim Duckworth currently sits fifth after day one of the men's heptathlon with an overall score of 2,158 through the first day of the two-day event. The freshman entered the meet with the No. 15 heptathlon score in the nation this season, a PR 5454.

In the Women's 60m Hurdles, defending SEC Champion Kendra Harrison (8.03) and Leah Nugent (8.26) both qualified for Saturday's final, which will be run at 2 p.m. Harrison, who was making her 2015 debut, recorded the second fastest time in the nation outpacing Florida's Bridgette Owens who owns the top-ranked time to the fastest qualifying time.

"Keni coming back having not run one meet yet this year and opening up at 8:03is impressive," Floréal said. "It's a one-time deal if you hit a hurdle you fall and your indoor season is done. Even with Dez performing after a layoff. Those are our headliners and they performed. We just need more people to step up to get a few points here or there."

Sha'Keela Saunders (Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics)

Defending SEC Champion Dezerea Bryant (7.21), Keilah Tyson (7.30) and Javianne Oliver (7.35) all qualified for the 60m Dash finals, which will be held on Saturday afternoon beginning at 2:35 p.m. ET for a spot on the SEC Championships podium. Bryant was the No. 1 qualifier in the 200m - the event in which she is reigning NCAA Champion - and Tyson also made the 200m final.

Rebecca Famurewa placed eighth in the shot put with a throw of 50'5.25"/15.37m.
Lou Styles broke his personal record and set the school freshmen record with a 4:05.18 and qualified for the
Saturday's action, with the team titles on the line, will begin at 10 a.m. ET.

"Everyone is going to be scrapping for a few points here and there," Floréal said. "I'm guessing now that it's going to come down to a barn-burner."

Some of those points that Kentucky has missed in recent years could come from Morganne Phillips. The junior qualified for the 400m final with a time she hasn't approaced in two seasons. After failing to break 54 seconds for the entirity of this and last seasons, Phillips showed the form that led her to All-America status in 2013 running 52.66. She will need to improve that time on Saturday if she hopes to score major points.

Kentucky qualified seven entries into Saturday finals on the women's side. That ties Arkansas for the second most behind Florida with eight.

With five events scored Arkansas leads the women's standings with 49.5 points. Kentucky is in second with 19.

Through four events Arkansas leads the men's standings with 33 points. Kentucky is in 10th place with a point, earned by Terence Boyd in the long jump (eighth place). Boyd jumped 24'3" ½/7.40m.

Setting the Saturday Stage
Tickets will be on sale at the main entrance of Nutter Field House. Single-session tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for youth (ages 3-18) and seniors (65 and older) and free for children ages 2 and under.

The SEC Indoor Championships will be streamed live on SEC Network+ from 1:50-6:30 p.m. ET. The meet will also air as part of a 90-minute show on ESPNU on Monday, March 9 beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET. The broadcast talent includes Dwight Stones (play-by-play), Larry Rawson (analyst) and Jill Montgomery (sideline reporter).
The defending SEC Indoor men's champion is Arkansas, which has captured a league-leading 20 SEC Indoor crowns. The Razorback men have won three consecutive SEC Indoor Championships and nine of the last 10.

The defending SEC Indoor women's champion is Florida, which has won three of the last five SEC Indoor crowns. LSU has claimed a league-leading 12 SEC Indoor women's titles all-time.

Kentucky wearing Pink this weekend
For the second consecutive season Kentucky will sport pink at the SEC Championships. Last year the Wildcats donned pink warmups in a show of support for those affected by breast cancer.

This season, the Wildcats will sport pink jerseys in competition in a nod to February being National Cancer Prevention Month.

"We want to support those in our society that are affected by this terrible disease," Floréal said. "We're trying to take a leading role in our sport in showing that we're not just a bunch a people that make a lot of left turns around an oval all day. We care about what's going on in our world, and this is just one small step to raise awareness."

Throughout the year Kentucky athletes make visits to local hospitals and also engage in fundraising efforts for research and treatment.

Other events to watch
All eyes across the country are on Nutter Field House this weekend. With so many highly-ranked teams and athletes there's good reason why.

Independent media entities Flotrack and have broken down some of the must-watch competitions happening this weekend.

Last year at SECs
At the 2014 SEC Indoor Championships, the Kentucky women finished fourth with 72 points, and the men were fifth with 69.33.

Kentucky's men's and women's teams both placed in the top-5 at the same SEC Championships for the first time since 1988. Additionally, the UK women's team earned its best points total since 2008, when it scored 84.5, and UK earned its highest team placement since finishing fourth in 1989.

The men's team earned its best finish since placing third in 1996 with 85 points.