Hillenbrand Wins SEC 3k Championship, UK Totals Four Medals

By Jacob Most
Feb. 28, 2014 -

Results | Saturday Heat Sheets

COLLEGE STATION, Texas. –  Kentucky senior Matt Hillenbrand solidified his status as one of the best men’s distance runners in school history when he won the Southeastern Conference 3,000-meter Championship on Friday at Texas A&M’s Gilliam Indoor Stadium.

With the victory Hillenbrand became a two-time SEC Champion as he won the mile title in 2013, a championship which he will defend on Saturday. He was the No. 2 qualifier into the mile final, with a time of 4:08.05, which came just three hours before he won the 3K.

Hillenbrand executed a near-perfect race as he sat near the front of the pack for much of the race before he seized control with a few laps remaining to win going away in a time of 8:00.08.

Kentucky had the first and second-place finishers in the event as Adam Kahleifeh posted more than a 7-second personal-best time 8:02.94 to finish in second-place comfortably. Between Hillenbrand and Kahleifeh, Kentucky picked up 18 points in the 3k.

Matt Hillenbrand. (Photo by Mohammad Khursheed)

“Matt ran an absolutely perfectly-executed race,” head coach Edrick Floréal said. “From the beginning to the end he looked was in control. Also you have to remember he ran the mile earlier today, and executed that race to perfection too. I think sometimes when an athlete gets so confident and so aware of what their body is doing they can perform at that level.

“Matt is at the place right now where he feels really good about where he is at, and really confident about his ability. Doing the double was a bit of a gamble, but we felt doubling here would help his chances at the NCAA Championships.”

UK picked up medals in two additional events as Ibn Short had a lifetime-best two-day meet in the heptathlon, to win the silver medal as a freshman. Short finished with a school-record 5344 points, which was a 433-point personal best.

He got better as the meet when on, and battled down the stretch to secure his point-total. He ran a 6.11-second 1,000-meter PR in the last of seven events.

In the high jump Justin Kretchmer took the bronze medal in a five-way tie as he cleared 2.06m/6'9" to score four points. Ryan Ratliff also had a top clearance 2.06m/6'9" – a season-best – but placed tied for eighth based on taking two attempts to clear the lower height as opposed to the third-place finishers who cleared it on the first attempt. Ratliff picked up the first .33 points of his career.

Sha'Keela Saunders placed fourth with about a five-inch PR mark 6.2m/20'4.25" to score five points and finish as the top freshman in the event, while Kenyattia Hackworth was sixth (6.14m/20'1.75) to add three points.

Madison Jacobs earned her first SEC Championship-point as she was the eighth-place finisher, and top freshman to place in the shot put with a mark of 15.11m/49'7".

The Kentucky men’s team surpassed its 2013 point-total, and sits in second-place overall with 30.33 after two days. They scored 30 for seventh-place last season.

The UK women’s team is in eighth place with 10 points after Friday, but advanced eight to Saturday running-event finals in addition to field events and the 5k final.

Two Wildcat men advanced to Saturday finals in preliminary qualifying heats that were run on Friday.

UK’s top qualifiers were highlighted by senior captain Allison Peare along with Dezerea Bryant and Kendra Harrison as each of those three qualified for two Saturday finals.

Peare ran a 800m indoor/outdoor personal-best time 2:06.01, just a few hours after she cruised into the mile final with a time of 4:48.44.  

Dezerea Bryant also cruised into the 60m dash final with a time of 7.18 seconds, just .02 seconds off her nation-leading PR. Later in the day she posted a time of 22.92, to qualify for the 200m final in the second spot on time behind Kamaria Brown’s 22.51, which leads the world.

Saturday’s final will be a showdown between Bryant and Brown, who are the two fastest women in the world indoors at 200m this season.

Kendra Harrison was the top 60m hurdles qualifier as she posted a time of 8.07, Leah Nugent qualified No. 4 with a PR time 8.26 and Kayla Parker was the No. 5 qualifier (8.27). Harrison also made the 60m final with a time of 7.31 which was seventh-fastest into the final and a PR.

Keffri Neal ran 1:49.42 to win his prelim heat and qualify for the 800m final, a time .47 off his PR.

Saturday will be the final day of the SEC Championships, with the action set to begin at 2 p.m. ET.