Five Wildcats Win Gold During SEC Championships Finale
By Jacob Most
March 1, 2014 -
COLLEGE STATION, Texas. – Five Wildcats won gold on Saturday, giving Kentucky six individual gold medals total, as the UK track and field teams wrapped up their most successful Southeastern Conference Indoor Championships in a generation, on Saturday at Texas A&M’s Gilliam Indoor Stadium.
The sixth-ranked Kentucky women finished fourth with 72 points, and the men were fifth with 69.33.
Matt Hillenbrand won both the mile and 3,000-meter championship, while Kendra Harrison (60m hurdles), Dezerea Bryant (60m), Keffri Neal (800m) and Bradley Szypka (shot put) all earned individual gold medals.
Second-ranked Florida won the women’s championship with 102 points over No. 3 Texas A&M’s 96.5, and No. 1 Arkansas won the men’s championship with 121 to No. 2 Florida’s 106.
The men’s team more than doubled its total score from last season and the women came close to doing the same. Last year the men were 10th with 30 points, and the women’s team finished seventh with 34 points.
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.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the way this team performed this weekend,” head coach Edrick Floréal said. “It takes a lot of talent, but more importantly hard work and commitment to succeed at the SEC-level. I told everybody on the team before the meet that each of them had to commit to being successful. Very many of them did that, and we took a big step in the right direction.
“Although we are pleased with our success we are still not satisfied with our current position in the SEC team ranking. We look forward to getting back to work for our toughest challenge yet.”
The 2014 SEC Championships were dominated by senior Matt Hillenbrand, who earned the Cliff Harper Commisioner’s Trophy, awarded to the meet's the highest point-scorer.
Hillenbrand totaled 20 points, completing the SEC double as on Saturday he won the conference mile championship for the second-consecutive season a day after claiming the 3,000 meters on Friday.
Hillenbrand had to come from behind on the final straightaway to win the mile last season, but on Saturday he showed just how much he has progressed in a year’s time. Just like in the 3k final, Hillenbrand looked comfortable for the duration of the mile and won comfortably with a time of 4:03.80 on Saturday.
Hillenbrand tied for the commissioner’s trophy with Florida’s Arman Hall, who also scored 20 points having won the 200 meters, finished second in the 400m and claimed two points as part of the second-place 4x400m relay.
In addition to Hillenbrand’s 20 points, plenty of other Wildcats notched double-digit points over the course of the meet.
Kendra Harrison won the 60m hurdles in a meet-record, nation-leading 7.94 seconds, a time that ranks tied for No. 7 all-time among collegians. She dethroned the three-time defending champion in the event, Jasmine Stowers of LSU.
Harrison was joined on the podium by teammate Kayla Parker, who won the SEC bronze medal with a personal-best time, 8.16, which is the 10th in the NCAA this season. Kentucky actually had the first, third and fourth-place finishers in the 60H, scoring 21 points, as Leah Nugent also ran a PR 8.20, which ranks 14th nationally.
Harrison became the first woman in school history to win a women's 60m hurdles championship. The previous meet record of 8.00 was set by Auburn's Vonnette Dixon in 2000.
Dezerea Bryant had a career-day and finished with two personal-bests. She won the 60m championship with a nation-leading, school-record tying 7.16 and then placed second in the 200m championship.
Bryant is Kentucky's first-ever SEC 60m Champion. Texas A&M’s Kamaria Brown won the 200 with a world-leading 22.5 from the second heat, while Bryant ran the second-fastest indoor 200 on earth this year, 22.75 out of the first heat of the two-heat final.
Brown and Bryant will likely square off again in two weeks at the NCAA Championships, and if they are both among the top-4 qualifiers from the preliminary round, will be pitted against each other in the same final heat.
Keffri Neal ran a lifetime-best time to win the 800 meters in 1:48.94, charging from behind on the last straightaway to win his first SEC title, and the first by a Wildcat at 800m indoors sinc Brian Maslyar in 1987.
He was sixth in the event last season.
Neal came back to run the 1,200m leg of the distance medley relay, in which UK placed fifth with a time of 9:47.28. Adam Kahleifeh (mile), Terence Boyd (400m) and Robert Scharold (800m) made up the rest of that four-point scoring relay.
Bradley Szypka won his first SEC Championship in the shot put, as his first throw 19.47m/63’10.5” held up throughout the competition. He became the first Wildcat to win the SEC shot put since 2004.
Not to be forgotten, Kendra Harrison was seventh in the 60m final. The result meant that Harrison scored 12 points within a 15-minute span because the 60m hurdles final was just moments before the 60 dash.
The women’s 4x400m relay team of Nugent, Bryant, Morganne Phillips and Harrison placed fourth with a time of 3:36.65 to score five points.
Harrison finished the meet with 13 points, Bryant notched 19 and Nugent tallied six.
Allison Peare turned in a workhorse performance scoring points in both the mile and 800m. She won bronze in the mile, with a school-record lowering 4:35.14 before running 2:07.74 in the half-mile for sixth-place and three points. She finished the meet having contributed 9 points to the Wildcats’ cause.
Charles Moushey set the UK freshman record in the pole vault as he cleared 5.13m/16'10” to place fourth and finish as the top freshman in the event.
Chelsea Oswald contributed four points with a fifth-place finish in the women's 5k, a season-best time of 16:25.35.
Rebecca Famurewa scored in the weight throw for the second year in a row, with a top mark 19.37m/63'6.75" to place sixth.
Kentucky’s next meet will be the NCAA Championships in two weeks at Albuquerque, N.M. Declared entries with time/marks that rank inside the top-16 in the nation will qualify for the NCAA Championships.
Kentucky will host the SEC Outdoor Championships in May, and then the 2015 SEC Indoor Championships.
o men’s Cliff Harper Trophy, awarded to the meet’s high-points scorer, each tallying 20 points.