Ranked Wildcat Teams Host Impressive Kentucky Invitational Field

Jan. 15, 2009

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Kentucky track and field head coach Don Weber says this weekend's Kentucky Invitational field could be the most competitive home indoor meet in the history of the UK program. One thing is for sure, it will definitely be the largest with several hundred athletes competing at Nutter Field House on Friday and Saturday.

The Invitational begins with only select field events Friday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. ET. On Saturday, field events resume at 10:30 a.m. before running events begin at 12:30 p.m. Fans can find a complete schedule of events at www.UKathletics.com/track for the most recent times. Live results can also be found at that location after the completion of each event throughout the weekend.

The Wildcats will compete in their first meet of the indoor season. The Kentucky men open up the season ranked 11th and the UK women stand 22nd in the preseason poll released by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).

Last season, three Wildcats earned Indoor All-America honors. UK sent 12 athletes to the NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville, Ark. There the women's squad finished in a tie for 46th at the Championships.

Several returning UK athletes played a big part in the successful 2008 indoor season.

After claiming their best NCAA Outdoor result in school history last summer with a ninth-place finish the UK men have a solid foundation returning to build upon. Senior thrower Rashaud Scott returns to Lexington as the first UK track and field athlete since 1996 to win an NCAA title. The discus title holder will compete in the weight throw and shot put during the indoor season.

Two 2008 Olympians return for the Blue and White in sprinter Jose Acevedo and hurdler Mikel Thomas. Acevedo and junior Kwasi Obeng will be relied on heavily in a revamped 4x400m relay after losing two veterans to graduation in Nathan Browning and Justin Harrison.

UK will also be without the services of sophomore Indoor All-America selection Derrick Locke, a long jump specialist who was injured during the Wildcat football season. Sophomore David Banks will lead a young jumps squad in 2009.

Senior thrower Chase Madison comes back for the Cats after red-shirting last indoor season and sophomore Colin Boevers also returns after placing ninth in the shot put at the SEC Indoors last year.

Seniors Gordon McKenzie and Brandon Austin will provide veteran leadership in sprints and relays.

Meanwhile, distance specialist sophomore Adam Henken makes his 2009 track debut after qualifying to run as an individual at the 2008 NCAA Cross Country Championships.

The Kentucky women's distance squad will be led by senior Jessica Ortman who returns to the track after leading the UK cross country team back to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1989. Ortman and her twin sister Jenna Ortman will form the foundation of this year's distance medley relay squad that placed second at the SEC Indoor Championships a year ago.

Senior Andrea Halasek and juniors Katherine Peterson and Lindsay Petri add depth to the distance event area after their NCAA Cross Country Championship experience last fall.

Senior throwers Emilee Strot and former All-America selection Ashley Muffet will lead a strong contingent in the shot put and weight throw in 2009.

Senior Ashley Trimble along with sophomores Danielle Sampley and Ashley Newby look to continue their progress after re-writing the UK multi-event record books last season. Trimble and Sampley will also head the hurdles contingent this season.

Sophomore Jazmyn Shorter will lead a young sprint squad after a strong rookie season. Junior Mary Chris Durham returns after setting a new school record in the pole vault last season while sophomore Ke'Undra Bishop will be a leader in the jumping events after making the UK record books in the triple jump as a freshman

Weber is looking forward to the start of the season.

"Our expectation every year is for everyone on our team to become better competitors," Weber said. "When we want to be our best, against the best competition, we are at our best. That's what we're concerned with here. You'd like to think that with our ability and greater experience, that combination will ultimately help us accomplish that goal."

Four ranked teams from schools well-known to UK fans join the Wildcat men's squad in Nutter this weekend led by No. 4 Florida. In-state rival Louisville comes into the weekend at No.9 nationally, while SEC foes South Carolina and Georgia rank 16th and 20th in the country, respectively.

Other conference member teams making the trip to Lexington include Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss and Tennessee. Georgia Tech from the ACC, Miami (Fla.) of the BIG EAST and Illinois from the Big Ten will also line-up at the starting line this weekend. Three regional schools - Eastern Kentucky, Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee - round out the invitational field.

The competition on the women's side is just as tough with five ranked teams joining the Cats. The Volunteers of Tennessee, ranked fourth in the nation lead a strong contingent. Fellow SEC rivals Florida (No. 13) and South Carolina (No. 16) and two BIG EAST squads in 20th-ranked Miami (Fla.) and Louisville (No. 25) complete the ranked squads this weekend.

Other SEC schools in the mix on the women's side include Auburn, Georgia, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. Two teams from power conferences in Georgia Tech and Ohio State will visit the Bluegrass. Several regional schools will also compete this weekend including UCF, Eastern Kentucky, Marshall, Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky.

Click on UKathletics.com for the latest results from the Kentucky Invitational this weekend.