Sixteen Top-25 Teams to Compete at UK: McCravy Preview Part I

By Jacob Most
Jan. 21, 2015 -

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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The title "best meet in the country" is a lofty distinction, but this weekend's Rod McCravy Memorial Track and Field Meet - hosted by the University of Kentucky inside Nutter Field House - has as good a claim to that title as any indoor regular-season meet in the country this year.

But why does the McCravy Meet outstrip better-known indoor meets such as Arkansas' Tyson Invitational or Washington's Husky Classic? In short, the answer is the concentration of elite teams and athletes not just in one discipline, but across the board of events in the track and field program.

"The one thing about this weekend is no matter where you are in the country, if you're a track and field person, you will have your eyes fixated on Lexington, Kentucky," UK track and field head coach Edrick Floréal said.

The 2015 McCravy Memorial Meet features all-but one of the top-seven ranked teams in the nation, including sixth-ranked UK, and eight of the top 25. Eight of the NCAA top-25 men's teams in the nation will be on hand.

The field is made up of track and field blue bloods the likes of Oregon, Florida, Arkansas, Texas, LSU, Florida State, Georgia, USC, Ohio State and Baylor in addition to Missouri, Miami (Fl.), Illinois, and Virginia.

Other meets might produce a similar quantity of highly-ranked teams, but generally speaking those meets only bring in top competitors in segmented groups.

For example Tyson Invitational, annually held two weeks before conference championships is known for its talented crop of sprinters who flock to the same meet in search of NCAA qualifying times. That same weekend the nation's best distance runners tend to travel to the Husky Classic.

The McCravy Meet stands alone as the nation's most competitive regular-season competition because of its concentration of elite teams and competitors in all disciplines, be it in sprints, distance or field events (just how deep the field is will be explored in greater depth in Part II of the McCravy Preview).

So just how did the McCravy turn into such a carnival of fast times, far and high jumps and heavy objects being flung long distances?

The answer starts with third-year head coach Floréal, who on a quest to make the UK track and field relevant, sought to make the sport attractive to members of Big Blue Nation by creating a fan-friendly environment while attracting the nation's best.

With the backing of the UK athletics administrative leadership, Nutter Field House has transformed during indoor track meets into what amounts to an indoor fair grounds for those who John Calipari might call "track and field bennies." Fans are encouraged to move about the infield where they can watch from distances of mere feet away on elevated runways for jumps events while they can also set up shop just inches off the track.

But the fan-friendly atmosphere would be all for naught without an influx of talent, but starting in 2014 the best in the sport began flocking to Lexington.

In 2014 a field of 14 schools, which included six top-25 teams combined to produce eight NCAA-leading times/marks, 47 NCAA top-10 times, four school records amongst all competitors and four times that remained world-leaders through the end of the month.

Buoyed by the news that elite athletes could post top times and marks in Lexington - even on the oversized track of Nutter Field House - the number of ranked teams has ballooned to 16 of the top 25 counting both men's and women's teams this year.

So the McCravy Memorial has evolved into the nation's most competitive meet. Friday and Saturday the collective eyes of the collegiate track and field world will focus squarely on Lexington, where the season's first large-scale congregation of elite athletes will form.

One thing is certain: records will fall.

Honoring Rod McCravy
The high level of competition at the meet has turned into a fitting tribute to its namesake: the late Rodriq McCravy.

McCravy, a UK track athlete, died at the age of 19 in 1987 while sleeping in his dorm room. Although only a sophomore, Rod had already become the track team's leader. His personal charisma and genuine care for others earned him the respect and admiration of all his teammates.

His personal impact on his teammates, friends, and coaches went well beyond athletics. A social work major, Rod is remembered as a dedicated, enthusiastic athlete, a conscientious student, a cherished friend and most important, an outstanding human being.

A graduate of Louisville Trinity High School, Rod was a two-time class AAA state champion in the 300m hurdles. He once held the UK freshman 400m hurdles record (53.35), and was part of a then-school record 4x400m relay team.

The meet is named in his honor to help members of the UK track and field community to rememeber him as well as provide an ongoing opportunity to speak about Rod and the positive influence he had on everyone who knew him.

How to watch
Admission to Nutter Field House is free on both Friday and Saturday.

The meet will be broadcast on SEC Network+ on Saturday beginning at Noon ET. The live broadcast, with legendary track and field announcer Dennis McNulty on the call, will feature highlights of some of the top events from Friday as well.

Multi-events will start the days off on both Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m. Field events will begin at 3 p.m. on Friday, and at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

On Friday the running events will get under way at 6 p.m., while on Saturday they will start at Noon.

Fans can park in the C-6 (Green Lot) outside Nutter Field House and Commonwealth Stadium for free on both days of the meet.

Part II of the 2015 McCravy Preview will take an in-depth look at some of the most competitive events this weekend.

2015 Rod McCravy Memorial Collegiate Participants
Florida State (Men: No. 20/Women No: 9)
Missouri (Women: No. 24)
LSU (Men: No. 10)
Texas (Men: No. 8/Women: No. 5)
Florida (Men: No. 1/Women: No. 1)
Ohio State (Men: No. 24)
Oregon (Men: No. 2/Women: No. 3)
Georgia (Men: No. 11/Women: No. 4)
Arkansas (Men: No. 3/Women: No. 7)
Kentucky (Women: No. 6)