Two More Wildcats Make Travel Plans for Olympics

July 15, 2008

Lexington, Ky. - Two University of Kentucky track and field team members received invitations to coach and compete at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, China, next month. UK assistant coach for sprints Erin Tucker has been tabbed by the Venezuelan Track and Field National Team to be a guest coach for rising senior Jose Acevedo. Acevedo's classmate, Mikel Thomas, was invited to compete as a hurdler for his home country of Trinidad and Tobago.

Thomas won a gold medal by taking the men's 110m hurdles title during the Sagicor/NAAA National Senior Open Championships at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in late June. The UK varsity record holder in the event ran 13.96 to clinch the top prize over his countrymen on the opening day of competition. On day two of the Championships, Thomas finished second in the 400m hurdles crossing the finish in 51.40. The mark was a personal record for Thomas and ranks third all-time at UK in the event.

On Monday, Thomas received official correspondence from the National Amateur Athletic Association of Trinidad and Tobago notifying him of his selection to the 2008 national team. He will compete in 110m hurdles at the Games.

Thomas joins Acevedo and UK alumnus David Freeman on the track in Beijing. Freeman ran as a Wildcat from 2001-04 and will represent his native Puerto Rico. Earlier this month, all three competed at the 2008 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Championships held in Cali, Colombia.

At the CACs, Acevedo placed third in the 200m dash final with a time of 20.79. Meanwhile, Thomas finished seventh in the 110m hurdles posting a time of 13.84. In the men's 800m final, Freeman finished sixth crossing the line at 1:49.32. Acevedo was also the final leg of the Venezuelan 4x400m relay team that finished fourth clocking in at 3:06.10.

Coach Tucker just wrapped up his fifth season overseeing sprints, hurdles and relays at Kentucky. At the NCAA Outdoor Championships in June, Tucker coached the men's 4x400m relay squad to a third-place finish nationally. The team also set a new school record of 3:02.00 in the process. Under his tutelage, athletes have posted over 30 entries into Kentucky's all-time top-10 marks while the 4x400m relays have quickly become UK's showcase events.

This is not the first time the Wildcat coach has been a member of the Venezuelan National Team's coaching staff. Tucker was asked to be a guest coach for the country during the 2006 CACs held in Cartagena, Colombia. There he helped former Wildcat and Venezuela native Luis Luna finish fifth as part of the 4x400m relay squad and place fifth in the 400m dash. The 2006 Mideast Region Assistant Coach of the Year also guided a young Acevedo to an 11th place finish in the 200m dash.

Acevedo became an advocate for his college coach to reprise his role as a guest coach with his country's national team as he did two years before.

"At the CACs, Jose got on the medal stand for the first time ever in that event for Venezuela," Tucker said. "It's similar to what happened two years ago. At that time, the 4x400m relay time Venezuela ran with Luna was their fastest in four or five years, and they were pretty happy with that. I think they wanted Jose to continue his improvement and consistency in the 200 meters leading up to the Games. Jose told them if I came down to coach him, I would stay on him during training and he could continue his progression.

"I got even better news yesterday when Mikel got selected to represent Trinidad and Tobago. So I am really emotional about it all and am really happy and excited about the opportunity."

Tucker will travel to the Venezuelan National Olympic Training Center in Caracas to coach Acevedo next Tuesday. The Wildcat duo will remain in Caracas until the team travels to Beijing and will return with the national squad when the Games end.

The 2008 Beijing Games will be the first to have multiple athletes represent Kentucky track and field. Acevedo will compete for Venezuela in the 200m dash. Thomas will run the 110m hurdles for Trinidad and Tobago. Freeman will represent Puerto Rico in the 1500m run. UK track and field has been represented by one participant at every summer Olympics since the 1976 Montreal Games with the exception of the heavily boycotted Moscow Games in 1980.

Stay tuned to for Olympic Games updates and more post-season news.

University of Kentucky 2008 Summer Olympic Games Track and Field Participants
Jose Acevedo (Venezuela) -- 200m dash
David Freeman (Puerto Rico) -- 1500m run
Mikel Thomas (Trinidad and Tobago) -- 110m hurdles
Coach Erin Tucker (Venezuela) -- Guest coach