Jan. 12, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky men’s and women’s track and field teams will open their 2012 indoor seasons with the annual Kentucky Invitational on Friday and Saturday at the E.J. Nutter Field House.
Competition Friday begins at 6 p.m. ET with four different field events kicking things off. Saturday’s competition will begin at 10:30 a.m. The two-day event is free to the public and live stats will be available at UKathletics.com.
“The Kentucky Invitational will give us an opportunity to see what level of fitness our student-athletes have maintained lost or even gained from over the holiday break,” said UK head coach Don Weber, who enters his 28th year leading the Wildcats. “Then, we have so many young people and this will be their first collegiate meet. I’m interested to see how they will adapt to what they perceive to be a high-level competition – most of the time they have a tendency to make it out to be more than what it is. But it’s our first opportunity to get a better picture of where we are right now and what the possibilities are for the rest of the indoor season and the rest of the year.
“What would be really positive for us is if we have a significant percentage of all our people run up to their abilities and compete hard,” Weber said. “That’s kind of what we’re looking for this weekend.”
The Wildcats and Nutter Field House will be busy this indoor season, as the Cats host the Kentucky Invitational on Friday and Saturday, the Rod McCravy Memorial meet on Jan. 27-28, and the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships on Feb. 24-26. It is the sixth time in program history the Wildcats have hosted the meet, and the first time since 2009.
“It’s a double advantage running at home this year because we’re also hosting the SEC Championships here,” Weber said. “We have so many young people, to familiarize themselves with running on an indoor track, and this track specifically, will be good for their confidence.”
In addition to Kentucky, 11 schools will be competing in this weekend’s Kentucky Invitational. On the women’s side, Kentucky will face Arkansas, Bellarmine, Eastern Kentucky, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Marshall, Miami (Fla.), Middle Tennessee, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. The men’s team will face off against Eastern Kentucky, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Miami (Fla.), Middle Tennessee and Tennessee.
Thomas Morgan, Althea Thomas and James Thomas each return as assistant coaches for the Wildcats this year. UK also welcomes in new assistant coaches Sammy Dabbs, who comes to Kentucky from North Texas and will work with the men’s sprints and hurdles unit, and Cory Young, who comes from Grand Valley State and will work with the throws unit.
The Kentucky women’s team returns 16 athletes to its 2012 team, including Shelby Kennard and Samantha Stenzel, who rank first and second in the pole vault in program history. The Wildcats will also look to Cally Macumber, a 2010 All-SEC Freshman Team selection who holds the sixth fastest time in UK history in the 3,000- and 5,000-meter runs, Terri-Ann Grant, Julie Nunn, Allison Peare, Jennifer Svoboda and Chelsea Oswald, among others.
“For the women’s team, we have some capable middle distance and distance runners,” Weber said. “We’re very youthful in the sprints, but talented in the sprints. We’re leaner in the throws than we have been, but we still have some talent there. We also have some vertical jumpers – some pole vaulters and high jumpers – who are capable as well.”
Keith Hayes, who earned first team All-America status in the indoor 60-meter hurdles last season and second team All-America in the outdoor 110-meter hurdles, will guide the men’s team, which returns 16 athletes. Also returning for the men, among others, are juniors Luis Orta who competed last season in the 3,000-meter steeplechase of the outdoor NCAA East Preliminary Round in Bloomington, Ind., and Darryl Bradshaw, who finished fourth in the outdoor 110-meter hurdles at the SEC Championships. The men’s team is also excited about the addition of 16 newcomers.
“The newcomers are enthusiastic,” Weber said. “What I worry about a little bit is how nervous they get, and if they get overly nervous thinking that – even though they’re very capable – now they’re running in college and things need to be different, and in reality they don’t need to be different. You just have to be who you are, do what you can, and things normally work out fairly well.’
After beginning the indoor season at home for the first two meets with the Kentucky Invitational and the Rod McCravy Memorial, the Wildcats will head north to compete in the Notre Dame Meyo Invitational in South Bend, Ind., on Feb. 3-4. Kentucky will then split its squad to compete in the SPIRE Collegiate Invitational in Geneva, Ohio, and the Husky Classic in Seattle, Wash., on Feb. 10-11. The SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships will then come to Lexington, Ky., from Feb. 24-26.
For more information on the Kentucky Invitational and the Kentucky men’s and women’s track and field teams, go to UKathletics.com and follow the Cats on Twitter at @KentuckyTrack.