March 2, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. – University of Kentucky senior distance runner Luis Orta has had an exceptional indoor season. On Friday afternoon it became a historic one, as the Southeastern Conference coaches named Orta the Men’s Runner of the Year. It is the first time since the SEC began giving out the award in 2004 that a Wildcat has earned the honor.
“Being named SEC Men’s Runner of the Year is great honor for me,” Orta said. “I know how competitive and prestigious this conference is. This is the product of a lot of hard work, but most importantly, the help of teammates, coaches, friends and family. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t even be here right now. I love my team and all the people that always believed in me. This gives me motivation to want more and work even harder to achieve my goals. I’m proud to be Venezuelan, and I’m proud to be a Kentucky Wildcat.”
Orta leads the SEC in the 3,000-meter and 5,000m runs this year and won both races at the SEC Indoor Track and Field Championships on Feb. 24-26. The Caracas, Venezuela native tied Ole Miss’ Ricky Robertson as the Cliff Harper Trophy recipient given to the high-points scorer of the championships. Each student-athlete earned 20 points for their respective school.
“It was a tremendous accomplishment for Luis to do the double and win the men’s 3K and 5K, and obviously it’s fantastic that he has won this award,” UK head coach Don Weber said. “It’s wonderful that the other coaches in the SEC have recognized Luis for this honor.”
Orta was the first SEC student-athlete to win both the 3K and 5K in the same championships since Georgia’s Ian Burrell in 2007. In addition, Orta was the first Wildcat ever to win the 3K and the first to win the 5K since Richard Ede won the race in 1987. On the men’s side, Orta was the only competitor in the SEC to win two events during the championships.
Orta has two of the best runs in UK history already this year. In South Bend, Ind., on Feb. 4 Orta ran an 8:08.09 in the 3K, the eighth fastest time in program history. While in Seattle for the Husky Classic one week later, Orta clocked the fourth fastest 5K in UK history, clocking in with a time of 14:02.45.
2012 SEC Indoor Track and Field Awards
Men’s Runner of the Year: Luis Orta, Kentucky
Men’s Field Athlete of the Year: Ricky Robertson, Ole Miss
Men’s Freshman Runner of the Year: Patrick Rono, Arkansas
Men’s Freshman Field Athlete of the Year: Andrew Irwin, Arkansas
Women’s Runner of the Year: Kristen Gillespie, Arkansas
Women’s Field Athlete of the Year: Tina Sutej, Arkansas
Women’s Freshman Runner of the Year: Erika Rucker, South Carolina
Women’s Freshman Field Athlete of the Year: Erica Bougard, Mississippi State
Men’s Coach of the Year: Chris Bucknam, Arkansas
Women’s Coach of the Year: Mike Holloway, Florida