By Jacob Most
March 13, 2014 -
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Kentucky will look to complete one of the greatest indoor seasons in school history with strong performances at this weekend’s 2014 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, which begin for UK on Friday at 8 .m. ET.
ESPN3 will stream the meet live on Friday starting at 7:55 p.m. Eastern and March 15 starting at 7:50 p.m. Eastern. A tape delay of the championship will air Saturday, March 22 starting at 6:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPNU.
The Wildcats have 10 entries, eight from the sixth-ranked women’s side and two on the men’s side, at the NCAA Championships.
Seven of the Wildcats who made the trip to Albuquerque have NCAA Championships experience, although just three – Dezerea Bryant, Kendra Harrison and Allison Peare – have competed at the Indoor Championships.
“You want a proven commodity when you go into the NCAA Championships," head coach Edrick Floréal said. "You don’t want somebody who’s never experienced it. Knowing that they’ve been through the fire, and been challenged and responded positively is big for us. We have a chance to do something special and unique.
“I’m trying to remind them that going into the Southeastern Conference Championships nobody thought Kentucky would do anything, but low-and-behold Kentucky did quite a bit of damage there even with a small squad. I’m just trying to remind them that we’ve been there before and we’re the underdog. They don’t have to put pressure on themselves, all they have to do is show up. When the gun goes off you compete as hard as you can and when it’s said and done we will deal with the consequences.”
Kentucky qualified it’s most competitors to the NCAA Indoor Championships since eight made it from both the men’s and women’s team in 2010.
The Wildcats have turned heads with unprecedented performances throughout the season.
Five Wildcats combined to win six SEC Championships two weeks ago and four of them will be competing at the NCAA Championships. The Kentucky women finished fourth with 72 points, and the men were fifth with 69.33 at SECs as the men more then doubled their 2013 SEC total and the women came close to doing the same.
Most recently UK raked in the Southeast Region’s awards when they were announced Monday.
Floréal was named Women’s Region Head Coach of the Year, Matt Hillenbrand earned Men’s Runner of the Year, Bryant garnered Women’s Runner of the Year and Tim Hallwas named Women’s Assistant Coach of the Year for the second year running.
Bryant and teammate Harrison were both named on the Pre-NCAA Championships edition of the Bowerman Watchlist. UK tied with second-ranked Oregon for the team with the most entries (two – Laura Roesler and Jasmine Todd) on the watch list.
Both Bryant and Harrison lead the way for UK as each qualified for the National Championship meet in three events (two individual and a relay). Both Bryant and Harrison won SEC Individual Championships.
Bryant, the SEC Champion at 60 meters and runner-up at 200m, will compete in both events. She owns the nation’s fastest 60m dash time this season, 7.16 seconds, and ranks second in the world at 200m in 2014 (22.75).
Harrison is coming off a SEC-record performance as she won the conference 60m hurdles championship in 7.94, a nation-leading time, which shattered the previous record of 8.0. She placed seventh in the 60m dash at SECs less than 15 minutes after winning in the hurdles. Should she make the final in both events at NCAAs, Harrison would have closer to 40 minutes of recovery time between the 60H and 60m.
Kentucky will be well-represented in the 60m hurdles as three of the 16 entries are Wildcats. UK scored 21 points in the event at the SEC Championships as Kayla Parker was third in the event with a PR time of 8.16, and Leah Nugent placed fourth (8.20).
Allison Peare has been steadily improving throughout the season, having lowered her school mile-record to 4:35.18 in a bronze-medal performance at the SEC Championships. She scored in both the mile and 800m at SECs, but will be able to focus exclusively on the mile at NCAAs.
UK will have a pool of five to choose from for the women’s 4x400m relay, where UK ranks seventh with a top 200m-track time of 3:34.31. UK’s available runners are Bryant, Harrison, Sha’Keela Saunders, Kenyattia Hackworth and Leah Nugent.
UK defeated the defending 4x400 national champions, Oregon - returning all but one of its legs - at the home McCravy Memorial.
On the men’s side Kentucky will be represented by a pair of 2014 SEC Champions.
Matt Hillenbrand, who was high-point scorer at the Conference Championships, having won both the mile and 3,000 meters, will focus exclusively on the mile at NCAAs. He ranks fourth nationally in the event with a school-record time 3:57.0.
Brad Szypka is also coming off a SEC Championship, as his top mark 19.48m/63-11 ranks 11th.
Kentucky finished the 2013 NCAA Indoor Championships tied for 20th-place in the women's team standings. The result was the University's highest team finish since 1994 when they also finished tied for 20th.
The UK men's team placed 49th at NCAAs in 2013, with two points, all earned by Keith Hayes' second-place 60m hurdles performance.