LEXINGTON, Ky. – After an outdoor season that ended with athletes competing at the NCAA Championships last June, the University of Kentucky track and field coaching staff recruited a top-rated freshman class to bolster the roster. The Wildcats get their first test of the indoor season this weekend when UK hosts the annual Kentucky Invitational at the E.J. Nutter Field House.
Competition begins Friday at 6 p.m. ET and continues Saturday at 10:30 a.m. ET. The two-day event is free to the public and live stats will be available at UKathletics.com. This will be the first of two home meets this season for the Wildcats with the Rod McCravy Memorial taking place Feb. 1-2.
“I’d like to think we’ll have our best team since 1996,” UK head coach Don Weber said. “In ’96 we were third in the SEC and sixth at the NCAA Indoor Championships. I’d like to think this year’s team is the foundation for the best team ever at Kentucky with some of our young people.”
Participating teams at the event include: Alabama (women only), Arkansas State, Eastern Kentucky, Furman, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Kentucky State, Marshall (women only), Michigan (women only), Middle Tennessee State, Ohio State (women only), Tennessee (women only), Vanderbilt (women only), Western Kentucky, and Wright State.
Kentucky returns to the track after an impressive 2007 season; placing five individuals and a relay squad into the NCAA Championships last June.
Sprinter Jenna Martin became the first Wildcat to break the 52-second barrier in the 400 meters with a time of 51.91, setting new Kentucky freshman and varsity outdoor records. Martin also set a UK indoor freshman record with a time of 53.44 in the 400. The Nova Scotia, Canada native later ran the same event in NCAA Championships as a semifinalist.
Departed senior sprinter Luis Luna was also a semifinalist in the 400 meters on the men’s at the NCAA Championships. Luna anchored the men’s 4x400 meter relay squad that advanced to the championships after a first-place showing at the NCAA Mideast Regional running with teammates Justin Harrison, Nathan Browning and Jose Acevedo. Earlier in the year, this team set a new UK varsity indoor record with a time of 3:05.87 in the 4x400m relay.
Middle-distance runner John Richardson earned a trip to the NCAA Championships by winning a Mideast Regional Championship in the 1,500 meters. Richardson claimed the men’s 1,500-meter SEC championship for a second consecutive year with a personal best time of 3:43.02.
Thrower Ashley Muffet concluded her season at the NCAA Championships after throwing a personal best toss of 170-0 in the women’s discus at the Mideast Regional. The mark stands second-best all-time in school history. Muffet broke the women’s indoor shot put record earlier in the year with a heave of 56-08.50. The returning junior also tied for the SEC women’s Commissioner’s Cup at the conference Outdoor Championships awarded to the athlete earning the most points at the meet.
Departed senior thrower Gavin Ball advanced to the final meet of the NCAA season by throwing the sixth-best shot put toss in UK history (59-5.0) at the Mideast Regional.
Three more Kentucky varsity records fell in 2007. Andrea Halasek set a new UK outdoor mark in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 10:48.06. Meanwhile, Maggie Tincher set school varsity records in both the indoor (12-00.50) and outdoor pole vaults (11-07.75) last season.
A new coaching staff member joins the team to try to maintain the Wildcats record-setting ways. Kentucky welcomes new distance coach John Mortimer to the staff. Mortimer comes to the Bluegrass after coaching Boston College distance runners the previous five years. The seven-time All-America selection in cross country and track while attending the University of Michigan coached UK’s cross country squads last fall.