UK ladies finish third, men take sixth at SEC Track & Field Championships

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (WKYT) -- For the fourth time since 2015, the Kentucky women finished in third at the SEC Track and Field Championships.

The Wildcat women also took third in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The men finished in sixth, their highest finish since 2014. UK scored it’s most SEC outdoor points (72.5) since tallying 77.5 in a fourth-place 1995 showing.

“At the end of the day I think these kids competed hard and they competed well,” UK first-year head coach Lonnie Greene said. “We had a good meet. This is the SEC, it’s a chameleon. You’ve got to come and hit them on all fronts. I wish we could’ve walked away with second on the women’s side and fifth on the men’s side. I’m grateful for where we are, but we will better.”

Roberts added a vitally new wrinkle to his historic rivalry with Florida’s Grant Holloway. For the first time at a championship meet he emerged victorious from one of their showdowns.

His school-record-lowering, SEC meet-record tying 13.07 (+1.0) tied Holloway for No. 2 on the all-time collegiate list, only behind the legendary Renaldo Nehemiah’s 40-year-old collegiate record of 13.00. Holloway ran 13.12 in the final after a 13.07Q meet record on Friday, which Roberts tied on Saturday

“It means the world,” Roberts said on the SEC Network broadcast. “I’ve been working so hard just trying to compete. Put God first, and just give my all every race and it turned good today. At about halfway, I felt him (Florida’s Grant Holloway) pull away a little bit. I kept hitting hurdles, but I kept pushing through. That’s the main thing – I was hitting hurdles, but I was still pushing really hard so it turned out good at the end.”

As a testament to how fast Roberts – already the No. 2 collegian in the indoor 60H – has been running this year, that his time ranked tied with Saturday’s silver medalist for second on the all-time collegiate list was less novel, yet eye-catching nonetheless.

“Daniel is what I call ‘a giant-slayer,’ “ Greene said. “The young man ran 13.07 – SEC record and without a clean race at all. I already told Daniel that I think he can run under 13 seconds and we might see that come the NCAA Championships.”

Ellen Ekholm claimed her first SEC Championship in the women’s high jump clearing an outdoor season best 5’11.5”/1.82m.

“Ellen staying true to form said to me, ‘Coach I want 1.85m jump,’ “ Greene said. “I told her ‘you’ll get it. Just stay the course.’ Any time your athletes come out here and put 10s on the board, you’re having a good day.

“Take nothing away from our other medalists and scorers, but the end of the day what Daniel and Ellen did was absolutely phenomenal. I mean they’re SEC Champions. We’ve got to keep this momentum now. At the end of the day we’re a very good team and getting ready for NCAAs is going to be our focus going forward.”

Ekholm was unblemished on her first four attempts all the way up to the winning height, which only Texas A&M’s Tyra Gittens cleared, but not until her third try. Neither could clear 6’0.75”/1.85m so Ekholm won on fewer misses.

Saturday medalists

A bronze medalist in the SEC 400m a year ago, sophomore Dwight St. Hillaire improved his medal shade by a place, taking silver in a season-best 45.47 to score eight points.

He placed fourth in the men’s 200m with a PB 20.61 (+0.4) to score another five points and move to No. 5 on the UK all-time list. Freshman Jacob Smith scored a point with an eighth-place 200m time of 20.87 (+0.4).

Senior Kianna Gray got off to perhaps the best start of her life and finished second in the women’s 100m with a time of 11.06w (+2.1). Kentucky totaled 13 points in the women’s 100m with Abby Steiner taking fourth to score five in 11.29w, and Celera Barnes was sixth (three points) in 11.38w after advancing in an uncontested run-off earlier on Saturday.

Gray is now a four-time SEC medalist (2019 60m silver, 2018 4x1 silver, 100m silver and 4x1 bronze).

Freshman Abby Steiner closed incredibly, running a .14-second PB 22.59 (+1.8) to take 200m silver and score eight points. She moved to No. 3 on the UK outdoor all-time list. Gray was seventh in that race to score two points (23.25).

Gray (anchor) and Steiner (second leg) ran alongside Barnes (leadoff) and Janie O’Connor (third leg) to take bronze in the women’s 4x100m relay in a half-second season best 43.11 to score six points and move to No. 6 on the UK all-time list.

Senior Marie-Josée Ebwea-Bile Excel claimed bronze in the triple jump with an outdoor-season best 44’11”/13.69m (+0.6). She repeated her SEC outdoor bronze and claimed that shade of medal for the third time overall (2018 indoor as well). She ended the SEC Championships portion of her career a four-time medalist (2019 indoor silver).

Senior Noah Castle added a discus bronze to the men’s shot put SEC bronze he earned last year in Tennessee. In a field-series that saw the medal places change throughout the rounds, he surpassed teammate Charles Lenford Jr. in the last round.

Castle (third place -- 182’8”/55.68m – 6 points), Lenford Jr. (fourth place -- 182’7”/55.65m – 5 points) and freshman Josh Sobota (seventh place -- 173’8”/52.95m – 2 points) combined to score Kentucky 13 in the discus.

Junior Ben Young took bronze in the men’s 1,500m, running 3:49.11 to score six points. Senior Kendall Muhammad was seventh in 3:50.72 for his first two individual track-event SEC points.

More Saturday scorers
Nicole Fautsch on Saturday added a fourth-place discus performance to the shot put bronze she claimed Friday.

The junior scored five discus points with a mark of 169’7”/51.70m to go along with the six she recorded in the shot put to total 11 for the meet.

Freshman Tai Brown scored five 110m hurdles points with a 13.68 fourth-place finish a day after breaking Roberts’ Kentucky freshman record in the prelims (13.62Q).

UK’s men’s 4x100m relay of Roberts, St. Hillaire, Nathaniel Bann and Jacob Smith ran a fourth-place time of 39.50 to score five.

Chloe Abbott scored her first SEC individual-event points, scoring five in a fourth-place 400m time of 51.82.

Freshman Masai Russell was fourth in the women’s 400m hurdles (57.83 – five points) and junior Faith Ross was fifth (58.08 – four points).

Russell was sixth in the women’s 100m hurdles final (13.18 +1.3) to add three points.

UK’s women’s 4x400m relay of Ross, Steiner, Russell and Abbott concluded the meet with three points in a sixth-place time of 3:33.53.

Matt Peare placed sixth in the men’s pole vault, clearing an outdoor PB 17’2.75”/5.25m to score three points and tie for No. 2 on the UK outdoor all-time list. He owns the absolute (indoor/outdoor) school record.

Friday report
Fautsch broke a 13-year-old school record to claim women’s shot put bronze and Matthew Thomas executed a bold race plan to run a big personal best en route to men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase bronze to highlight Kentucky’s Friday at SECs.

Thomas, never before an SEC scorer, went to the lead early in the men’s steeplechase and stayed clean over all the barriers. The junior held on for bronze and the six points that go along with that medal in a PB 8:53.48 to move to No. 6 on the UK all-time list.

Friday scorers

Men’s team scorers

Noah Castle (sixth – 61’3.5”/18.68m | three points) and Charles Lenford Jr. (eighth – 60’10.5”/18.55m | one point) combined to score four in the men’s shot put. Freshman Josh Sobota placed ninth. Lenford’s final attempt was measured at the bronze-medal distance, but after protest was ruled a foul.

Rahman Minor picked up the first SEC point of his career with an outdoor season-best clearance at 7’1.5”/2.17m

Women’s team scorers
Molly Leppelmeier scored three points in the hammer throw with a 1’2” PB 199’0”/60.74m to place sixth.

Freshman Tatiana Aholou leapt to the best wind-legal long jump mark of her young collegiate career to score a point with an eighth-place mark of 20’5.25”/6.23m (+0.8). Zhane Smith placed 10th.

Freshman Perri Bockrath gritted out a point in the women’s 3k steeplechase with a PB time of 10:33.23, improving her No. 4 mark on the UK all-time list.

UK advanced 17 entries – 10 women, seven men – out of preliminary rounds over the first two meet days into Saturday finals. Combined with Saturday events that didn’t require qualification over the first two days of the three-day meet, UK had 41 scoring chances across the track and field on the competition’s final day.

Thursday scorer

Senior Elijah Marta used a one-foot-two-inch javelin personal best to place fifth and score the UK’s first four points of the SEC Championships on Thursday.

Marta hit a PB on his last throw of the six-throw series to move into fourth place, but was passed by Texas A&M’s Sam Hardin a few positions later to be knocked back into fifth where he finished. The All-American’s mark of 233’6”/71.17m improved Marta’s No. 2 mark on the UK all-time performers’ list.

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