NEW ORLEANS – 2017 has been a year of firsts for the Ole Miss track & field program, and it was more of the same Monday with the release of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) preseason national rankings.
For the first time since the USTFCCCA began publishing national rankings in 2008, the Rebel women are among the preseason top 25 outdoor teams, debuting at No. 23 this week. The men are ranked 13th, their highest outdoor ranking since 2014 and the fourth time they have been outdoor preseason top 25 since 2008.
This is the second time in the history of the USTFCCCA outdoor rankings that the Ole Miss men and women have been top 25 at the same time. It also happened in week four last season.
Ole Miss, under the direction of second-year head coach Connie Price-Smith, will rub spikes with fellow ranked teams throughout the outdoor season. The Southeastern Conference is loaded with an amazing 11 men’s teams and 11 women’s teams in the preseason top 25. That means all but two men’s teams and all but three women’s teams in the league are currently top 25 in the nation.
Ranked SEC men’s teams include No. 1 Florida, No. 3 Arkansas, No. 4 Texas A&M, No. 5 LSU, No. 8 Alabama, No. 9 Georgia, No. 13 Ole Miss, No. 14 Tennessee, No. 22 Kentucky, No. 24 Auburn and No. 25 South Carolina. Women’s squads are No. 2 Kentucky, No. 3 Arkansas, No. 4 LSU, No. 6 Florida, No. 7 Georgia, No. 11 Tennessee, No. 12 Texas A&M, No. 15 Alabama, No. 22 South Carolina, No. 23 Ole Miss and No. 24 Auburn.
The USTFCCCA national team computer rankings are compiled by a mathematical formula based on the NCAA Division I Descending Order Lists. Marks from previous seasons are included until enough data can be drawn from the current season, and current freshmen aren’t included in the rankings until they compete in an outdoor meet. The purpose and methodology of the rankings is to create an index that showcases the teams that have the best potential of achieving the top spots in the race for a national title.
The Ole Miss men are coming off a tie for 16th at the NCAA Indoor Championships and a tie for third at the SEC Indoor Championships. They finished fourth in the nation and second in the conference in cross country last fall.
Leaders for the Rebel men include middle distance and distance standouts Robert Domanic, Craig Engels, MJ Erb, Wesley Gallagher, Trevor Gilley, Ryan Manahan and Sean Tobin, as well as throwers Dempsey McGuigan and Brian Williams.
The women are coming off their best indoor season ever (T-12th at NCAAs, fifth at SECs) and their best cross country season in program history (23rd at NCAAs, second at SECs).
Leaders for the Rebel women include throwers Raven Saunders and Janeah Stewart, pole vaulter Lindsey Murray, distance runners Emily Bean and Mary Alex England, and sprinters Nicole Henderson, Shannon Ray and Breanna Tate.
Ole Miss opens the 2017 outdoor season this Friday and Saturday when it hosts the Joe Walker Invitational. It will be the first home track meet since 2014. As many as four Olympians are scheduled to compete, including Saunders (shot put) and former NCAA champion pole vaulter and Rio Olympics bronze medalist Sam Kendricks. Attendance is free, and there will be free crawfish starting at noon Saturday.