The Ole Miss Rebel Track & Field men’s and women’s teams took their talents to Eugene, Oregon in last week’s NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships delivering eight All-American Honors. Senior Craig Engels was “the star” of the meet, but not for his running ability but for his social media captivating mustache and mullet combination.
The team was led by second-year head coach Connie Price-Smith, who served as Team USA women’s head coach in Rio and was elected to the USATF Hall of Fame in 2016. The men’s team entered the meet ranked 17th in the country and the women’s team 20th.
Rebels making a return to Eugene included: Craig Engels, MJ Erb, Nicole Henderson, Dempsey McGuigan, Shannon Ray, Raven Saunders and Breanna Tate. First timers were Shelby Brown, Janeah Stewart, Deanna Tate and Brian Williams.
Senior Engels was the viral sensation of the meet due to his thick mustache and neatly flowing mullet. He placed third in the men’s 1500m run with an impressive time of 3:43.54. The result was the best in Rebel history in the NCAA 1500m.
“Craig’s definitely an interesting guy. Someone that certainly likes to express their personality” said Ole Miss assistant track coach Ryan Vanhoy.
Erb competed in the 3000m steeplechase and ran a personal best 8:32.38 finishing fourth in the event. Erb has the second-best finish in Ole Miss history in the event, trailing only 2007 NCAA champion Barnabas Kirui.
Newcomer Williams entered the meet as the collegiate leader in discus and placed fourth in his championships debut with a throw of 59.95m/196-8. Williams’s finish is the best all-time by a Rebel in the event.
McGuigan rounded out the men’s team and finished 10th in men’s hammer throw with a 69.14m/226-10 throw. Normally this would’ve propelled McGuigan into the nine-man final but failed to due to historic throwing from the field.
The Ole Miss men finished with a tie for 14th in the team standings, giving the school it’s fourth-best men’s outdoor finish.
“I am pleased for the men to have a top-15 finish. All NCAA points are hard to come by, and I think they all competed hard. Even if they didn’t achieve the results they were after, I am very proud of them.” said head coach Smith.
Olympian Rebel Raven Saunders came up short of expectations but still finished fourth in the shot put. The four-time NCAA champion in shot put gave Ole Miss it’s second-best finish in the event behind her own record from last year.
First timer Stewart had one busy meet. Stewart competed in women’s shot put, women’s discus and women’s hammer throw earning 5th, 9th and 10th place respectively. Stewart became the first Rebel woman to earn All-American distinction in three events.
Brown finished 23rd for the women in the 3000m steeplechase in her first ever NCAA championships appearance. The 4×100-meter team of Henderson, Ray, Deanna Tate, and Breanna Tate placed 19th. The women ultimately finished in 29th in the meet.
“It wasn’t a great week for them, but I’m still proud. Janeah competed and made finals in both the shot and the discus. Shelby (Brown) had her first experience here and will hopefully be back next year. Raven just needs to get back into competition shape, and she’ll be ready to go” said Smith on the women’s team.
The Ole Miss Track & Field athletes tallied eight All-America honors, with five of them being first team (Engles, Erb, Saunders, Stewart, and Williams) and the other three second team (McGuigan, and Stewart twice). Brown and the women’s 4x100m team all earned honorable mention All-America status for finishing 17th through 24th.
The 2016-17 Ole Miss athletics season concluded with the finish of the meet. However, several Rebel track & field athletes will compete this summer at the U.S. Championships in Sacramento, California from June 23-25 and hope to advance to the IAAF World Championships.