The Ole Miss men’s and women’s track and field teams spent much of the early season challenging themselves on a national level, and their on-field performances have demonstrated a readiness to compete in the upper echelon of the sport.
The women entered the new year ranked eighth in the nation, and they have met all goals early in the season. The Rebels held a record streak of five consecutive weeks in the top 10 of the USTFCCCA Indoor National Computer Rankings, breaking the school record for most weeks in the top 10 in an indoor season. This week was the first week they dropped out of the top 10, swapping spots with Minnesota and falling to No. 11.
Much of the women’s success has fallen on the back of senior Janeah Stewart, a multi-sport athlete whose weight throw distances consistently place her on the podium. Stewart’s throw of 23.83 meters at the Southern Illinois’ Don DeNoon Invite on Tuesday moved her from sixth in NCAA history to fourth and broke a school record in the process.
Stewart also throws shot put, where she stands at eighth in the nation and holds the honor of one of three student-athletes ranked in the top eight in both the shotput and weight throw. She has been named SEC Field Athlete of the Week twice in the first three weeks of the season.
A sad note on the women’s side was the loss of shot put star Raven Saunders. The Olympian and four-time national champion stepped away from collegiate competition this past week, citing a need to return to full health to pursue her promising professional career. Saunders burst onto the national scene as a freshman at Southern Illinois University, where she won the NCAA indoor and outdoor titles before winning national titles in each of her two years at Ole Miss. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Saunders finished fifth in shot put as the youngest athlete in the competition.
For the men’s team, the distance runners have had an excellent start to the season. All-Americans Robert Domanic and Sean Tobin each ran at the Millrose Games in New York this past weekend. Tobin’s performance was especially impressive as he finished fourth in the mile run with a time of 3:58.28, topping his previous school record of 3:59.91.
All-American shot putter Brian Williams also performed well last weekend at Southern Illinois’ Don DeNoon Invite. He placed second and led the men’s team to a fifth-place finish overall. Sophomore sprinter Alvin Westbrook also contributed to the finish, placing second in the 200-meter dash.
The Rebels will hope to continue their success this weekend as the long distance runners travel to Ames, Iowa, for the Iowa State Classic. On Friday, the rest of the team heads to the Music City Challenge in Nashville.