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Three SEC titles fuel strong finish for Rebels

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Ole Miss athletes claimed three individual conference titles, and the Rebel men tied for their second-best SEC outdoor finish in program history at the 2016 Southeastern Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships.

The three SEC outdoor individual titles were the most for the Rebels since winning three in 2008.

With a fifth-place team showing (66.5 points), the Rebel men matched the 2014 team with the program’s second-best SEC outdoor result. Only the 1984 squad’s runner-up finish has been higher.

The men captured two individual titles on Saturday’s final day of competition, as sophomore Craig Engels took the 1500-meter crown and senior Branden Greene won the high jump.

In the 1500, Engels and junior Robert Domanic stormed through the final 300 meters of the race to out-kick the field for a 1-2 Ole Miss finish in 3:50.71 and 3:50.92, respectively. Junior Sean Tobin placed fifth (3:51.81) and sophomore Derek Gutierrez eighth (3:52.31) to give Ole Miss 23 points in that event alone.

Engels, a Pfafftown, North Carolina, native who ranks third in the event nationally, is Ole Miss’ first champion in the SEC 1500 meters. The result comes after the Rebels dominated the SEC indoor mile with a 1-2-3 finish by Domanic, Tobin and Ryan Manahan back in February.

Greene came through with a career day in the high jump, clearing a lifetime-best 2.19m/7-2.25 and winning his first SEC title. He moves up to No. 3 in school history and 16th in the NCAA this year. The San Diego, California, native is the first Rebel to win the SEC outdoor high jump since Ricky Robertson won three times in 2010, 2011 and 2014.

Ole Miss had more strong results in the final distance race of the weekend, as senior Ryan Walling came in runner-up in the 5000 meters (13:56.21), followed by sophomore MJ Erb in third (personal-best 14:05.23). Walling had also scored with a fourth-place finish in the 10,000 meters on Thursday, while Erb was a bronze medalist in the 3000-meter steeplechase on Friday.

The No. 25-ranked women improved over the last few years with an 11th-place finish (32.75 points).