Rebels send record number to NCAAs

Published 12:00 pm Friday, May 20, 2016

Ole Miss Track & Field will boast a strong presence in the preliminary round of the 2016 NCAA Division I Outdoor Championships, as the NCAA accepted an unprecedented 33 entries between the Rebel men’s and women’s teams.

The NCAA East Preliminary Round will be held next weekend, May 26-28, at Hodges Stadium on the campus of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

There will be 32 Rebel athletes – 17 men and 15 women – competing in 18 different events at the prelims, including 2016 SEC champions Craig Engels (men’s 1500m), Branden Greene (men’s high jump) and Raven Saunders (women’s shot put).

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Under the direction of first-year head coach Connie Price-Smith, Ole Miss boasts its most entries (33) and athletes (32) to be accepted to the East Preliminary since the NCAA adopted its current preliminary round format in 2010. This follows a standout showing at the SEC Outdoor Championships that saw the Rebel men capture their second-best finish in school history (5th) and Saunders win the SEC Commissioner’s Trophy as the top female points scorer at the meet.

“We are excited about the group of athletes that have qualified for the NCAA preliminary round,” said Price-Smith, who will also coach the U.S. women’s track & field team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. “They are healthy and looking forward to the competition. We have 32 athletes that will travel to Jacksonville, and I am looking forward to watching them compete and advance on to the final round of the NCAA competition.”

The NCAA Selection Committee accepted the top 48 performers in each individual event (after coaches’ and medical scratches) and the top 24 relay teams in both relays to compete at each site hosting the NCAA Preliminary Rounds for a total of 96 individuals and 48 relays competing in each event nationwide. The West Preliminary Round is being held in Lawrence, Kansas.

The top 12 finishers in each event at the regional will qualify for the national semifinal and final rounds of the 2016 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships to be held June 8-11 at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

Last year, Ole Miss produced school records with 14 qualifiers and 17 athletes making it to Eugene, which led to a school-record nine outdoor All-Americans.

Returning to the NCAA Preliminary Round on the men’s side are Kevin Conway, Robert Domanic, Craig Engels, MJ Erb, Wesley Gallagher, Trevor Gilley, Branden Greene, Nathan Loe, Ryan Manahan, Dempsey McGuigan, Dameon Morgan, Holland Sherrer, Sean Tobin and Ryan Walling. Women who have competed at the prelims before are Kiannah Alexander, Nicole Henderson, Lindsey Murray, Shannon Ray, Raven Saunders, Khadijah Suleman, Breanna Tate and Deanna Tate.

First-time NCAA Preliminary qualifiers include Barclay Angle, Derek Gutierrez, Mark Robertson, Emily Bean, Jolie Carbo, McKenna Coughlin, Katy McAuley, Aisha Newsome, Bo Ummels and Britt Ummels.

Current Rebels who have previously made appearances at the NCAA Outdoor Championships include Robert Domanic, Craig Engels, Wesley Gallagher, Trevor Gilley, Branden Greene and Holland Sherrer on the men’s side, and Nicole Henderson, Shannon Ray, Raven Saunders and Khadijah Suleman for the women.