The Ole Miss Track and Field program hosted the annual Mississippi Open Track and Field meet Saturday, April 26, where athletes were able to prepare for the SEC Championships held next weekend at the University of Georgia. The Mississippi Open meet concluded Ole Miss’ home meet schedule, and did it with style. The Rebels claimed 11 victories, to ultimately, swamp their opponents, though no final score was kept. Along with the 11 first place finishes, the team had 30 athletes “score” at the meet—that is, placing 8th or better. These stellar performances by the Ole Miss Track and Field team, now ranked 22nd, show a high possibility for great potential at this year’s SEC Championship.
Wins included Lee Moore in the 400-meter hurdles (49:82), Ricky Robertson with double wins in the High Jump (6-11.75) and the Long Jump (24-03.50), Ben Lapane in the Javelin Throw (210-03), Sofie Persson in the 400-meter hurdles (57.77), Katie Breathitt in the 3000 Meter Steeplechase (11:10.78), and Juiliana Smith in the Hammer Throw (193-00). A few exciting and note-worthy performances that took place were the Men’s 4x400 meter relay, Neal Tisher placing 2nd place in the pole vault competition, Ben Lapane’s personal record-breaking Javelin throw, Katie Breathitt’s 3000 Meter Steeplechase, Al Lowe’s 800 meter heat win, and Ras-Len Bully’s 400 meter hurdle race.
In the final leg of the Men’s 4x400 meter relay, Lee Moore, a senior and Ole Miss record holder in the 400-meter hurdles and also, former NCAA All-American, hawked down his opponent from the University of Alabama at the 200-meter mark to put Ole Miss in the lead and give them the victory. During this stunning performance, fans left their seats to stand on the side of the track to cheer him on as he finished down the home stretch. Neal Tisher, a sophomore at Ole Miss, placed 2nd in the pole vault with a height of 13-06.25, which is a Second Best Personal Record for her behind her 13-09 (tied for 4th in the Southeastern Conference). Ben Lapane finally had the day he had been waiting for this entire season, when he threw a superb distance of 210-03, only being a freshmen, giving him a personal record and his first victory as a collegiate athlete. Katie Breathitt, a junior at the University of Mississippi, also got the crowd off their seats when she broke the Ole Miss women’s 3000-meter Steeplechase by more than a minute with a time of 11:10.78. Al Lowe made a great performance at the Mississippi Open when he won his heat of the 800-meter run with a time of 2:04.66. Though he did not win the entire 800-meter race, winning his heat was a first ever victory for the sophomore distance runner. Another great race by an athlete of Ole Miss, amongst many other notable performances, was Ras-Len Bully’s 400-meter hurdle race. This was the junior’s first time hurdling under the 52-second mark, placing 4th with a personal record time of 51.88.
“Definitely watching the 4x400 and seeing Lee Moore put the team on his back and winning the race at the end. Or watching the pro’s, like Trell Kimmons and Mike Rogers, in the 100,” Bradley Shields, a red-shirt freshmen on the Ole Miss Track and Field team and event helper at the Mississippi Open, said in response to what was his favorite part about the meet. “First time I ever saw pro’s in action running the 100-meter, and I had never seen anybody break 10 seconds, so I thought that was a great experience, it was awesome,” Shields said as he packed up to go to the team meeting, held after every home meet the Track and Field program hosts.
The Mississippi Open was considered a “practice meet” for those athletes trying to better their personal records in order to qualify for the SEC Championship.
However, the meet was open for professional athletes to perform “unattached”—meaning they competed independently and did not represent another team—to also better their personal record in preparation for the World Championships or other professional competitions. This was a definite plus for athletes and spectators to watch professional athletes perform, while also putting on a good show.
The selling point that drew spectators to this meet was the local, casual feel Ole Miss always assures, while at the same time, highly competitive, Southeastern Conference athletes put their mind and bodies to the test against each other. This made for an enjoyable, public event that made a sunny, breezy spring day like Saturday even more pleasing, for no price other than a walk or drive to the Ole Miss Track and Field complex.