The four-day meet begins today at the University of Tennessee.
The Ole Miss men are ranked No. 12 and have eight athletes ranked in the top 30.
On the women’s side, sprinters LaJada Baldwin and Sofie Persson, and thrower Betty Williams enter the meet with top-20 rankings and high expectations.
The high jump, 400-meter hurdles and steeplechase are big points opportunities for the Ole Miss men.
Freshman Ricky Robertson is ranked first in the country in the high jump after setting a school record with a jump of 7 feet, 5.75 inches at the Florida Relays.
Teammate Brian Knight, a sophomore, is ranked third after jumping 7-04.50 at the same meet.
“They feed off one another. They enjoy being around one another, and the competition gets them fired up,” Waker said. “We expect good things from both of them.”
Robertson was a three-sport athlete at Hernando and finished his high school career as the nation’s top-ranked prep high jumper. He won state championships in both the high jump and long jump as a junior and senior.
“Anybody who ever saw him jump could see his athleticism and athletic ability,” Walker said. “In high school he was doing football, basketball and track. Now that he’s track full-time, it’s just been a matter of putting an emphasis on it.
“We need big points in that event. Auburn has a really good jumper that will be in the mix, but I think there’s a chance for huge points there if Ricky and Brian are ready.”
Junior Lee Ellis Moore will have a shot for big points in the 400 hurdles. He’s currently ranked third in the nation with a season-best time of 49.52 that he ran at the Ole Miss Invitational. Teammate Carson Banks has run 50.87. He’s ranked 19th and could score points as well.
Senior distance runner Barnabas Kirui won the NCAA championship in the steeplechase in 2007 with an 8:20.36 clocking.
Back problems that eventually required surgery have held him back since that time, but he goes into the SEC meet ranked ninth in the event. His best time this season is 8:43.72.
Kirui’s brother, Martin, is ranked 12th with a top time of 8:46.68.
“Barnabas would have had an even more phenomenal career, but he’s had so much to overcome,” Walker said.