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Coleman is record-setting Rebel

OXFORD — Kenyata Coleman of Brookhaven knows how to improve hernumbers. The junior accounting major recently broke the Ole Missrecord in the women’s 400-meter dash. She hopes to continue herhigh success level in the NCAA Outdoor Track and FieldChampionships in Sacramento, Calif., this week.

A school-record nine Ole Miss track and field athletes will makethe flight to Sacramento today. The meet starts Tuesday at the AlexG. Spanos Sports Complex.

Coleman broke her own school record last Friday in the prelimsof the 400 meters at the NCAA MidEast Regional in Columbia, Mo. Sheclocked a time of 52.28, besting her previous record for 52.47, sheset just two weeks ago at the SEC Outdoor Championships inTuscaloosa, Ala.

An accounting major with a minor in marketing, Coleman said shehas been surprised by her record-setting progress this year. “Itwas kind of a shocker to me. I knew I could do it. It kind of cametogether all at one time. I ran that time so early, it boosted myconfidence that I could run faster in the nationals.”

Asked about her personal improvements on the 400-meter oval,Coleman said, “I’ve improved on my start. I was always one to holdback in the beginning. Now, I can run with everybody else and gofaster.”

Coleman said she won’t be intimidated by the competition inSacramento. “Most of the girls at nationals are juniors. There are29 girls. Possibly 18 are juniors.

She knows most of them by name. “I basically ran against a lotof them in summer track before I came to Ole Miss. There’s not muchpressure on me because I know what they can do.”

Who’s the favorite?

“Natasha Hastings from South Carolina is the girl to beat,”answered Coleman. “She ran a 50.23 which is the best is the USright now, college and pros. The next best time is a51-something.”

Recalling the 2006 SEC Championship, Coleman said, “I knockedher (Hastings) out of nationals last year. This year she won theindoor nationals.”

Coleman Strides Forward

Ole Miss track coach Joe Walker said Coleman has made greatstrides since arriving at Ole Miss. “Kenyata has had a phenomenalyear. She has been a great athlete for us since the moment shestepped on our campus.”

Walker complimented Coleman’s devotion to track. “Kenyata is ahard worker and a great kid. She has a great spirit about her. Sheis really rounding into shape at the right time. Kenyata is a goodstudent, one of our leaders.”

Coleman’s strength and speed makes her a valuable asset to thesquad. “Kenyata has pretty good range,” said Walker. “She has goodspeed and runs a respectable 200. Her strength gives her theability to run the whole race in the 400.”

Walker said Ole Miss is currently ranked No. 13 among the menand No. 24 among the women. “Everybody has a legitimate shot to dosomething good out there,” in the nationals.

Coleman also competes on the Ole Miss 4×100-meter relay team.It’s not her forte but she is determined to help the team.

“I don’t really care about the 4×1 because I’m more of adistance runner,” said Coleman. “But I like running with the girlsand we are good at it. I enjoy it.”

Coleman said the relay team is ranked nationally after a thirdplace finish in the MidEast where they posted a time of 45.22. “Wehad some bad exchanges last time and still ran pretty well. Weprobably need a 43 to make us All-Americans.”

Her roommate, Kimberly Mulkey, is the only senior on the relayteam. Kayceshia Fortune and Cashet Murray, both sophomores; make upthe remainder of the relay team.

This is Coleman’s third year to go to the nationals in the 400.She was the first Ole Miss freshman to reach nationals in anindividual event.

At the Southeastern Conference meet, she set a school record inthe prelims and then broke her own record in the finals. Atregionals last weekend, Coleman broke her PR again.

Coleman said she is enjoying the campus life at Ole Miss. “It’sjust like home up here.”

Rebel notes: All-American John Yarbrough turned in awinning time of 13.48 to advance in the 110-meter hurdles.Yarbrough advances to the NCAA Championships where he finishedfifth last year. Yarbrough defeated Auburn’s Ty Adkins, who edgedhim in the SEC Outdoor Championships.

Barnabas Kirui, who won three titles at the SECchampionships, finished second in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.Kirui was edged out at the line by Alabama’s Augustus Maiyo, whofinished in a time of 8:35.12 to Kirui’s 8:35.32. Kirui willadvance to the NCAA Outdoor Championships and is currently rankedNo. 1 in the nation in the steeplechase.

Three Rebels advanced to the NCAA championships onFriday. Charles Bailey, Justin Gunn and Britney Reese all advancedin the long jump. Reese won the women’s long jump, while Gunn andBailey finished second and third, respectively.