Kentucky has the top seed in two events in the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships:
Luis Orta, 3,000 meters;
Luis Orta, 5,000 meters.
So it will be Orta, along with fellow junior Walter Luttrell, whom the Wildcats will be counting on most when the three-day meet opens Friday at UK's Nutter Field House.
Luttrell is seeded second in the 5,000, third in the 3,000.
"They've run in some really challenging races and fought hard," Coach Don Weber said.
Orta clocked 8:08.09 for 3,000 meters on Feb. 3 at Notre Dame, and 14:02.45 for 5,000 meters a week later at Seattle.
Luttrell went 8:08.90 at Seattle and 14:14.35 at Notre Dame.
Rarely do the teammates train together, though.
Luttrell, a nutrition major who plans to go into physical therapy, has classes that conflict with the usual practice time. He often trains on his own.
"He's probably one of the toughest competitors I've ever run across," Weber said. "He sets his mind to doing something, and he's pretty tough in his attempt to do it."
The fast Cats will go in Saturday's final event, the 3,000 meters, at 7:15 p.m. They'll come back in the 5,000, Sunday at 3:50 p.m.
"Walter is a super-good athlete and he's incredibly talented," said Orta, who placed 12th in last year's Pan American Games 5,000 for his native Venezuela. "So I know it's going to be a good race with just the fact that he's going to be in. ... Hopefully we can be in first, second or something like that."
Weber sees Orta's international success as fuel for an already competitive fire.
"He's always been a pretty aggressive, feisty competitor," Weber said.
Blessed with a strong finishing kick, Orta says he is "ready, 100 percent" for a fast pace or slower, tactical race.
"If it's a fast race, that's good for me because I can seize the pace and maybe can get a PR (personal record) out of the race," he said. "But if it's a slow race, then that's pretty good with me, too, because I have a good kick, and I'm confident in my kick."
If Luttrell has his way, he'll prevent a slower pace.
"I am terrible at tactical races, so I usually go out front if it's slow," said Luttrell, an Ohio state high school champion from Dayton. "Same thing this weekend. If it goes out slow, I have no problem taking the lead."
In the 3,000, Orta and Luttrell are separated in the seeding by Georgia junior Matt Cleaver, who edged Luttrell by 39 hundredths of a second (8:08.51) at Seattle. Fourth is Georgia's Brandon Lord, who ran 8:11.91 in the same meet.
Arkansas senior Lane Boyer, seeded fifth in the 3,000, trails only Orta and Luttrell in the 5,000 with a 14:15.81.
"Victory is always something that we want," Orta said. "But, how Coach Weber says, what matters in sports is not victory but the magnificence of the struggle.
"I think this race is very important. If we work hard and do what we're supposed to do in the race, then victory can come."
Other Cats to watch
Keilah Tyson — The freshman from Norfolk, Va., has been slowed the past week by a lower leg injury. If she's OK, she'll challenge in the long jump, where her 19-11½ is a quarter-inch off top-seeded Brittany Porter of LSU. Tyson also could be in the mix in the 200, seeded fourth (23.69). She's also fourth in the 60 (7.36), but probably will skip that event.
Adam Kahleifeh and Matt Hillebrand — The sophomores are seeded 7-8 in the mile, and will combine on the distance medley relay.
Chelsea Oswald and Cally Macumber — Oswald, a sophomore, is seeded sixth at 5,000 meters. Macumber, a junior, is seventh at 3,000. They also will team in the distance medley relay.