Saturday's running of the Kentucky Relays served as a nice dress rehearsal for the Southeastern Conference Championships, which also will be contested next month at the UK Outdoor Track and Field Complex.
UK had plenty of winners on a windy, sunny day, topped by Raymond Dykstra in the javelin. His throw of 250 feet, 2 inches, is the second-best in the country this year.
"I've been working on a lot of things," the two-time All-American said. "This is a long overdue throw, basically, from me. I PR'd as a freshman, threw (247-5). And then finally now, after two years of overcoming injury and actually getting a good technique and everything, finally got to hit a big throw."
Dykstra said he's been working on getting faster, getting his timing down and executing his technique.
"Having my personal best at home is probably one of the best feelings," he said. "I really would have liked to have had it happen earlier, as anybody would, but for a personal best to finally come at home — it's a relief off your shoulders and it's like 'wow, all of the hard work that I've been doing on this track finally paid off.' ... Knowing that SECs are going to be here, it's really exciting for me and I'm looking forward to it."
Dykstra also set a personal record of 160-9 in the discus, an event won by teammate Andrew Evans at 199-8.
With 22 teams competing, Coach Edrick Floreal was pleased with Dykstra and Evans and, on the women's side, Alisha Adair.
Adair, a freshman out of Western Hills High School, won the 200 meters in 23.91 seconds and later had a :52.7 split on the 4-by-400 relay.
"Alicia Adair sort of jumped out from the crowd a little bit," Floreal said. "She's been sort of in the background doing her thing, kind of getting better."
Among the usual suspects with winning efforts were junior sprinter Dezerea Bryant and senior distance runner Cally Macumber.
Bryant, on The Bowerman watch list, did just enough to win the 100 in :11.55. She also ran on the winning 4-by-100 relay, as well as the 4-by-400.
Bryant said she felt good and just wanted to execute in the 100. Like Dykstra, she was pumped about turning in a keen effort at home.
"It's very important just to get the feel for the track on competition day," Bryant said. "We do practice here every day, but it's kind of different when it's in competition."
Macumber did most of the work at the front of the pack in the mile, only to see Indiana's Samantha Ginther sprint ahead with a lap to go. "I didn't know if I was ready for it," said Macumber, who fell a few yards off the pace.
She was ready for the challenge, though, and knew so for "probably the last 100. Like 'OK, I've got to go.' I'm just excited. This is my home opener and a good first start, I guess."
Macumber finished in 4:50.43 to Ginther's 4:52.00.
Wildcats placed 1-2 in the women's 100-meter hurdles, with Leah Nugent edging Kayla Parker :13.41 to :13.44.
Former Cats standout Keith Hayes took the men's hurdles in :13.74.
UK freshman Justin Kretchmer cleared 6-10¼ to prevail in the high jump.
One of the more stirring finishes of the day came in the men's 800.
Indiana's Tretez Kinnaird, a freshman out of Louisville Butler, controlled the race and won in 1:47.99.
UK's Matt Hillenbrand, boxed in for much of the way, put on a furious finish and crossed the line in 1:48.07.
Another 1-2 finish involving Indiana and Kentucky accounted for a track record in the mile. The Hoosiers' Rorey Hunter was a decisive winner in 4:00.97, followed by UK's Keffri Neal in 4:05.11.
Also literally topping a stadium record was Katie Nageotte in the women's pole vault. A former NCAA Division II champion for Ashland University, now competing for Team Pacer, she went over the bar at 14-1¼.
In addition to college competition, the Relays featured team scoring in a high school division. Bryan Station's girls and Madison Central's boys earned the team titles.
As for UK's efforts, Floreal called them "pretty good."
"I was hoping for some performances to be a little bit better. But I think, in the end, the kids tend to perform up to whatever (competition) you have, so whatever teams you have they'll perform up to that level. Plus, we had a couple hard weeks of training."