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‘Fearless’ freshman Sydney McLaughlin, No. 3 Kentucky doubling down in pursuit of NCAA Indoor title

UK track sensation Sydney McLaughlin wants to be ‘one of the world’s best’

Freshman Sydney McLaughlin came to Kentucky with Olympic experience and a world record already beside her name. In her time with the Wildcats, she looks to refine her talent with the help of coach Edrick Floréal.
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Freshman Sydney McLaughlin came to Kentucky with Olympic experience and a world record already beside her name. In her time with the Wildcats, she looks to refine her talent with the help of coach Edrick Floréal.

Kentucky brings international track sensation Sydney McLaughlin and three other Southeastern Conference indoor champions to the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships this weekend in College Station, Texas.

The No. 3 Kentucky women’s team features two athletes recently named to the pre-NCAA indoor Bowerman Watch List in McLaughlin and defending outdoor pole vault champion Olivia Gruver and will take 10 women’s athletes to Texas A&M’s Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium, giving them a legitimate shot to contend for the overall team title. Events begin Friday.

McLaughlin, who won the 400 meters in last week’s SEC Indoors, is scheduled to race in the 200, 400 and 4-by-400 meter relay at the NCAAs. Her :50.52 at the SECs was the SEC record, the world junior record, a collegiate freshman record and the second-best time ever recorded by a collegian in the 400 meters.

“Running 200, 400 and 4-by-4 is a lot of events, and I think my main focus is not about (individual) titles or anything like that,” McLaughlin said. “It’s about getting as many points on the board and trying to win a team title.”

The NCAAs will mark the first time McLaughlin has competed in both the 200- and 400-meter dashes at an event for UK. Kentucky will have three qualifiers in the 200 meters with McLaughlin, Kayelle Clarke and Jasmine Camacho-Quinn.

Heading into the NCAA indoor track & field championships, freshman phenom Sydney McLaughlin said that she was more concerned about team points than individual success, which is why she is running multiple events.

“I think all the girls got together and decided they had a legitimate chance to do something special,” said UK Coach Edrick Floreal, who recently repeated as Southeast Region women’s head coach of the year. “Sydney’s decided that her goals are not the priority, it’s the team’s goal, and that’s why we’re doubling her. People are surprised at why she’s doing both events. I think the double is difficult. A lot of people have tried and kind of fell apart. And she’s sort of fearless. ... She wants to double because she wants to help the team.”

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University of Kentucky freshman Sydney McLaughlin, left, laughed with teammate Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, right, as they practiced their starts during track practice at UK. Charles Bertram cbertram@herald-leader.com

The top eight scorers in each of the men’s and women’s 17 events score team points by virtue of their finish on a 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. The team with the most points at the end of the meet wins.

Gruver has won every indoor pole vault she’s entered this season, including the SEC Championships, and has the top indoor clearance in the nation this year at 4.67 meters. That also ranks as the second-highest indoor clearance ever.

Kentucky also has SEC 60-meter hurdles champ Camacho-Quinn as the top seed for her event and the No. 11 seed in the 200 meters.

On the men’s side, No. 17 Kentucky brings four athletes, including SEC 5K champion Jacob Thomson, entering his first NCAA Indoor meet as the No. 7 seed. Kentucky heptathlete Tim Duckworth is the No. 1 seed for his event. He took silver last year. This is his third NCAA Indoor meet.

The UK women’s team earned its best team finish at an NCAA Indoor Championship a year ago, fifth place with 25 points. The UK men’s team’s best NCAA indoor team finish was seventh in 1996 with 22 points. A year ago, the UK men’s team finished tied for 22nd with 10 points.

Jared Peck: 859-231-1333, @JPSaysHere

Staff videographer Caitlyn Stroh contributed to this report.

NCAA Indoor Championships

At Texas A&M University

When: Beginning 6:30 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday (EST)

Online: ESPN3 and the Watch ESPN app

TV: Tape-delayed show will air on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. Sunday

UK WOMEN’S ENTRIES

Seed, athlete (qualifying time)

200 meters

4. Kayelle Clarke (22.83)

9. Sydney McLaughlin (22.95)

11. Jasmine Camacho-Quinn (23.00)

400 meters

1. Sydney McLaughlin (50.52)

60-meter hurdles

1. Jasmine Camacho-Quinn (7.95)

4-by-400 meter relay

8. UK (3:31.65)

Pole vault

1. Olivia Gruver (4.67m)

Long jump

9. Marie- Josée Ebwea-Bile (6.42m)

Triple jump

3. Marie- Josée Ebwea-Bile (13.91m)

13. Latavia Coombs (13.17m)

UK MEN’S ENTRIES

200 meters

14. Dwight St. Hillaire (20.73)

5K

7. Jacob Thomson: 13:41.33

60-meter hurdles

8. Daniel Roberts (7.71)

Heptathlon

1. Tim Duckworth (6071)

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