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UK Invitational's top milers spurred by prospect of Olympics

Eastern Kentucky's Soufiane Bouchikhi
Eastern Kentucky's Soufiane Bouchikhi

The calendar says January, but some minds think ahead to August. At least, the minds of the top milers Saturday in the Kentucky Invitational track and field meet.

Eastern Kentucky's Soufiane Bouchikhi bested Kentucky's Luis Orta on the Nutter Field House oval, taking the men's mile in 4 minutes, 6.50 seconds.

That came after former Tennessee All-American Phoebe Wright won her season debut in the women's mile.

Bouchikhi, Orta and Wright all have their sights set on next summer's Olympic Games in London.

None, however, are eyeing the 1,500 meters (metric mile).

Bouchikhi, a junior from Belgium, thinks his best shot will be at 10,000 meters.

Orta, a senior from Venezuela, plans to cast his lot in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Wright, from Signal Mountain, Tenn., is at her best in the 800.

"Now, everything is for the 10K outdoors," Bouchikhi said. "I really have a dream, and that's to go to the Olympics for Belgium. So I'm working very hard to get that."

Bouchikhi did much of Saturday's work on his own, separating himself from the pack about a quarter-mile into the race.

"I was just trying to hit the 60s, 61s (seconds per quarter-mile)," he said. "It went pretty well. Just felt like I needed someone to push me because, like the third lap or fourth, I kind of slowed down a little bit.

"What I saw today, I definitely know I can go sub-four (minutes), he said. "I just need (speed) training because, two weeks ago, I just finished my last 10K in cross country, so I'm still in that long endurance thing. I'm not ready quite on the fast stuff yet."

Orta, the only entrant to give Bouchikhi an early challenge, finished in 4:09.59.

"My plan was to stay behind (Bouchikhi) and try to pass him at the end," Orta said. "But I guess I don't have the speed right now, so things didn't go that well, like I planned them. He's a very good athlete, so it's OK that he beat me. I'm happy for him and, hopefully, we're going to see each other (again)."

Tennessee junior Chris Bodary finished third, followed by a Bluegrass medley of Adam Kahleifeh (UK), Luke Lovelace (Louisville) and Ben Cheruiyot (EKU).

Wright had a challenger in the women's mile, coming from behind on the last lap to edge Arkansas junior Stephanie Brown, 4:41.15 to 4:43.41.

"A solid effort," Wright said. "I'm thankful not to lead the whole thing. It seems like the competition has really been up this year. It's nice."

Competition figures to be up in an Olympic year.

"Definitely, and I'm ready for it," Wright said. "I've had my eyes on the prize since last year, and this is a good way to start it off."

Georgia senior Torrin Lawrence was the day's lone double winner, taking the men's 60 meters in 6.76 and the 200 in 21.18.

Louisville's Charachesicia Lockhart completed a two-day sweep of the horizontal jumps, adding the triple jump to the long-jump title she won Friday night.

"I feel like I could have done way better than I did," said Lockhart, a senior from Dallas. "I think I had about two more feet in me today."

Lockhart's best jump measured 40 feet, 1¼ inches. Teammate Malina Simmers had the same distance, but Lockhart won based on second-best attempts — 39-9¾ to Simmers' 39-5¾. On Friday, Lockhart long-jumped 20-1, winning the event for the second year in a row.

"My approach was very good," Lockhart said of the triple jump. "It's just my second phase; I couldn't get it up as good as I could have.

"Same thing in the long jump, too. I probably could have had another foot in the long jump as well."