Seemingly down and out in the middle of a 3,000-meter run, Luis Orta kept his poise, then unleashed a sizzling final kick.
Would it be enough to give the top seed victory in the Southeastern Conference Indoor Track and Field Championships?
Yes — more than enough.
Orta overtook Arkansas' Lane Boyer on the last lap to give Kentucky its only victory Saturday in Nutter Field House.
Standing 5-foot-4 and 118 pounds, Orta fell at least 20 yards behind when Boyer made a break near the 1,500-meter mark.
"At first I was blocked behind a lot of people," said Orta, who has junior eligibility outdoors but is a senior indoors. "They're always bigger than me, so it's hard for me to get out of there. But when I did, I saw that he was kind of far away.
"But I knew I had time and I had a couple laps left, so I knew I could get him."
Orta finished in 8 minutes, 11.30 seconds. Boyer held off Razorbacks teammate David Flynn for second place, by slightly more than a half-second, in 8:13.28.
The last of three days of competition in UK's Nutter Field House is Sunday, with field events at 11 a.m. The first running event of the day, the women's 60-meter hurdles finals, is set for 1:30 p.m.
Saturday was light on finals but saw a collegiate record by Arkansas senior Tina Sutej in the women's pole vault, plus a dramatic last-attempt win by Florida freshman Marquis Dendy in the men's long jump.
For the UK crowd, though, the day was about Orta.
UK's Walter Luttrell and Orta ran 1-2 through the first five of 11-plus laps.
Then the pace picked up. Two laps later, Orta was sixth, Luttrell seventh.
Boyer separated himself from the pack, dogged by Florida's Josh Izewski.
Orta moved up to third with three laps left, but he didn't catch Boyer until the final lap.
By then, the Venezuelan knew he would win.
"Because I felt super-strong, and I saw he wasn't that far away," Orta said. "Then, in the last 100 meters, I was almost celebrating my victory because I knew I had him."
Surrounded by teammates moments after finishing, Orta had enough energy to bounce as he led his pals in a couple rounds of the "C-A-T-S, Cats! Cats! Cats!" cheer.
"I was prepared for two types of race — a pretty fast race or a very slow race," Orta said. "Somehow this race was in the middle of what I was expecting, so that way I felt very comfortable throughout the entire race. Walter Luttrell was in front of me, and that gave me a lot of confidence."
UK picked up seventh-place finishes from Andrew Evans in the men's weight throw and Jennifer Svoboda in the women's shot put.
Cats making it through prelims included Brandon Bagley and Darryl Bradshaw in the men's 60-meter hurdles, Trent Halasek in the mile and 200-meter runners Neal Keffri and Robert Scharold. On the women's side, Allison Pearce moved on in the 800, as did Keilah Tyson in the 200.
Sutej turned in the performance of the day, breaking her own collegiate record.
Her clearance of 14 feet, 11 inches added a quarter-inch to her collegiate and Slovenian national records.
She barely brushed the bar on her first try at the height, but she cleared it with room to spare on her next vault.
"I tried to make myself calm, because I knew I had it that first jump," Sutej said, "and I knew that if I just repeated that jump, I'll (clear) it."
In the men's long jump, Dendy popped the only 8- meter jump of the day, 8.06. That converts to 26-5½ , enough to unseat LSU's top-seeded Damar Forbes at 26-1.
It came on the second-to-last jump of the competition. Forbes had the last chance, but he fell short at 26-0¼.
Dendy wasn't the only Gator creating a buzz.
Florida senior Horn Gray successfully defended his title in the heptathlon with 5,885 points, and Jeremy Postin took first in the weight throw at 70-5¾.
Gators football player Jeff Demps, the two-time defending NCAA 60-meter dash champion, had the fastest qualifying time. His 6.54 beat the collegiate-leading 6.55 that Auburn's Harry Adams brought into the day. Adams qualified second in 6.64.
Ricky Robertson became the third man to win three consecutive titles in the high jump, joining Arkansas' Ray Doakes (1993-95) and Kenny Evans (four: 1998-2001).
The Ole Miss junior cleared 7-4½ , an NCAA automatic qualifying mark that tied the Nutter record set by UK's Eugene Grundy in 1996.
Tennessee's Annie Alexander, a senior from Trinidad and Tobago, won her second indoor shot title with a put of 55-11¾. Her first win came as a freshman. Including outdoors, Alexander has four shot-put titles and one in the discus.
Arkansas picked up women's wins from Whitney Jones in the long jump (20-5¼) and Kristen Gillespie in the 3,000 (9:20.86).