JACKSON, MISS– News Mississippi will follow nine olympians with Mississippi ties as they progress through the Summer Olympics in Rio de Jinero.
Former Southern Miss track and field standout Tori Bowie will compete for Team USA in both the 100 and 200 meter races. Bowie became the first athlete from Southern Miss to clinch both the indoor and outdoor NCAA titles in a single season. The three time NCAA All-American graduated from Southern Miss in 2012 with a degree in interdisciplinary studies.
Bowie is excited to represent Mississippi in Rio.
“I’m completely thankful I’m on the Olympic team” said Bowie after the 100m qualifying race in July. “I’ve been waiting four years for this moment. Since 2012, I’ve been saying that whatever happened today, I’m going to be thankful. I have another race to attend to this week, running the 200, and I’m extremely excited about it.”
Gwen Berry is the volunteer assistant head coach with the Ole Miss Track and Field program. Berry will compete with Team USA in the hammer throw competition. Berry earned Second-Team All-America honors in the shot put by finishing 12th at the NCAA Outdoor Championships; qualified for the NCAA Outdoor Championship in the hammer throw; qualified for the USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships in the hammer throw by finishing sixth and then earned Second-Team All-America honors in the weight throw with a 10th-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championship all in her senior year at Southern Illinois in 2011. Berry placed second in the women’s hammer throw to make her first Olympic team, also making her Ole Miss’ first athlete to make the Olympic hammer throw competition.
Berry spoke at an Ole Miss Olympic media event about how she feels about the opportunity to compete in Rio.
“It’s a good feeling. I had confidence in myself that I would make the team. I wasn’t as happy as everyone else probably because I didn’t have my greatest performance (at the Olympic Trials), but I am really grateful. Working with and growing up with coach Connie at Southern Illinois, coming here to Ole Miss and training with all the student-athletes, like Raven, has been a good feeling. I’m glad to have a couple teammates going with me.”
Former Ole Miss soccer standout Rafaelle Souza of Salvador, Brazil, will compete with Team Brazil’s Women’s Football (soccer) team. Souza played soccer for Ole Miss from 2011-2013. During her career with the Rebs, Souza was named SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year and was an All-SEC first team selection.
Souza was also a record-breaker for the Rebs. She set the school record for career goals at 44, and also led the team in points (50), which moved her to the all-time points list with 108, and finished on top the SEC in points. Souza also added six assists which were tied for third most on the team, and she drew the start for all 23 matches played for the Rebs.
In 2011, Souza recorded one of the best seasons in school history by a new player, leading with nine goals, seven assists, and 25 points.
Former Ole Miss track and field star Antwon Hicks will compete in the 110m hurdles for Team Nigeria. Hicks was part of Ole Miss’ program from 2002-2004. In his Rebel career, Hicks became Ole Miss’ first NCAA Champion since 2000 when he dominated the 60-meter hurdles at the 2004 NCAA Indoor Championships. Hicks’ school record time of 7.61 in the finals was the fourth fastest time run at the NCAA Indoor meet and he also collected his fourth All-America honor by placing seventh in the 110-meter hurdles at the 2004 NCAA Outdoor Championships. Hicks placed second in the 110-meter hurdles at the 2004 SEC Outdoor Championships and third in the 60-meter hurdles at the 2004 SEC Indoor Championships.
Hicks is no stranger to preparing for the Olympics. He competed at the 2004 US Olympic Trials in the 110-meter hurdles, and narrowly missed the finals and was the top collegiate finisher in the 110-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials.
Former Ole Miss pole vaulting champion Sam Kendricks will compete in the pole-vaulting games for Team USA. Kendricks was with Ole Miss 2012-2014 and left a legacy of a record-breaking career. Kendricks then won the titles of USA, NCAA and SEC Pole Vault Champion. He finished an undefeated outdoor season with his first career USA title, won the pole vault with a season-best height of 18-10.25 at the USA Championships in Sacramento, California, and was the first person in school history to win a USA pole vault title. Kendricks claimed his second straight NCAA outdoor pole vault title in Eugene, Oregon, with a mark of 18-8.25 and was the first Rebel to win back-to-back NCAA outdoor titles since Savante’ Stringfellow made the long jump in the 2000-2001 season.
Kendricks qualified for the Olympic Team with the highest pole vaulting distance in the history of the Team USA tryouts.
“We’ve worked all these years, we’ve done all these competitions, and it’s come into fruition,” said Kendricks. “and there’s the little bit of gratification which is being part of the Olympic team.”
Anthony Perez played forward for the Ole Miss men’s basketball team 2012-2016 and will compete in the Olympic basketball games for Team Venezuela. In his senior year, Perez played 31 games with 21 starts; averaged 7.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.3 blocked shots and 23.3 minutes per game. Perez shot 42.4 percent from the field (70-of-165), 39.5 percent from 3-point (30-of-76) and 68.7 percent from the line (46-of-67) Perez finished fourth on the team in 3-pointers made and fifth in scoring, rebounding and assists.
Perez made the cut for the 12-man team just in time for the Rio roster announcement July 31.
2012 Olympic Gold medalist and Ole Miss alum Brittney Reese will return to the summer games this year on Team USA for the long jump. Reese secured the gold medal in 2012 (7.12m/23-4.50). She is also a three-time World Outdoor gold medalist – 2009 (7.10m/23-3.50); 2011 (6.82m/22-4.50); 2013 (7.01m/23-0); and two-time World Indoor gold medalist – 2010 (6.70m/21-11.75); 2012 (7.23m/23-8.75AR).
While at Ole Miss, Reese became the American indoor record holder 7.23m/23-8.75 (2012); the 2007 NCAA Outdoor champion (6.50m/21-4); and 2007 SEC Women’s Field Athlete of the Year.
In 2008, Reese won first in the Olympic qualifier, and said that it pushed her enough to pursue her dreams of being a gold medalist.
“Finishing first gave me a lot of confidence,” said Reese. “Knowing I can compete with some of the best, and by me getting first and by winning first on my last jump, lets me know that I can go out there and compete and be motivated to win.”
Ricky Robertson was a high jumper for Ole Miss from 2010-2013. Though Robertson was red-shirted due to injury in the outdoor competitions his senior year, he still nabbed honorable mention USTFCCCA First Team All-American in the high jump and in the triple jump. Robertson placed sixth in the high jump at the NCAA Championships with a mark of 7-5 that would have been good enough to win the national title in 2012, but after one attempt in the triple jump at the NCAA meet he had to bow out due to an abdominal injury. Robertson helped the Ole Miss men place 23rd at the national meet; was SEC Champion in the high jump with a clearance of 7-5; and became just the second athlete in SEC history to achieve four straight indoor high jump titles, joining Arkansas’ Kenny Evans (1998-2001).
Ole Miss sophomore Raven Saunders will come for Team USA in the shot put competition. As a freshman at Southern Illinois, Saunders claimed a Pan American Junior title, a USATF Junior title, two NCAA titles, two Missouri Valley Conference titles, two American Junior records, two SIU records and four MVC records. She became the first American Junior to ever break 18 meters in the shot put, won a gold medal in the shot put at the 2015 Pan American Junior Championships in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with a meet-record throw of 18.27m/59-11.25, and became a U.S. Junior Champion in the shot put for the second straight year with a throw of 17.01m/55-9.75. Saunders also made the finals and placed eighth overall at the USATF Senior Outdoor Championships with a toss of 17.85m/58-7.75; claimed the second NCAA title of her freshman year at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, with a record throw of 18.35m/60-2.5.
Saunders said at an Ole Miss Olympic media event that as an Olympian, she hopes to inspire those in her community.
“My thing has been to reach out to kids in my community or kids that reach out to me, and telling them to look where I came from,” said Saunders. “There are kids that I went to high school when I look back and they remind me of where I was when I was struggling and didn’t really have much. And I am telling them this could be you, regardless of your circumstances. If you stay determined and have a goal in mind and work for it, anything can happen.”
Joining the athletes as U.S. Olympic Women’s Head Coach will be Ole Miss Track and Field Head Coach Connie Price-Smith.
Price-Smith said at an Ole Miss Olympic media event that having her own athletes join her rounds out the Olympic experience.
“It is an exciting time for me as the head coach for the U.S. Olympic Team,” said Price-Smith. “It is exciting to be the head coach of athletes that are going to the Olympics with me. Ole Miss has seven athletes, present and future, that are traveling down to Rio. It’s exciting and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Mississippi State’s Brandon McBride will compete for Team Canada in Track and Field competitions. With MSU, Brandon:
– Qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio after becoming Canada’s national champion in the 800m run at 1:45.25.
– Posted the second-fastest collegiate time at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the 800m run at a school-record 1:44.50.
– Won the 800m run at the SECs with a time of 1:45.68, a conference record.
– Was a member of the 4x400m relay team that finished fifth at the SECs at 3:00.48.
– Set the Mike Sanders Track Complex record in the 800m run at 1:44.63.
– Was a member of the prestigious Bowerman Award watch list.
– Finished his illustrious career as a nine-time All-American.
– Named to the 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 SEC Honor Roll.
– Was a member of the 4x400m relay team that finished sixth at the NCAA Indoor Championships at 3:06:30.
– Placed sixth in the mile run at 4:11.96 at the Armory Track Invite in New York City.
You can read more about McBride’s accomplishments here.