[caption id="attachment_361259" align="alignnone" width="1024"]
(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)[/caption]
Former Kentucky track star Sydney McLaughlin is one step closer to taking home a gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
In her first official event of this year's games, McLaughlin cruised to an overwhelming victory in her women's 400m hurdles heat to advance to the event semifinals, finishing with a smooth time of 54.65 seconds. She previously set the 400m world record during team trials by finishing with a time of 51.90 seconds.
During her Friday evening debut, McLaughlin was so far ahead of the competition that she was able to take the foot off the gas down the home stretch, finishing the event hardly breaking a sweat.
When asked of the pressure she has on her shoulders to take home gold as an overwhelming favorite in the 400m hurdles following her heat win, McLaughlin gave the perfect answer. To put it simply, if you don't put that weight on your shoulders, you'll never feel pressure.
"Pressure is an illusion, it's what you make it," McLaughlin said following the race. "I'm just here to have fun and represent my country."
The former Kentucky standout is set to compete in the event semifinals on Monday at 7:45 a.m. ET, followed by the finals on Tuesday at 10:30 p.m. ET.
Harrison, Camacho-Quinn and Charlton also advance
McLaughlin isn't the only former Wildcat to make noise in Tokyo on Friday.
USA's Keni Harrison (UK, 2014-15) took home first place in her women's 100m hurdles heat to advance to the semifinals Sunday morning at 6:53 a.m. ET, while Puerto Rico's Jasmine Camacho-Quinn (UK, 2016-18) won her women's 100m hurdles heat with a final time of 12.41 seconds. She will compete in the semifinals Sunday morning at 7:01 a.m. ET. Bahamas' Devynne Charlton also qualified in the women's 100m hurdles event, coming in fourth place in her heat Friday with a final time of 12.84 seconds. She is set to compete in the semifinals Sunday morning at 6:45 a.m. ET.
Jamaica's Leah Nugent (2014-15) also qualified for the semifinals of the women's 400m hurdles, but was ultimately disqualified due to a lane violation after stepping out of her lane twice. Team Jamaica appealed the disqualification but the former Kentucky standout will not be reinstated.
USA's Javianne Oliver failed to qualify for the finals early Saturday morning, coming in fifth with a final time of 11.08 seconds in the women's 100m semifinals at 6:15 a.m. ET.
As for the other Wildcats competing across other sports, current UK rifle standout Mary Tucker fell in the women’s 50m smallbore rifle, 3 positions qualifiers, coming in 13th (1167) out of 37 total participants. Only eight competitors advanced to the event finals.
Here is the schedule for UK standouts competing on Saturday:
Saturday, July 31
— MEN’S BASKETBALL – 8:00 AM: USA vs. Czech Republic, Men’s Prelim Group A (USA wins 119-84)
— FENCING – 8:00 PM: Men’s team foil quarterfinals (Gerek Meinhardt, USA) – Live Stream
— TRACK & FIELD – 9:45 PM: Men’s 400m Round 1 (Dwight St. Hillaire, Trinidad and Tobago) – Live Stream
Olivier Sarr, Ashton Hagans find Summer League homes
Former Wildcats Olivier Sarr and Ashton Hagans have found new homes for the summer, as both players agreed to deals with NBA Summer League teams on Friday.
According to ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, Sarr is set to join the Memphis Grizzlies in August, while Hagans will suit up for the Toronto Raptors.
Both players went undrafted in their respective draft classes, Hagans in 2020 and Sarr in 2021.
The MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2021 will take place Aug. 8-17 in Las Vegas, with all 75 games of the 10-day competition set to air live on television on ESPN networks or NBA TV. Every game will also be available to stream on the ESPN App.
Texas and Oklahoma officially join the SEC
After formally receiving invites to join the Southeastern Conference on Thursday, Oklahoma and Texas both accepted those offers Friday to make their future move to the conference official.
The SEC announced the pair of additions to the SEC early Friday afternoon.
“The Presidents and Chancellors of the Southeastern Conference are pleased to welcome the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas,” said Jere Morehead, President of the University of Georgia and current President of the SEC. “Both universities are prestigious academic institutions with strong athletics programs similar in tradition, culture and success to our current member universities. We look forward to a productive and successful future together beginning in 2025.”
“This is an important moment for the long-term future of the Southeastern Conference and our member universities,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “Oklahoma and Texas are outstanding academic institutions with two strong athletics programs, which will add to the SEC’s national prominence. Their additions will further enhance the already rich academic, athletic and cultural legacies that have been cultivated throughout the years by our existing 14 members. We look forward to the Sooners and Longhorns competing in our Conference starting in the 2025-26 academic year.”
Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops also voiced his approval in the additions, praising the league for continually finding ways to improve and adding that this will be a move that helps the UK program in the long run.
“Congratulations to Oklahoma and Texas as they join the SEC,” Mark Stoops tweeted Friday afternoon
. “Through my brothers, I am familiar with the OU program and both schools have an outstanding tradition. Our incredible league continues to get better, just another reason for great players to join UK Football.”
Ready or not, here they come.