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Nearly Two Dozen Athletes With UK Ties Competing In Tokyo Olympics

UK Athletics

The University of Kentucky will be well represented at the Olympics, now under way in Tokyo. From basketball, softball and track and field to shooting, swimming and fencing, the 22 UK competitors shatter the previous school record of nine men's basketball players in 1948. From UK Now:

As the eyes of the world turn to Tokyo for the delayed 2020 Olympics, University of Kentucky fans may spy many students, alumni and staff competing for their home countries for the first time as the Parade of Athletes enter Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony this morning. 

Out of the 22, four are current students competing for the “Red, White and Blue” — Lee Kiefer, Gerek Meinhardt, Will Shaner and Mary Tucker.

UK College of Medicine's married competitors Lee Kiefer and Gerek Meinhardt — who are currently students at the university, but not part of the varsity athletics program in UK Athletics — have competed in multiple Olympics in fencing and will compete again this year. Kiefer, a Lexington native and Paul Laurence Dunbar High School alumna, will compete in her third Olympics in the discipline of foil fencing. Meinhardt, who is also a Lexington local, will be representing the U.S in his fourth Olympics after winning bronze in the 2016 Ria de Janeiro Games.

Will Shaner, a senior majoring in economics in the Gatton College of Business and Economics, will compete in the men’s 10-meter air rifle and mixed shooting 10m air rifle. Prior to representing the U.S. he was the NCAA air rifle individual national runner-up in 2021, helping Kentucky to its third national team title. Shaner was a first-team Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association All-America in all three disciplines in 2021 and was first-team overall in 2020. Additionally, he was a nine-time first-team All-Great America Rifle Conference honoree and was named national rookie of the year as a freshman in 2019.

Mary Tucker will compete in the in women’s 10-meter air rifle, women’s 50-meter smallbore and mixed team shooting 10m air rifle — making her the only UK athlete to qualify for the Olympics in both air rifle and smallbore. Before her Olympic debut, the sophomore majoring in kinesiology in the UK College of Education, was the smallbore, air rifle and overall individual NCAA Champion in 2021, leading the Wildcats to a third national team title in program history. She was also two-time National Athlete of the Year by the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association and is a first-team All-America honoree in all three disciplines each of the last two seasons. 

Three other UK students, Alexia Lacatena, Megan Moss and Dwight St. Hillaire, and a coach, Devynne Charlton, will exchange their blue and white for their home countries’ colors as they compete in softball and track and field.

Ranked 37th nationally in the recruiting Class of 2021, incoming College of Education freshman and UK softball player Alexia Lacatena already took the mound earlier this week playing for Italy. The pitcher is a member of the country’s 2021 European Softball Championship team. Lacatena previously played for Lenape Valley High School in Stanhope, New Jersey, where she was first team all-state twice.

UK track and field’s Megan Moss, a human health sciences junior in the UK College of Health Sciences, will run the 4-x-400 meter relay for the Bahamas after finishing third in the 400-meter dash at The Bahamas National Championships. At UK, Moss was first-team All-America in the 4-x-400 at the 2021 NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships, where Kentucky finished fifth and eighth, respectively. In February, she ran the lead leg on the relay team that set the UK indoor record. 

Graduate student and UK track and field runner Dwight St. Hillaire will run the 400-meter dash and 4-x-400 meter relay for Trinidad and Tobago. St. Hillaire, who earned a bachelor’s degree in communication from UK College of Communication and Information, is a 2021 first-team All-America in four events — indoor and outdoor 400 and indoor and outdoor 4x400 relay. He also holds three school records for the 400 and as part of the indoor and outdoor 4x400 relays.

Devynne Charlton, a volunteer assistant coach for UK’s track and field team, will also compete in Tokyo for the Bahamas. Charlton will run the 100-meter hurdles for the country. An alumna of Purdue University, she won an NCAA silver medal in 100 hurdles and NCAA silver and bronze medals in the 60-meter hurdles.

Joining the eight Wildcats above in Tokyo will be 14 UK alumni — seven competing for the U.S. and seven others representing Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway and Zimbabwe.

The UK alumni named U.S. Olympians are:

  • Bam Adebayo, USA Basketball (UK 2016-17 season); 
  • Devin Booker, USA Basketball (UK 2014-15 season);
  • Keni Harrison, USA Track and Field (UK 2014-15), who holds a bachelor’s degree in community and leadership development from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, the world record holder competing in 100-meter hurdles;
  • Keldon Johnson, USA Basketball (UK 2018-19 season); 
  • Sydney McLaughlin, USA Track and Field (UK 2018), world record holder competing in 400-meter hurdles;
  • Javianne Oliver, USA Track and Field (UK 2015-17), who holds a bachelor’s degree in public health from the College of Public Health, competing in 100-meter dash; and
  • Daniel Roberts, USA Track and Field (UK 2017-19), competing in 110-meter hurdles.

The other UK alumni competing in Tokyo are:

  • Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, Puerto Rico Track and Field (UK 2016-18), competing in 100m hurdles;
  • Brittany Cervantes, Mexico Softball (UK 2009-12), who holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from UK CI and a master’s degree in kinesiology and health promotion from UK College of Education;
  • Ali Galyer, New Zealand Swimming (UK 2016-20), who holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Gatton College, competing in the 100 backstroke, 200 backstroke and 4x200 freestyle relay;
  • Henrik Larsen, Norway Shooting (UK 2017-18), who will shoot in men’s 50-meter smallbore;
  • Leah Nugent, Jamaica Track and Field (UK 2014-15), who holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the UK College of Arts and Sciences, who will compete in the 400-meter hurdles;
  • Jennifer O’Neill, Puerto Rico Basketball (UK 2011-15), who holds a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from UK College of Education; and
  • Peter Wetzlar, Zimbabwe Swimming (UK 2016-20), who holds bachelor’s degrees in finance and accounting from Gatton College, competing in 50 freestyle.

To cheer on your favorite Big Blue athletes through the run of the Olympics ending Aug. 8, check television local listings for NBC, NBCSN, USA Network, CNBC, Olympic Channel, Telemundo and NBC Universo; online at NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app; and streaming on Peacock. The opening ceremony will re-air beginning at 7:30 p.m. tonight (July 23). The competition schedule for sports featuring UK athletes, with all dates based on Tokyo time are as follows:

  • Softball: July 21-27
  • Fencing: July 24-Aug. 1
  • Swimming: July 24-Aug. 1
  • Shooting: July 24-Aug. 2
  • Men’s Basketball: July 25-Aug.7
  • Women’s Basketball: July 26-Aug. 8
  • Athletics (track and field): July 30-Aug. 8
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