In Rare Company: Allison Mayfield
Jan. 30, 2012
Four-year volleyball standout Allison Mayfield’s switch to track and field this year has put her among a select few when it comes to two-sport athletes at Kansas
The name Wilt Chamberlain is held in high regard throughout Kansas Athletics. So few have accomplished what the nationally-known figure had done in his lifetime.
But now, Kansas senior Allison Mayfield can say she too has done something that ‘Wilt the Stilt’ did during his time in Lawrence; hold the title of two-sport athlete. Mayfield, who played volleyball at KU from 2008-11, has joined the track and field team for the spring 2012 season, competing in the javelin and high jump.
“Everyone knows Wilt, he is in Kansas history,” Mayfield said. “It is kind of crazy (to be included in his company), but that is something I can take away from this experience.”
The experience Mayfield is going through is one that she has seen before, as a dual sport athlete at Saint Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, Kan.
“Way back in high school, I was being recruited both by Coach B. (Ray Bechard) in volleyball and Coach (Stanley) Redwine in track, so I kind of had to decide what I wanted to do,” the now 22-year old remembered. “I liked the team aspect of volleyball a little bit better and Coach B. mentioned that I might be able to do a little bit of track here and there, but it just didn’t work out that way because our spring season is really important.”
With that in mind, it was not too long after Mayfield put the finishing touches on a stellar KU volleyball career that she began to get the itch to compete yet again.
“When I was finished with volleyball, I took a couple of days off and realized that I had a lot more free time than I would have liked and I kind of got a little bored,” she recalled.
For Mayfield, that boredom quickly turned into a desire to compete in a sport where she once flourished in. But her decision to get back into the competitive swing of things drew some pointed questions from her close friends and family.
“I had a lot of people (that said to me), ‘Are you crazy!? You just finished, now you have one semester to be a normal student and you want to sign up to do this again?'” she recalled. “But I just told them, ‘no because I enjoy it.'”
As for when she finally took to the Anschutz Sports Pavilion, Mayfield said the rust wore off pretty quick.
“In the high jump it came back pretty naturally,” she recalled of her first attempts. “I did end up working with coach (Tom) Hays and coach (Wayne) Pate a bit to brush up and change my approach, but for the most part it was not too hard to get back in the rhythm.”
Truth be told, there was not much rust on there to begin with. In high school, Mayfield was a three-time high jump champion while competing at the Kansas Relays and the state championships. Not be outdone by her track and field prowess at St. Thomas Aquinas, she also garnered all-metro and all-state honors during her time on the volleyball court.
“Throwing wise I know I have a lot of work to do,” Mayfield said. “But it has been fun to get those old movements back because I have been playing volleyball for the past four years.”
It is some of those movements that the former volleyball star sees some similarities from, during her days in Horejsi.
“There are a lot of little similarities you can draw from,” she said. “I have been working with the javelin coach (Andy Kokhanovsky), and some of my movements throwing wise, he will relate to hitting a volleyball because it has to be high. Jumping wise, in my position (outside hitter), you jump off two feet and in high jump, you only jump off one, so it is kind of the same because you still have to get up in the air, but it’s really more like a slide approach.”
Another recent KU dual-sport athlete can most definitely relate to Mayfield’s sport switch and how one can often help out progression in the other. Micah Brown played football at Kansas from 2007-08, but also competed in track and field before taking to the gridiron.
“Every sport has a certain degree of focus, but the mindset of track is more of a laid-back atmosphere for training, because you are preparing for one moment,” Brown explained. “Football is intense all the time and so changing your mindset was a big challenge.”
Like football, volleyball requires constant attention and focus on the court. One of those who has been privileged enough to see that focus and development from Mayfield since she arrived on campus in 2008, is her former coach, Ray Bechard. KU’s 14-year head coaching veteran believes in his former player’s abilities.
“I know she always thought when her eligibility in volleyball was up, she wanted to give one last shot at track,” Bechard remembered. “I think she likes to compete and loves Kansas because some people would coast into the last semester of their senior year, but she obviously feels like she has a chance to help the track and field program in some way.”
Bechard has seen his star outside hitter go from promising freshman to school standout, breaking the program record for kills in a season with her 462 in 2011. Mayfield garnered All-Big 12 Honorable Mention status this past season as well as leading the conference in kills per set average.
If her success on the court is any indication of her abilities out in the field, her current coaches feel optimistic about her ceiling.
“It is hard, in one season, to get where you want to be, but she has the potential to do better than she did in high school and she jumped 5-10 then,” said vertical jumps coach Tom Hays. “So if she can jump that again and maybe the next bar, then all of a sudden she is player on the national level.”
While Mayfield hopes to see some individual success in her new venture, she ultimately just wants to help out her new team and her school.
“I would obviously like to improve from where I was in high school, both in javelin and high jump,” she said. “My main goal is just helping the team, so if I can score a point here or there that would be awesome because I came in as a volleyball player, but Kansas is Kansas and if I can help Kansas in any other way, it would be great.”
It’s that attitude that Coach Hays sees shine through her hard work during breaks in her busy schedule.
“She has an internship (at OrthoKansas in Lawrence), so she fits us in during the middle,” Hays explained. “She goes to work in the morning and then she shows up at noon for her lunch hour and does her workouts. The best thing about her though is that she is a quick learner and is easy to coach.”
While Mayfield hopes those extra lunch hour workouts help payoff for herself and her team, ultimately the volleyball player turned track and field athlete, doesn’t think that her days on the court are quite over. After graduation Mayfield would like to pursue a professional volleyball career in Europe before going back to school to become a physical therapist.
“I am not ready to be finished yet and if I can go over there and see some of the world, while playing, that would be great,” she concluded. “So that is my plan, to do that for a couple of years and then school will always be there to come back to.”
Whether it is competing in track and field here in the states or playing volleyball on the courts in Europe, KU senior Allison Mayfield is on a course to achieve success. With a driven attitude and an undying work ethic, the native Kansan is on a path to become one of the very few Jayhawks who have played two sports in college and then gone on to compete in one professionally.
A quick glance at other two-sport KU athletes:
Micah Brown (Football/Track and Field) 2007-08
–Competed in the triple jump for track & field and as a walk-on wide receiver for the football team… Was a member of the 2008 Orange Bowl Champion team as well as the 2008 squad that won the Insight Bowl.
Isaac Byrd (Football/Baseball) 1994-96
-Played wide receiver and outfield… Was drafted by the National Football League and Major League Baseball… Played minor league baseball in the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization… Played in the NFL for six seasons with Tennessee and Carolina.
Lee Flachsbarth (Football/Basketball) 1959-63
-Originally started at quarterback for the football team, but moved to halfback following an injury… Member of the 1961 Bluebonnet Bowl team, KU’s first squad to win a bowl game … Also played center for Dick Harp and the KU basketball team.
Wilt Chamberlain (Basketball/Track and Field)
-Played on the freshman basketball team in 1955 for Phog Allen… Made varsity debut under head coach Dick Harp in 1956, when he scored 52 points and grabbed 31 rebounds… Led team to National Championship game in 1957… Starred in track and field, while winning the high jump for three-straight years at the Big 8 Championship… Went onto become one of the greatest players in NBA history, scoring 31,419 points (4th all-time), including 100 in a single game and grabbing 23,924 rebounds (most all-time)… Inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979.