85th Annual Kansas Relays Preview
April 17, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas Relays will write another chapter in the meet’s storied history this week the 85th year of competition begins with events Wednesday stretching through Saturday at Memorial Stadium and in downtown Lawrence.
Memorial Stadium opened 90 years ago and has hosted each Kansas Relay since it began back in 1923.
“I think it speaks to the rich history of the event,” said Relays and Kansas track and field legend Jim Ryun. “If you look at all the athletes who have come through and all the races they competed in, it’s a real tribute to the men and women who put this event on year in and year out.”
While the many names of competitors have changed over the years, like Ryun and the runners who have come after him, their legacies live on in the events some of them are named after.
Below is just a glimpse of some of the top story lines to watch for this week as some of the nation’s top professional, collegiate and high school athletes compete in one of the nation’s most historic meets:
Downtown Shot Put/Long Jump
For the second straight year, the Relays along with the city of Lawrence will host the shot put and long jump events downtown, making it the only track and field competition in the U.S. to hold that distinction. Returning shot putters from last year’s event include the world No. 1 Ryan Whiting, last year’s downtown champ Dylan Armstrong, as well as fellow top-ten throwers, Reese Hoffa and Adam Nelson. Wednesday’s shot put will boast a newcomer to the event in seven-time USA National Champion and 2008 Olympic Silver medalist Christian Cantwell.
Additional information on the shot putters competing can be found here.
In the long jump, two of the world’s top long jumpers, Janay DeLoach and Funmi Jimoh, have signed on to compete. Both female athletes are ranked among the top-10 in the world and will headline a long list of elite jumpers in the competition to be held Thursday, April 19, in downtown Lawrence.
Information on the long jumpers and other elite athletes competing can be found here.
Both events begin at 6 p.m. with the shot put being held at the 100 East block of Eighth Street between Massachusetts and New Hampshire Streets while the long jump will take place on the 100 West block of Eighth Street between Massachusetts and Vermont Streets.
For the eighth time in the last nine years, Olympian Bershawn `Batman’ Jackson will return to the 2012 Kansas Relays. A Relays regular, Jackson is a six-time winner in the 400-meter hurdles and currently holds the meet record in the event. He has already had a stellar start to his 2012 season. Two weeks ago he won the 400-meter hurdles at the Florida Relays in a time of 48.49. The time is the fastest in the world this year and the fastest-ever for Jackson at a season-opening meet.
In 2005, Jackson became the first American in 10 years to win a 400-meter hurdles title at the World Championships when he captured gold in Helsinki with a then-personal best time of 47.30. Three years later Jackson made his first Olympic Games after winning the 2008 Olympic Trials and went on to win a bronze medal in Beijing. Jackson has been an extremely consistent performer throughout his career, having earned a top-10 ranking every year since 2003.
Jackson and the rest of the 400-meter hurdles field will square off at 3:10 p.m., Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Diamond vs. the Pros
Kansas’ national champion sprinter Diamond Dixon will see how she measures up to some of the fastest professionals in track today. Dixon, a four-time All-American in the 400 meters and 4×400-meter relay, will be included in a field with two former Olympians. Monica Hargrove has competed and won several events at the international level, including a 4×400-meter relay silver medal at the 2006 World Championships. KU alumn Nickesha Anderson will also return to Memorial Stadium, holding Kansas records in five events. She was a four-time All-American while at Kansas as well as member of the Jamaica’s 2008 Olympic team in the 4×100-meter relay.
The group will hit the track at 2:50 p.m. Saturday.
Canadian Scott Russell Begins Journey to Second Olympics
Another former Kansas star, Scott Russell, will attempt to win his ninth javelin crown at the Kansas Relays as he returns to Lawrence this year as the Canadian record holder in the event. After his meet-record-setting performance at last year’s Relays, Scott went on to have one of the best season’s of his career, this all at the age of 32. He broke the Canadian national record in the event with an enormous throw of 278 ft., 3 inches (that’s eight yards shy of the length of a football field). He went on to compete at the World Championships in Daegu were he finished 10th in the semifinals. Russell is looking to break through to the Olympics once again this year as he competed in Beijing in 2008. His journey will start this weekend in Lawrence.
Over the past two years he has been a middle school teacher in Baldwin, Kan. teaching health and physical education. He will be competing at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
KU Women’s Track Breaking Through
The KU women’s track team is having arguably the most successful season since the program began in 1973. The team has been a mainstay in the nation’s top-ten rankings and has several individuals currently ranked among the best in the NCAA. The indoor season produced not only a runner-up team finish at the NCAA Championship meet, but also seven First Team All-Americans. Diamond Dixon and Andrea Geubelle claimed individual national championships, the first female Jayhawks to do so since 2005. The women took third at the Big 12 Conference meet and boasted four conference champions. Not satisfied though, the women’s team is looking for even more accolades as they creep closer to the postseason. Nearly all of the KU women and men will be in action this week hoping to improve their regional and national standings.
Men’s Pole Vault
While the downtown shot put has been one of the more high profile events at the Relays, the men’s pole vault also is hosting some of the top vaulters in the nation. An Olympic Gold medalist at the 2000 Games, Nick Hysong will make his 2012 debut along with former NCAA champions Scott Roth, Mark Hollis and KU alum Jordan Scott. The extremely talented field will hit the runway at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The 85th edition of the Kansas Relays begins Wednesday, April 18 and continues through Saturday, April 21. Admission into the meet will be granted to those who purchase a 2012 Kansas Relays button. The buttons are $10 for adults and $5 for students, youth and seniors. The buttons are valid for all four days of the event. Children under five are admitted for free, as are KU students with a valid KU ID. A Kansas Relays family plan is also available and includes two adult and two student/youth buttons for $20.
Updates on all the meet action can be found at the KU Relays Meet Central Page; including live results, the interactive meet blog and a live web stream all day Friday and Saturday. For a complete meet schedule, news and information, as well as quotes and recaps of each day’s events, visit the KU Relays web site at www.kansasrelays.com.