Downtown Shot Put Kicks Off Opening Day of 85th Kansas Relays

April 18, 2012

Day 1 Results | PDF Results Get Acrobat Reader |

Watch on YouTube

041912aab_925_7697406.jpegLAWRENCE, Kan. – For the second-straight year the Kansas Relays played host to one of the most popular and unique track and field events to ever be held on U.S. soil, as some of the world’s top shot putters took to the streets of downtown Lawrence Wednesday evening.

With nearly 3,500 fans lining the shot put sector in the heart of downtown Lawrence, eight of the world’s top throwers began their journeys to a hopeful spot in this summer’s Olympic Games in London. Fan-favorite Reese Hoffa claimed the event title on a world-leading throw of 21.73 meters (71-03.50 ft.), edging former Missouri star Christian Cantwell.

Hoffa and Cantwell gave the thousands of fans in attendance quite a show as each heaved the 16-pound iron balls more than 71 feet on multiple occasions. The two quickly separated themselves from the rest of the field as both entered the third round of throws leading the other competitors by nearly a foot.

On his fifth attempt, Cantwell launched a throw of 21.70 meters (71-02.25 ft.) to take a commanding lead, however Hoffa would not go down without a fight. The Evans, Ga. native hit a mark of 21.65 meters (71-00.25 ft.) on his fifth throw to come within two inches of Cantwell. On his sixth and final attempt of the day, Hoffa stepped into the ring with one final opportunity to out-throw the former MU Tiger. He unwound and uncorked the shot to an enormous distance that measured to 21.73 meters (71-03.50 ft.) earning the loudest cheer of the day and Hoffa’s first downtown crown.

Hoffa’s mark makes him the No. 1 thrower in the world as the 2012 outdoor season gets underway for the professionals, an important distinction to have as he attempts to earn a ticket to the third Olympic games of his career later this year.

Cantwell was the runner-up with the world’s No. 2 throw of the year, while Canadian Justin Rodhe propelled himself to a third-place finish with a throw of 21.11 (69-03.25 ft.).

Each thrower became an instant fan favorite following the event. After the competition’s completion, fans clamored for autographs and pictures with athletes, attempting to get up-close and personal with a collection of the world’s most powerful and charismatic athletes.

The 2012 Relays opened up with the decathlon and heptathlon events Wednesday morning at Hershberger Track at Memorial Stadium.

A local theme took shape as athletes from Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska emerged as the leaders in day one.

Bjorn Barrefors of Nebraska got off to a blazing start in the decathlon, pulling out to a commanding lead by winning three of the five opening-day events. His top scoring performance came in the long jump where he recorded a top leap of 7.06 meters (23-02.00 ft.) for 828 points. Despite closing the day with the fourth-best time in the 400 meters (51.87), he will head into the second day of competition with 3,836 points and a 163 point lead over teammate Teran Walford.

Walford, who claimed the Kansas Relays decathlon title a year ago, was solid in Wednesday’s decathlon as well, recording victories in two of the five events and placing in the top three in each. He closed the day strong, winning the 400 meters in a personal-best time of 49.93 and earning 818 points. The Cornhusker sits in second place with 3,669 points. Walford and the rest of the decathletes will resume action Thursday in the 110-meter hurdles at 9 a.m.

In the Candace Mason Heptathlon, Liz Roehrig, competing unattached, finished day one leading after four events. Roehrig ended the day strong, winning the shot put with a mark of 13.36 meters (43-10.00 ft.) and claiming the 200-meter title in a wind-aided time of 25.02 for the top mark in the final event of the day. Roehrig collected 3,511 points and sits in a comfortable 206-point lead over the rest of the field with three events remaining.

Kansas’ freshman Lindsay Vollmer sits in second place after four events.Vollmer followed up a solid 100-meter hurdling performance in the opening event with a personal best in the high jump. The 1.69 meter (5-06.50 ft.) clearance earned her a third-place finish and 842 points. In the shot put, Vollmer put a total of 630 points up on the board with her 11.53 meter (37-10.00 ft.) throw and third-place finish. With three events left, Vollmer is on a personal-record pace with a total of 3,304 points.

The heptathlon will continue Thursday morning at Memorial Stadium, starting with the long jump at 9 a.m. The Kansas Relays will return to downtown Lawrence Thursday night for the Invitational women’s long jump at 6 p.m.

Downtown Shot Put Quotes
April 18, 2012
Lawrence, Kan.

Winner Reese Hoffa
On what it’s like participating in the Kansas Relays:
“It’s pretty awesome. I mean if you keep getting crowds like this, you can’t help but to not have fun.”

On what he did on his final two throws to take home the victory:
“I think I just got after it on that last throw. I think I was going a little slow and I was a little tentative at the beginning, so I just went out there and tried to hit the ball as hard as I possibly could and hope I stayed in (the throwing circle).”

On if he was nervous before his final throw, knowing that Christian Cantwell had already set the mark for the longest throw of the year:
“Maybe a little bit. Christian (Cantwell) is very seasoned, very powerful, so if you’re going to beat him you have to do something special and I guess I did something special.”

On if it has sunk in that he has the longest throw in the world in 2012:
“For us, it’s throw after throw. I guess it’s exciting that I was able to come out here and perform. It’s also exciting because of the fans here and they enjoy watching us throw. We put on a great show. We have great pros and at the end of it, you have the world’s best throw.”

On if the environment is what he expected:
“Absolutely, I came here last year. I was a little upset that I didn’t win, but I came in this year and got it done. This is awesome. I love that they keep coming here.”

On if he likes throwing downtown:
“I do because once we’re done I look forward to saying hello to the fans, shaking some hands and signing some autographs. Just all the little stuff is awesome.”

Runner-up Christian Cantwell
On the venue and the atmosphere in downtown Lawrence:
“I love that they do that for us. I’ll be honest, I do a lot of meets and everything is great here you can’t ask for a better set up than this.”

On returning to the Kansas Relays after missing last year’s due to injury:

“I really like coming over here. And it is so close to my house, it’s just a two-hour drive so it’s like being at home. Yeah, I like this place and I have been here almost every year since 2000.”

On his second place finish despite throwing the farthest shot put of the year twice in this year’s Kansas Relays:
“I didn’t do very good, I’ll be honest. I could have thrown better with a 17 pound (shot). I threw a 17 pound 21.75 meters on Monday. I just couldn’t get one to come off my hand right.”

Kevin Bookout
On his transition to throwing shot put after playing basketball at Oklahoma:
“I always did track at OU but it was only for about two months a year. And then I played in the NBA (developmental) league right after college. And I eventually decided that I just wanted to throw shot put and train for the Olympics.”

On turning his focus to seriously compete in shot put:
“the first year was 2008-2009 and since then I have been throwing full time.”

On the atmosphere in downtown Lawrence:
“Great atmosphere, great crowd. KU does an unbelievable job with this event and it was a privilege to throw in it.”

On coming back to Lawrence since playing basketball for Oklahoma:
“Last time I was here it wasn’t a great experience when we lost. I think that was Brandon Rush and Julian Wright’s coming out party in 2006. But Lawrence is a great city and it is a fun place to be.”

On his goal to make the 2012 Olympic games:
“We will just see how this year goes. I am going to start hitting some speed stuff in the weight room to try and get a little bit quicker and we’ll see what happens.”