Former Jayhawk Crystal Manning to Make Return This Week at Kansas Relays

April 20, 2011

This weekend the Kansas track and field team will welcome back one of the finest female athletes to ever put on the Crimson and Blue. Crystal Manning will make her return to Memorial Stadium for the first time since her fabulous Kansas career ended in 2008. Manning, who was the Jayhawks’ top horizontal jumper from 2005-08 will be competing in several events this weekend but the highlights should come in the triple jump and long jump, taking place on Friday and Saturday.

Manning still holds the KU school record in the triple jump with an eye-popping mark of 13.71m (44-11.75ft.). The two-time All-American won several events in the long jump and led several relay teams to gold in her four years in Lawrence. Her senior year she was the Big 12 champion in the indoor long and triple jumps, and brought home the highest individual score for the meet, becoming the first Jayhawk in history to accomplish that feat. Manning’s outstanding senior year earned her the KU track and field athlete of the year honors, which she says is one of her greatest honors to this day.

“That was a true blessing to get that,” Manning said of receiving the award. “I felt really honored to get that award because there were so many great athletes on the team that year.”

After graduating from KU as one of the most decorated field athletes in recent memory, Manning decided to continue her dream of turning professional and began training with the U.S.A. Track and Field Team. She has kept a stringent training schedule all while keeping the dream of representing the U.S. in the World Championships and eventually in the Olympics. She is currently training with world-famous horizontal jumps coach and Olympic gold medalist Al Joyner. Joyner has been training Manning at the Olympic Training center in Chula Vista, Calif., while she has been a resident-athlete there.

Even though Manning has to navigate through a difficult training schedule she still finds time to connect with former teammates and coaches, most of whom are still with the KU track and field program.

“I talk to Coach (Elisha) Brewer here and there,” Manning explained. “I talk to Rose Richmond who is a volunteer coach there right now. I talk to Coach (Stanley) Redwine quite a bit. So I’m still talking to quite a few people from KU.”

After a three-year hiatus, Manning’s former mentors convinced her to make her long-awaited return at this year’s Kansas Relays. In her four years at KU, Manning had some of her best performances at this meet in front of the home fans. She earned a second-place finish her sophomore year in the triple jump and won the event her senior year. That year she also set the best mark of the year for the Jayhawks in the long jump. Manning says she always looked forward to this meet while in college and it is no different this year.

“I’m really looking forward to coming back to the atmosphere and the weather this year,” said Manning. “Just being able to see that team spirit that I loved so much when I was at KU, I’m really looking forward to it.”

The 84th Annual Kansas Relays will be Manning’s first time competing in both the long and triple jumps this season. She is on a strict training schedule as she prepares for the U.S. Championships at the end of June at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. If she performes well there, then it is off to the World Championships in Daegu, South Korea at the end of August. Until then, Manning is just taking one meet at a time and says her main focus in training has been to increase her speed and improve her leg work and timing.

In the first few months of the 2011 outdoor season she has mostly been competing and excelling in sprinting events as well as being a member of several relay teams. Just last week her 4X100 meter relay team earned a second-place finish at the Mt. Sac Relays in Walnut, Calif., one of the most competitive meets in the country.

For now Manning is looking forward to her homecoming this weekend and plans to put on a show for the home crowd once again. When she isn’t on the track or field she will surely have some catching up to do with her former coaches and teammates. Even after being away from the program Manning still says she is affected by the things she learned from her days at KU.

“I still think about one quote that coach Redwine would always say to us,” Manning explained. “It still sticks out to me. He would say, ‘If you ever want to be successful you can’t feel pain.'”

Manning will kick off her weekend in the triple jump at 12 p.m. Friday and will conclude her trip to the Kansas Relays in the long jump at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.