👟 Promising KU Track & Field Newcomers Primed for 2020-21 Season
LAWRENCE, Kan. – As the Kansas men’s and women’s track & field teams get set for the 2020-21 season, the Jayhawks welcome a talented group of newcomers, while bringing back some of the top returners in the Big 12 and across the country.
Of the 2020-21 newcomers, the Jayhawks hail from 16 different states or countries, including four from Kansas and Missouri, two from Colorado, and one from Ohio, Minnesota, New Jersey, Illinois, Texas, Washington D.C., Arizona, Russia, Norway, Belarus, St. Lucia and Algeria.
The group is made up of 12 men and 11 women, representing seven different event groups including, sprints (6), pole vault (4), middle distance (4), throws (4), combined events (3), distance (1) and hurdles (1).
Today, we will introduce you to the newest faces of Kansas track & field, which includes 21 newcomers who are primed for a promising future in the Crimson and Blue.
A transfer from Kent State, Christian Champen was a 2019 USTFCCCA Second Team All-American in the pole vault, finishing 15th at the 2019 NCAA Outdoor Championships and the 2020 MAC Indoor Conference Champion in the event. In his time at Kent State, he set both the indoor and outdoor school records in the pole vault, reaching 5.33m (17-5.75 ft.) indoors and 5.35m (17-6.5 ft.) outdoors. Champen also participated in the long jump at Kent State, jumping a personal best 7.36m (24-1.75 ft.). Champen will enter the 2020-21 season as a senior with outdoor eligibility remaining.
Staying in his hometown of Lawrence, JaBrandion Douglas comes to KU with a personal best 6.90 in the 60 meters, 22.53 in the 200 meters and 10.93 in the 100 meters. A sprinter from Lawrence Free State High School, Douglas had a promising 2020 indoor season before the outdoor season was canceled, but will represent his hometown Jayhawks as an freshman for the 2020-21 season.
A native of Kansas City, Missouri and a transfer from Wichita State, Grant Downes enters the 2020-21 season as a junior indoors and freshman outdoors. Downes competed in the decathlon at the 2018 USATF Junior Championships, finishing ninth overall with 6,422 points. Most recently, Downes capped of the 2020 indoor season by placing seventh at the American Athletic Conference Championships in the heptathlon, scoring 4,718 points.
A Kansas native from Hutchinson, Kansas, Clay Eckert joins KU after spending his freshman campaign at Wichita State in the combined events. During the 2020 indoor season, Eckert competed in six meets for the Shockers, including an 11th place finish in the heptathlon at the American Athletic Conference Championships. In high school, Eckert was a five-time state qualifier and five-time league champion.
Jake Freidel enters a strong crop of pole vaulters on the Jayhawk’s roster after a great career at Central High School in Centralia, Missouri. Freidel is the Centralia High School record holder in the pole vault, vaulting 4.62m (15-2.25 ft.) at the Centralia Classic in 2019. Freidel also competed at the 2018 National Pole Vault Summit, finishing 12th overall and is a two-time state qualifier in the pole vault and two-time sectional champion.
Highly regarded as one of the top high school 800 meter runners in the country last year, AJ Green III comes to Kansas with a personal best of 1:49.83, set at the Minnesota High School State Track and Field Championships in 2019, which he won. Green also competed in the USATF U-20 Junior Championships in 2019, finishing fourth and most recently competed at the Illinois Meet of Champions, finishing second.
A Hammer thrower from Moscow, Russia, Klykov looks to continue the momentum from the historically strong KU throws unit. Klykov comes to KU with a personal best of 64.91m (215-7 ft.)), while winning the Russian U20 Championships in 2018, throwing 66.10m (216-10 ft.).
Kansas adds another strong asset to the throws unit in Hakon Litland, who comes to KU from Bergen, Norway. Litland set a personal best of 71.49m (234-6 ft.) (6k) in the hammer throw and was the 2019 Norwegian U20 Champion in the event.
Jelani Pierre comes to KU as a grad transfer after spending the 2017-2020 seasons at Iona College, where he is the school record holder in the long jump with a jump of 7.42m (24-4.25 ft.). Pierre was the 2019 Metropolitan Outdoor Champion in the long jump and placed fifth at the 2020 MAAC Indoor Track & Field Championships.
A pole vaulter out of Marmion Academy in Aurora, Illinois, Andrew Saloga follows in the footsteps of Zach Bradford, who holds the Illinois High School pole vault record and now competes for the Jayhawks. Saloga had an accomplished high school career in his own right, placing fourth at the 2020 National Pole Vault Summit, vaulting 4.97m (16-4 ft.).
Cameron Wilmington comes to KU from Missouri City, Texas, where he bring a dynamic skillset between hurdles and sprints. In 2019, Wilmington has a personal best of 21.37 in the 200 meters, 13.86 in the 110 meter hurdles and 37.20 in the 300 meter hurdles. Wilmington also qualified for the 2019 Texas UIL 6A State Championships in the 300 meter hurdles, finishing ninth in 38.78.
Michael Joseph arrives to Kansas from Gros inlet, St. Lucia, where he attended track and field powerhouse Kingston College in Jamaica. Joseph is set to be a freshman for the Jayhawks and holds a 400 meter personal best time of 47.24.
A two-time state champion from Webster Groves High School in St. Louis, Angelina Arinze will join KU as a sprinter and hurdler with high upside. She won the Missouri High School Class 4 State Championships in the 300 meter hurdles in 43.60 in 2019 and was part of the 4×400 meter relay that won in 2018. Arinze ran her personal best of 43.17 in the 300 meter hurdles in 2018.
Riley Colby comes to KU from Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, Colorado, where she competed in events ranging from the 200 meters to 5k in cross country. In 2019, she qualified for the Colorado High School State Track & Field Championships in the 400 meters and 800 meters, finishing sixth overall in the 400 meters in 58.48.
Kenadi Krueger comes to KU as an eight-time letterwinner between cross country and track & field at Thompson Valley High School in Loveland, Colorado. Krueger was a three-time regional cross country championship member and maintained a 4.0 GPA all four years of high school. Krueger holds a 10:55.43 high school personal best in the 3,200 meters and was a six-time Colorado High School State Championship qualifier.
Faten Laribi comes to KU from Monroe College in New York, where she won the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) 4×800 in 2020, while also qualifiying in the 1,000 meters and Distance Medley Relay. Laribi also qualified for the NJCAA Cross Country Championships in 2019, where she finished 26th overall in 19:24.6.
Coming to Kansas from the Nation’s Capital, Ahmya McKeithan is coming off a successful track and field career at McKinley Tech High School, where she was the 2018 DCIAA Outdoor Track and Field Athlete of the Year. During the 2020 indoor season, McKeithan placed third in the 55 meters at the DCSAA Indoor Track & Field Championships and sixth in the 300 meters.
Hannah Robinson joins the Jayhawks as a seven-time letterwinner from St. James Academy in Lenexa, Kansas, where she was a three-time state champion between the 400 meters, 800 meters and 4×800 meter relay. In 2018, Robinson helped the St. James 4×800 meter relay to the 5a state record in the event in 9:19.60.
Taylor Starkey out of Casteel High School in Queen Creek, Arizona had a successful high school career, winning the 2019 Arizona State Championship in the pole vault and was a two-time state runner-up in the event. Starkey set the Arizona High School record in the pole vault at 4.08m (13-5 ft.).
Coming to KU from Hastings, Nebraska, Victoria Thomas was a five-time state medalist between the shot put and discus at St. Cecilia High School and was a standout for the school’s volleyball team. Thomas holds a personal best of 13.46m (44-2 ft.) in the shot put and a throw of 44.90m (147-4 ft.) in the discus.
A transfer from Baker University, Brittney Wesley enters her first year with KU as a junior indoors and a sophomore outdoors. During the 2020 indoor season, Wesley qualified for the NAIA Indoor Track & Field Championships, where she placed 23rd overall in 7.96, while she holds a personal best of 7.82 in the event.
Coming to KU from Kickapoo High School in Springfield, Missouri, where she was the 2017 Missouri Class 3,4,5 State Champion in the 300 meter hurdles. In 2018, Wiley won the 300-meter hurdles at the Kansas Relays in 44.57, while also placing second in the 100 meter hurdles in 14.73. Wiley also finished second at the AAU Jr. Olympic National Championships in the 400 meter hurdles in 2018 and holders a 7.76 personal best in the 60 meters, 8.81 in the 60 meter hurdles, 14.65 in the 100 meter hurdles and 43.02 in the 300 meter hurdles.
Karyna Yehinian comes to Kansas from Belarus, where she was the 2020 Belarus U20 Outdoor Champion and the 2019 Belarus U20 Indoor Champion in the shot put. Yehinian holds a personal best of 15.52m (50-11 ft.) in the shot put and looks to make an instant impact for the Jayhawks.