Street vaulters soar, records fall on day two of the 91st Kansas Relays presented by RCB Bank

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Another edition of the high-flying Street Pole Vault and a 32-year-old meet record rewritten made for an eventful Thursday at the 91st Kansas Relays presented by RCB Bank. Kristen Hixson claimed the Street Pole Vault title for the second-straight year, while Kansas’ Sharon Lokedi took down the meet, facility and school record en route to a win in the 5,000 meters.
It was another picturesque Thursday evening that acted as the setting of one of the Kansas Relays’ more unique events as seven female professional pole vaulters hit the runway constructed in the middle of a parking lot in West Lawrence.
For the second-straight year, the three-time Division II pole vault champion, Hixson, outlasted the stellar field as she needed only six attempts to clear four bars. She used all three attempts at the opening height of 4.15 meters (13-7.25 ft.), however rattled off three-straight clearances to vault her name up the leaderboard. On her first try at 4.45 meters (15-7.25 ft.) the Grand Valley State product soared over with ease to put the final touches on her win. Her performance has Hixson ranked among the top-15 in the latest world rankings for 2018 and seventh among American vaulters.
Just an hour after Hixson’s triumph, there was another monumental performance on the track back at Rock Chalk Park. Lokedi, a five-time All-American and five-time Big 12 champion, was on a mission right from the starting run as she quickly put the rest of the 5,000-meter field in her rear view mirror.
From there she continued to push the pace, going through 3,000 meters in 9:19.81, nearly 20 seconds faster than the next-closest competitor. She seemed to get faster over the final mile of the race and the last lap was a sprint as the meet record was within her grasp. She crossed the finish with the timing board reading 15:42.76, a time that shattered Patty Murray’s previous meet record of 16:02.27 by nearly 20 seconds.
Lokedi’s time, which ranks No. 2 among the NCAA DI ranks and inside the top-20 in the world this year, also toppled the Rock Chalk Park facility record as well as Lokedi’s own school record in the event. The win marked Lokedi’s second 5,000-meter title at the Kansas Relays after she won the event in the quadrangular division in 2016.
The decathlon and heptathlon concluded during the second day’s events. It was an underclassman and a veteran who came away from Rock Chalk Park with hardware. St. Cloud State junior Natalie Gottschalk came from behind over the event’s final day to earn her first collegiate heptathlon title. Gottschalk, who posted top-three finishes in each of the day’s final events, overtook Central Missouri’s Hannah Vanbuskirk with a big throw in the javelin (38.97m/127-10 ft.). She then closed down the heptathlon with a runner-up finish in the 800 meters after completing her two laps in 2:23.08, a performance that earned her 782 points, her second-most of the seven-event competition, and the event title.
She finished with a final total of 4,810, a score that bettered her previous personal best by 148 points.
In the men’s decathlon, it was a Nebraska freshman who also came back from a second-place overnight lead to end his day on the top step of the podium. Zach Podraza finished among the top-three competitors in four of the final five events to earn his first collegiate win. The Scripps Ranch, California product posted the field’s top javelin throw, a heave of 56.63 meters (185-9 ft.), to move into the overall lead, before holding his place at the top of the leaderboard following a 5:02.21 run in the final event, the 1,500 meters.
Podraza’s final score of 6,753 outpaced the runner-up, Central College’s Will Daniels, by 80 points and made him the fifth Cornhusker in the last eight Kansas Relays to come away with the decathlon title.
Two more full days await at the 91st Kansas Relays presented by RCB Bank. High school events get underway at 8 a.m., Friday with the first collegiate events on the track at 10:15 a.m. Log on to for updates and follow on Twitter at @KU_Relays. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.