| Junior pole vaulter Greg Lupton
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas track & field will host its first meet of the 2014 calendar year, The Bill Easton Classic, on Friday, Jan. 10 inside Anschutz Pavilion. The meet will feature 12 different schools from across the Midwest, including cross-state rival Kansas State. The meet is slated to begin at 1 p.m., and conclude at approximately 8:30 p.m. Admission is free to the public.
Happy New Year!
Kansas will try to continue its strong start to the 2014 campaign after a month off from competition. Within its 2014 men’s and women’s rosters, Kansas returns six First Team All-Americans from a season ago, including 2013 NCAA Champions Natalia Bartnovksya and Lindsay Vollmer. Also returning on the women’s side is senior sprinter Diamond Dixon, who has garnered First Team All-America honors 12 times during her first three seasons in Lawrence, including the 2012 indoor 400-meter national championship.
On the men’s side, junior hurdler Michael Stigler is back after an outstanding sophomore season, which saw him repeat as the Big 12’s 400-meter hurdle champion and break his own school record in the event. Pole vaulter Alex Bishop also returns for his senior campaign after claiming the Big 12 indoor title a year ago.
Last Time Out
The Kansas men’s and women’s teams kicked off their 2013-14 campaigns with strong outings at the Bob Timmons Challenge on Dec. 7 inside Anschutz Pavilion. Kansas saw wins in seven events, including victories from All-Americans Diamond Dixon in the 60 meters and Michael Stigler in the 600 yards as well as both the men’s and women’s 4×400-meter relays.
Kansas also saw a successful day in the high jump pits with both the men and women notching top finishes. For the men, junior Jonathan Fuller defended his Bob Timmons Challenge title with a clearance of 2.08 meters (6’9¾”). Junior Colleen O’Brien and freshman Grace Pickell were the Kansas representatives and both got their seasons started on a good note. O’Brien managed to clear 1.68 meters (5’6″) to claim second, while Pickell topped 1.58 meters (5’2½”) to finish third in her Kansas debut.
Sophomore Rhavean King picked up her first-career indoor victory, following Stigler’s lead by taking gold in the 600 yards. King completed the 2½ laps in 1:24.59 for the win.
Success at the Bill Easton
In its first four years as KU track & field’s calendar year-opening meet, the Bill Easton Classic has proven to be one of the more successful meets in terms of individual victories. Since 2010, Jayhawks have won a combined 72 competitions at the Bill Easton Classic, including 19 at the meet a year ago. A pair of nation-leading marks were also posted at the Bill Easton last season when, in only her second meet as a Jayhawk, Natalia Bartnovskaya cleared 4.12 meters (13’6¼”) to win the pole vault. Senior Kyle Clemons tallied a career best in the 600 yards while also moving into the national lead with his winning time of 1:11.02.
Stigler on Early Watch for ‘The Bowerman’
All-American hurdler Michael Stigler was one of 16 athletes named to the preseason Bowerman Watch List as was released by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) this week. The Bowerman Award, considered the ‘Heisman of Track & Field,’ is given to the nation’s top male and female track & field athletes and will be awarded later this year.
The junior makes his first career-appearance among those considered for The Bowerman. Though Stigler was not one of those 10 athletes to be listed on the official watch list, he was selected to the “Also Receiving Mention” list. The Canyon, Texas native is a two-time First Team All-American in the 400-meter hurdles and last season was the NCAA runner-up at the Outdoor National Championships. He is also the two-time defending Big 12 champion in the event. His school record time of 49.19 broken last June at the NCAA meet ranked him among the top-10 Americans in 2013 and No. 2 among collegians. Stigler was also a member of the Big 12 champion 4×400-meter relay team last May that has also garnered Second Team All-America honors each of the last two seasons.
Jayhawks flying at the top of the NCAA
Kansas saw several of its athletes put up some of the top marks in the nation at the season-opening meet in December. Four Jayhawks and three relays find themselves ranked in the NCAA top-10 in six events including Alisha Keys (200m), Natalia Bartnovskaya (pole vault) and the distance medley and 4×400-meter relay teams on the women’s side as well as Alex Bishop (pole vault), Greg Lupton (pole vault), and the 4×400-meter relay team for the men. An additional seven Jayhawks hold marks that sit in the top-25 of the national rankings.
In Redwine’s Words
On the biggest challenges for the athletes after returning from a month off from competition:
“When athletes go home for the holidays a lot depends on the facilities that are available to them whether they are able to or not able to train. The challenge for them is to try to maintain the same level of fitness which they were at before they left and if it’s dropped off, getting back to that level in a short period of time.”
On the benefit of this first meet back from break in gauging the fitness level of the athletes:
“It gives us a good barometer for where they are compared to where they were (before break). It also does a great job in pointing out the things that we need to work on in order for the athletes to get where they need to be.”
On how beneficial this time with the athletes is when there are no academic constraints:
“It’s a great time to get the athletes in shape and ready to compete at the major meets. We’ll have another meet next weekend that we’re excited about but over this next week our only focuses are to eat, sleep and train. We need to take advantage of all three but put the most emphasis on the training part because that is what will really pay off at the end of the season.”
The Kansas track & field program will see a major youth resurgence this year, especially on the women’s side. Both teams feature a combined 35 athletes who will don the KU singlet for the first time, which includes almost half (21 of the 48) currently listed on the women’s team roster. Fourteen newcomers comprise the 54-person men’s roster.
Several of those newcomers will be in action for Kansas on Friday. For the men, Eric Lightfoot, Ryan Fontenette-Mitchell, Paul Golen, Michael Jensen, Kenny Boyer and Nick Meyer are scheduled to suit up in the Crimson and Blue while the women’s team will see Talia Marquez, Alexis Johnson, Kourtney Keller, Mackenzie Klaver, KayLee Farmer, Dasha Tsema and Grace Pickell all competing in their second meet as Jayhawks.
Both the men’s and women’s teams in 2014 will feature a large batch of home-grown talent as the majority of the athletes on each roster hail from the Sunflower State. Twenty-eight KU men and 19 Jayhawk women call Kansas home, with the next-most prolific state, Missouri, boasting a combined 11 natives.
Kansas also has a handful of international athletes. On the men’s side, sophomore sprinter Jaime Wilson hails from Old Harbour, Jamaica and welcomes fellow internationals in freshmen Alexandre Lavigne (Quebec, Canada) and Cooper Mitchell (Queensland, Australia). For the women, senior Natalia Bartnovskaya (Krasnoyarsk, Russia)and Anastasiya Muchkayev (Be’er Sheva, Israel) have continued the KU tradition of bringing in some of the top international talent in the NCAA. Senior thrower Johanna Krueger is the latest international addition as she calls Kiel, Germany home.
National Championship Leftovers
In June, the Kansas women made history when they brought home the program’s first national title at the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Ore. Buoyed by Andrea Geubelle’s runner-up finish in the long jump and triple jump as well as Lindsay Vollmer‘s national championship in the heptathlon, the Jayhawks amassed 60 points and topped the rest of the field by 16 points. KU athletes also brought home 17 First Team All-America honors, a program high.
Vollmer’s national title came by way of personal bests in six of the seven heptathlon events which saw her post school-record score of 6,068 points.
With his first national championship trophy in tow, Stanley Redwine was named the Women’s Head Coach of the Year and joined assistant Wayne Pate, who was named Women’s Assistant of the Year, after his athletes accounted for 26 of the team’s 60 points at the NCAA Championships.
Head coach Stanley Redwine has taken Kansas track & field to a level it hasn’t seen in quite some time during his 13 years at the helm. Over Redwine’s tenure, he has seen 92 indoor and outdoor Big 12 Champions, 145 First Team All-Americans and 14 NCAA Champions come through his program at KU.
Redwine’s teams have also collected a combined seven top-10 NCAA team finishes, including coaching last year’s women’s team to the program’s first National Championship at the NCAA outdoor meet in June.
At Home in Anschutz
The 29-year indoor home facility for the Kansas track & field team, Anschutz Pavilion, has hosted dozens of collegiate and high school meets since 1984. In August of 2011, the facility got a major facelift when a new six-lane track (eight lanes on the sprint straightaway) was installed, which replaced the original track installed in 1984.
The Jayhawks will journey north next week to visit former conference foe Nebraska at the Holiday Inn Invitational in Lincoln, Neb. The meet is to be held Jan. 17-18 inside the Bob Devaney Sports Center and the events are set to begin on Friday at 4 p.m., and conclude Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Get live updates and results by following through Twitter at @KUTrack.
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