Becker, Conley Highlight Jayhawks’ First Day in Lincoln

Holiday Inn Invitational
Bob Devaney Center // Lincoln, Neb.

Sophomore Sydney Conley won the long jump with a new indoor personal best leap of 6.18m (20’3.5″).
Day 1 Results

LINCOLN, Neb. – Victories from senior Natalie Becker and sophomore Sydney Conley were the high points off a solid opening day for the Kansas men’s and women’s track & field squads Friday evening at the Holiday Inn Invitational. Seven Jayhawks turned in career bests and six more advanced through prelims to Saturday finals on day one of the meet held inside the Bob Devaney Sports Center.
Sophomore Sydney Conley saw the best indoor performance of her Kansas career Friday night in the long jump. The Fayetteville, Ark., native leaped to a mark of 6.18 meters (20’3½”) on her third trip down the runway to firmly plant herself in the lead as she headed to her last three attempts in the finals. Conley flew past the six-meter mark on each of her last three attempts and, even though she was unable to surpass her third attempt mark, it was more than enough to give the sophomore her first victory of the young season. Conley’s winning jump bested the field by nearly a foot and has the Second Team All-American at No. 5 in the most recent national long jump standings.
On the track Natalie Becker also turned in a career performance as she ran away from the field in the 3,000 meters. The senior led from start to finish, opening up a lead of more 15 seconds midway through the 1.8-mile race. Becker continued to widen her gap over the final 1,000 meters and crossed the finish in a new career-best of 9:40.86. Becker’s time was more than 30 seconds better than the second-place finisher, who just happened to be her Kansas teammate Hannah Richardson, who turned in a time of 10:11.78.
Becker’s time shot her up the national leaderboard as her time currently puts her at No. 10 in the latest NCAA rankings.
The Jayhawk sprinters put on a dominant performance earlier in the night in the 60-meter dash preliminary heats. On the women’s side, four Jayhawks secured spots in the final with Diamond Dixon leading the way. The senior tallied her third personal best of the young season as she sprinted through the finish in 7.48 to take the top overall qualifying time. Right on Dixon’s tail were sophomore Tianna Valentine and freshman Zainab Sanni, who claimed the second and third overall spots in 7.50 and 7.63, respectively. Conley snagged the final qualifying spot after she finished eighth with her time of 7.71. The quartet will vie for the event title in the final set for 12:10 p.m., Saturday.
For the men, DeMario Johnson continued his early success in his senior season as he followed Dixon’s lead by also claiming the fastest qualifying spot in the 60-meter prelim. The senior out of Junction City, Kan., leaned across the finish in a time of 6.79 to head into Saturday’s final as the man to beat. Johnson’s time was a career best and moved him into the top-25 of the national standings.
Also in prelim action was junior Lindsay Vollmer in the prelims of the 60-meter hurdles. The NCAA’s reining heptathlon champion got over the five hurdles and sped through the finish in 8.55, just .08 seconds off her personal best. The time earned her the top qualifying spot in Saturday’s final, which will take place at 12 p.m.
The Jayhawk men’s middle distance and distance squad took to the track later in the evening and featured some strong outings. Sophomore Daniel Koech saw his personal best in the 1,000 meters fall for the second-straight week as he shaved another second off with his time of 2:29.10, earning him a fourth-place finish. Senior Brendan Soucie also claimed fourth in his event after he completed the eight laps of the 800 meters in 1:53.22. And in his first outing since competing in the NCAA Cross Country Championships last November, junior Reid Buchanan claimed third in the 3,000 meters with his time of 8:25.31.
Other notable performances came from freshman Lydia Saggau, who posted a runner-up in the 1,000 meters with a time of 2:56.56, sophomore Rhavean King, who saw a new indoor personal best in the 800 meters after finishing third in 2:13.94, as well as freshman and Lincoln native Caleb Cowling, who notched a fourth-place long jump finish and a mark of 7.24 meters (23’9″) in front of his hometown fans.
The Jayhawks will return to the Bob Devaney Sports Center Saturday to compete on the final day of the Holiday Inn Invitational. Action will begin at 11 a.m. with the women’s shot put and the men’s triple jump and conclude at 4:20 p.m., with the men’s 4×400-meter relay. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.