Kansas Shows Depth in Solid Outing at Jayhawk Classic
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The University of Kansas track & field teams were victorious in 14 events at KU’s final home meet of the indoor campaign, the Jayhawk Classic. Diamond Dixon tallied an NCAA-leading time, while the women’s 4×400-meter relay team moved into the top-15 of the national rankings Friday night inside Anschutz Pavilion.
“I was really happy with some of the performances that both the men and women had tonight,” said head coach Stanley Redwine. “We had a lot of people win their events and just compete better all around. Natalie Becker’s performance stands out, Diamond’s stands out and our distance medley and 4×400-meter relays ran really well. On the men’s side, Kenneth McCuin ran a really good race in the 600 yards. All our guys are starting to compete much better in their individual events. As we start going up against better competition and as we get in better shape, those times and marks will continue to get better.”
Dixon continued to add accolades to her already impressive senior season résumé as she competed in her first 400-meter race of the year. The 2012 NCAA champion in the event, Dixon left Anschutz Pavilion Friday night with her name atop of the national ranks once again. The Houston, Texas product went up against a stacked field which included professionals such as former World Champion Shana Cox and Olympian Moushauini Robinson.Dixon was unable to hold off a late charge down the home stretch by Cox and was forced to settle for the runner-up finish in 53.97, which was only .01 seconds behind Cox and just .22 seconds off her own facility record. Dixon’s time may have not been good enough for the win, but it does put her in the NCAA lead after her time is converted to the NCAA standard of 53.26.
The men’s middle distance and distance runners also had a successful night on the track. James Wilson kicked things off in the men’s mile with a career run. The Abiline, Kan., product was never challenged over the eight lap race and crossed the finish in 4:12.57 to beat the rest of the field by 3.5 seconds. The time shaved nearly nine seconds off his previous personal record.
Brendan Soucie followed his teammate’s lead by earning a win of his own in the 800 meters, though his win wasn’t as comfortable as Wilson’s. Soucie had to outpace some formidable challenges from fellow Jayhawks Dalen Fink and Daniel Koech. Soucie and Fink were shoulder-to-shoulder down the final 50-meter stretch, however Soucie managed to out lean his teammate by just .002 seconds to pick up his first win of the year in 1:53.90. Koech wasn’t far behind with a third-place finish, clocking in at a personal-best time of 1:54.18.
In her first outing in a Jayhawk uniform, Auburn transfer Daina Levy made a big impression as she took the top-collegiate finish in the weight throw. The sophomore out of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada didn’t waste much time in inserting her name into the all-time Jayhawk record books. On just her second attempt of the day, Levy hurled the 25-pound implement 18.32 meters (60’1¼”), making her just the third women in school history to surpass the 60-foot mark. She was unable to improve on the second-round throw but it was good enough to put her fifth among a stacked field of former NCAA champions and All-Americans. Levy was the top collegian and her mark is the fourth-best among Big 12 weight throwers thus far in 2014.
For the second-consecutive week, sophomore Sydney Conley upped her personal best in the long jump. Conley came into the day with the nation’s fifth-best mark after her win at the Holiday Inn Invitational in Lincoln, Neb., last weekend. The Fayetteville, Ark., native surpassed the 20’3″ mark on three of her six attempts with her top leap coming on her fifth trip down the runway, a mark of 6.25 meters (20’6¼”). The jump was the best of her career and, had it not been for former Jayhawk track & field star Andrea Geubelle, she would have erased the Anschutz facility record. Conley claimed the runner-up finish to her former teammate, Guebelle, who won the event in a facility record of 6.50 meters (21’4″). Conley’s jump moved her up to No. 3 in the latest NCAA ranks and is the best among Big 12 long jumpers this season.
After her time on the long jump pits, Conley headed to the 60-meter dash finals were she joined fellow sophomore Tianna Valentine and junior Alisha Keys in the event final. Valentine came from behind to just inch out Dominique Duncan for the win, leaning across the finish in a season best of 7.46. Conley managed to notch a second personal best on the day as she crossed in 7.51 to finish fourth. Keys also collected a season best, finishing sixth in her time of 7.60.
In the women’s high jump, Colleen O’Brien returned to the winner’s circle with a personal best performance of her own. The junior needed all three attempts, but she was able to get over the 1.77 meter (5’9¾”) bar, which tied her career high. The mark moved O’Brien up to 26th in the nation and No. 3 in the latest Big 12 standings.
Junior Lindsay Vollmer saw herself entered her first combined event of the season as she took part in her first pentathlon since earning second team All-America honors in the event last March. She kicked off her day strong, running 8.45 in the 60-meter hurdles and clearing 1.75 meters (5’8¾”) in the high jump, both marks being new personal bests in the pentathlon for Vollmer.
The Penney, Mo., native then notched a mark of 11.13 meters (36’6¼”) in the shot put before leaping to a top distance of 5.76 meters (18’10¾”) in the long jump. She headed into the fifth and final event, the 800 meters needing to run just a sub-2:21.85 half mile to post a new personal best and break her own school record. However injury forced Vollmer to pull out of the race, which ended her day with a total of 3,325 points. Even with points scored in only four of the five events, the NCAA’s reigning hepthalon champion still managed to win the event by nearly 150 points.
Other individual victors for the Jayhawks included sophomore Hannah Richardson, who claimed the 1,000-meter win in 2:53.98, senior Natalie Becker, who won her second event in as many weeks after placing first in the mile in a time of 4:51.28, sophomore Rhavean King, who earned her first 800-meter win of the year in a time of 2:14.13, junior Kenneth McCuin in the 600 yards (1:10.94) and freshman Whitney Adams, who also claimed the 600-yard victory in her season-best time of 1:22.66.
Dixon, Adams, King and Adriana Newell closed out the night for the KU women strong in the 4×400-meter relay. The quartet passed the baton around in a season best time of 3:45.16 to claim the event win in runaway fashion. The team’s time moves them up among the top-15 of the NCAA rankings as Kansas closes out the first month of the year.
After a week off, Kansas will trek to New York City to take part in the Armory Collegiate Invitational Feb. 7-8. The meet, held inside the historic Armory, will once again feature many of the top-ranked teams and athletes in the nation. Action from the Big Apple is set to begin at 8:30 a.m. (CT) Feb. 7 and conclude at 4:40 p.m. (CT) Feb. 8. For updates and results throughout the Jayhawks’ trip to New York, follow on Twitter at @KUTrack.
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