Jayhawks Gear Up for Big 12 Indoor Championships
Senior Daina Levy
LAWRENCE, Kan. – It is a busy weekend across the country for Division I track & field programs, as teams gear up for conference championship action. The Kansas Jayhawks, who are competing in one of the fiercest leagues in the NCAA, will head to Ames, Iowa for the 2016 Big 12 Indoor Championships. Eight of the nation’s top-25 teams will be featured between the men’s and women’s sides with the Jayhawk women looking to finish among the league’s top-three teams for the fourth time in five years.
- This weekend, the Jayhawks will travel to Iowa State’s Lied Recreation Center, which is hosting the Big 12 Indoor Championships for the eighth time and sixth time since 2008.
- The Kansas women have notched 18 individual indoor league titles in the last eight years. In the 11 Big 12 indoor meets prior, the Jayhawks brought home six individual championships.
- The Lied Recreation Center, site of this year’s conference championships, has seen some of the best performances in Kansas history. Ten school records (five women’s, five men’s) have been set on the 300-meter track in Ames, including Sharon Lokedi’s KU record in the 5,000 meters two weeks ago at the ISU Classic.
- With four Jayhawk men among the top-nine of the Big 12 pole vault performance list, KU has a strong chance to pick up big points in the event. Kansas has seen one of its vaulters win a title at the league indoor meet six of the last eight years, including senior Casey Bowen’s victory in 2015.
- The Kansas women return over 70 percent of the scorers from a year ago that helped lead the squad to third- and fourth-place performances at the indoor and outdoor Big 12 Championships, respectively. The women’s team has finished inside the top-three each of the last three years.
- The Kansas men boast 27 team conference championships dating back to 1922 with the most recent coming in 1983. The run encompassed eight-consecutive team championships from 1952-59, including 17 championships in a 22-year span from 1950-71. The KU men’s highest finish in the Big 12 Conference was sixth place in 2006 and 2013.
- Sophomore Jaron Hartley turned in a career-best in the 200 meters at the Arkansas Qualifier on Feb. 19. His time of 21.42 moved him to second on Kansas’ all-time indoor 200-meter list. Leo Bookman, a three-time NCAA Champion in the event, is the only Jayhawk to turn in a faster clocking. Hartley now ranks 10th among Big 12 sprinters.
- Sophomore Laura Taylor cleared a new indoor personal best of 4.00 meters (13’1½”) at the Arkansas Qualifier. Taylor’s performance, which earned her a fourth-place finish, made her the 12th KU female in program history to vault four meters or higher.
- The Kansas women’s distance medley relay team turned in a season-best outing at the Alex Wilson Invitational Saturday in South Bend, Indiana. The KU quartet moved into the top-25 of the NCAA rankings after finishing the 4,000-meter race in 11:26.05 and placing ninth in one of the fastest distance medley races of the season.
KU’S BIG 12 STORYLINES
Will a Jayhawk Win the 600 Yard Title for the Third-Straight Year?
The Kansas men have established a strong reputation in the 600 yards in recent years at the Big 12 Indoor meet. A Jayhawk has come away with the league title in the event each of the last two years and have a strong chance of making it three straight. Junior Strymar Livingston enters the weekend in Ames with the nation’s fastest 600-yard clocking of the season. His personal best of 1:09.56 is nearly a second faster than the next Big 12 runner. A win for Livingston would make conference history as no school has ever claimed three-straight 600-yard victories at the Big 12 Indoor meet.
Can Levy Shake the Runner-Up Rut?
Senior Daina Levy has seen immense success at conference championship meets during her collegiate career. She has combined for four top-three finishes at league meets, which includes a pair of runner-up finishes last season. But with all her success, the All-American has never found herself at the top of the conference podium. This weekend may present Levy with her best opportunity to snare a conference crown as she enters the meet with the best weight throw mark in the Big 12 this season. Her best throw this year is nearly three feet better than the next Big 12 weight thrower. A win for Levy on Friday could also make her the third Jayhawk since 2010 to win the league weight throw championship.
Will the KU pole vaulters continue their conference dominance?
Over the last decade, the Big 12 Championship meets have been a platform for the Kansas pole vaulters to prove their talent and depth. On the men’s side, six of the last eight indoor league champions have been Jayhawks and junior Casey Bowen enters the meet this weekend is the reigning champion in the event. Kansas’ depth in the pole vault has also been something the men have counted on to turn out some big points. Over the least three seasons, the KU men’s vaulters are averaging 21 points and at last year’s league championships, the Jayhawks combined for 22.5 points in the vault. With four Jayhawks expected to hit the pole vault runway in Ames this weekend, each of whom are ranked inside the top-nine of the league rankings, Kansas should again expect a big output.
Who can punch their ticket to NCAAs?
The main priority for the Jayhawks this weekend will be their team finishes; however, each student-athlete will have NCAA qualification at the back of their mind. This week marks the final opportunity for NCAA athletes to post marks that can punch their tickets to the national championship meet March 11-12 in Birmingham, Alabama. Only the top-16 ranked athletes in each event will earn a bid as well as the top-12 ranked relay teams. Several Jayhawks find themselves in position or in range to qualify. Three Crimson and Blue-clad tracksters have put themselves in a favorable position to advance as seniors Daina Levy and Casey Bowen each find themselves sitting seventh in the NCAA ranks in the women’s weight throw and men’s pole vault, respectively. Sophomore Nicolai Ceban also appears on the verge of his first NCAA indoor meet with the nation’s 10th-ranked mark in the shot put. A pair of Jayhawks also sit close to the qualifying zone and will need to improve slightly on their season-best marks if they want to extend their indoor seasons. On the women’s side, sophomore Sharon Lokedi sits 18th in the 5,000 meters. For the men, freshman pole vaulter Paulo Benavides holds a mark that is just over two inches from putting him in a qualifying position.
The Jayhawks will find out Tuesday which athletes qualify for 2016 NCAA Indoor Championships set to take place March 11-12. The meet will be held inside the Birmingham CrossPlex in Birmingham, Alabama. Kansas will then break for two weeks before kicking off the outdoor campaign at the Texas Relays March 30-April 2 in Austin, Texas.