Jayhawks Set to Open Rock Chalk Park with 87th Kansas Relays
LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas men’s and women’s track & field teams return to host one of the most historic meets in the U.S., the Kansas Relays. The 87th installment of the meet will begin on Wednesday, April 16 and continue through Saturday, April 19. Some of the nation’s top high school and collegiate athletes will be in action inside the newly-constructed Rock Chalk Park track facility, which will be opening its doors for the first time to the public. Fans will be admitted for free for the Wednesday and Thursday session and will be able to buy a ticket for $5 for the Friday and Saturday sessions. University of Kansas students will be admitted for free. Saturday afternoon’s collegiate events will also be televised on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel as well as ESPN3 beginning at 1:30pm (CT).
- This weekend, KU will see nearly 90 of its athletes compete inside its new home facility for the 87th edition of the Kansas Relays. The Jayhawks feature 43 student-athletes who hail from the state of Kansas and four Lawrence natives who will be in action in front of family and friends this weekend.
- The Kansas women checked in at No. 11 in the latest NCAA rankings released Tuesday. That marks the 25th-consecutive week the Kansas women find themselves at the 11 spot or higher in the USTFCCCA’s outdoor national rankings.
- For the first time in the meet’s history, the Kansas Relays will take place at a venue other than Memorial Stadium. The first KU Relays was held in 1923 at a two-year old Memorial Stadium as well as all 86 runnings of the event since.
- The Kansas men have seen five of their pole vaulters clear 17 feet or higher already this outdoor season. The schools with the next-most 17 footers in 2014 are Virginia Tech, Air Force and Stephen F. Austin each with three apiece.
- After her heptathlon win at the outdoor season’s opening meet, the Texas Relays, on March 27, Lindsay Vollmer won her last three-straight heptathlon event versus collegians, which is the longest-active streak in the nation among DI athletes.
- Vollmer’s Texas Relays heptathlon-winning point total (5,640) was also the fourth-best score in Kansas history and topped her score from last year’s Texas Relays by over 60 points. Vollmer would go on to win the NCAA title in the event three months later.
- Junior Casey Bowen became the ninth Kansas pole vaulter to join the 18-foot club after his PR clearance at the Texas Relays. Kansas has now tied Tennessee for the all-time collegiate lead with nine 18-foot vaulters.
- Now in his 14th year as Kansas’ head coach, Stanley Redwine is seeing an average of just over 10 athletes per season earn First Team All-America distinctions.
- The Kansas women are coming off the NCAA outdoor title last season. The 2013 group beat the field by 16 points to claim the program’s first national title.
Last Time Out
Kansas saw victories in events covering nearly every one of the track & field disciplines, eight to be exact, as the Jayhawks took part in the 35th Annual Sun Angel Classic last weekend. Junior pole vaulter Casey Bowen again flirted with history en route to his second victory of his season, while the men’s 4×400-meter relay team turned in their fastest time of the season and elevated their national rank to inside the top-15.
No other competitor was able to equal Bowen’s top height of 5.46 meters (17’11”), giving him his second win of his 2014 campaign. He did get three attempts at 5.56 meters (18’3″) but despite three near makes, was unable to add another clearance on the night. He came just inches away from getting over on two of his attempts, which would have made him the No. 7 performer in the school’s illustrious pole vaulting history.
Junior Kenneth McCuin had a career night on the Sun Angel Stadium track as he picked up the first outdoor event win of his collegiate career with the help of a personal best in the 400 meters. The Baltimore, Md., native led his race from the gun and leaned across the finish a quarter-mile later in 46.91. McCuin’s time moved him to 18th on this year’s NCAA West Regional performance chart and to No. 3 on the Big 12 list.
The Kansas women also saw several standout performances on the day. Anastasiya Muchkayev put the finishing touches on her first victory of the year in the shot put. The sophomore broke the 16-meter barrier for the first time in 2014 on her second attempt after she posted a throw of 16.02 meters (52’6¾”). The mark beat the runner-up finisher by just under a foot and moved Muchkayev up the national list to 23rd and 10th in the West Region.
Sophomore Daina Levy got things started in the morning in the open division discus. A Second Team All-American in the hammer throw, Levy recorded a new personal best on her fifth attempt of the day after hitting a mark of 51.54 meters (169’1″). Her throw topped the rest of the field by over five feet and gave her the seventh-best discus toss in the Big 12 this year.
Welcome to Rock Chalk Park!
For the first time in over 90 years, the Kansas track & field team will compete in a new home facility this week when it plays host to the Kansas Relays at the newly-constructed Rock Chalk Park. The facility, which began construction 14 months ago, has already been touted as one of the nation’s top track & field facilities as it has attained the prestigious IAAF Class I status. The $39 million facility will house the Kansas track, soccer and softball teams. The track portion of the facility has just over 6,100 permanent seats with the ability to bring in an additional 4,000 temporary seats for larger events. Rock Chalk Park has already won a bid for one of NCAA track & field’s top events as it will host the 2016 NCAA West Preliminary meet.
The track surface may be considered the crown jewel of the entire complex. The surface at Rock Chalk Park, installed by Beynon Sports Surfaces, underwent in-situ testing for the Class I certification process. With the IAAF’s approval, the track is capable of hosting meets of an international level and is one of only five facilities in the U.S. with Class I status.
In addition to the track, there is approximately 90,000 square feet of locker rooms, offices, official rooms, training room and athletic training facilities located under the east stands.
Kansas Men and Women Both Drop in National Ranks
For the 25th-straight week the Kansas women found themselves ranked among the top-11 of the NCAA rankings with the release of the week two top-25 lists by U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) on April 15. The Jayhawk men fell three spots to 28th and drop out of the top-25.
The Jayhawk women’s drop from the 10 spot last week marked the first time in 19 weeks dating, back to week four of the 2012 campaign, that KU was not among the top-10 teams in the nation. Kansas currently boasts five individuals and a relay team ranked inside the nation’s top-25 in their respective events.
After a month of the 2014 outdoor season, the Kansas Jayhawks have already displayed their superiority by way of the Big 12 rankings. The women’s team, which claimed the program’s first conference titles at both the Big 12 Indoor and Outdoor Championships last year, currently has 12 Jayhawks boasting marks ranking in the top-five of the league’s yearly performance list. That list includes junior Lindsay Vollmer who still leads the conference ranks in the heptathlon.
The KU women will look to defend its outdoor conference championship at the Big 12 meet to be held in Lubbock, Texas, May 16-18.
The Jayhawk men also have several team members who have climbed their way near the top of the early-season conference standings. Kansas has 10 athletes among the top-five in their respective events. Junior Michael Stigler has posted the conference’s fastest 400-meter hurdle time at 50.08. In addition to Stigler, the KU men have four athletes and a relay team which currently hold marks that rank second or better in the Big 12.
Nation’s Best Flocking to Rock Chalk Park
Some of the nation’s top track programs at the various NCAA divisions are slated to go head-to-head at Rock Chalk Park this weekend. Twelve programs currently ranked inside the top-25 of their respective divisions will journey to Lawrence. At the NCAA DI level the Kansas women lead the way as the nation’s 11th-ranked team. On the men’s side, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are expected to bring members of their 12th-ranked squad. The KU Relays will play host to many of NCAA DII’s top programs. Seven teams ranked in the top-25 will do battle this weekend including the third-ranked Lincoln (Mo.) women as well as the 17th-ranked West Texas A&M men. Wartburg will bring in two of NCAA DIII’s top teams in their No. 2-ranked Lady Knights and eighth-ranked men.
A host of Jayhawks will compete in front of family and friends this week as KU’s Sunflower State natives will be in action in Lawrence. The Jayhawks’ current roster boasts 43 athletes who call Kansas home, 13 of which are newcomers who will compete in the KU singlet in front of their home crowd for the first time. Five Jayhawks who hail from the Lawrence area will be in action this weekend: Hayley Francis, Austin Hoag, Grace Morgan, Rachael Schaffer and Logan Sloan.
Even with six weeks still to go before the NCAA preliminary meets begin, it’s never too early to see how the qualifying picture is beginning to come together. If the season were to end today, the women would see 15 of its athletes and the 4×100-meter relay qualify in 15 of the 21 NCAA events and travel to Fayetteville for the West Region Preliminary meet. A year ago, the team, which went on to win the NCAA Outdoor Championship, saw 16 women earn spots at the prelim meet in 14 events.
On the men’s side, 14 Jayhawks and a relay hold marks in 16 events that would earn them a spot in Fayetteville.
Kansas Outdoor Record Book Review
Six school records are currently held by active Jayhawks, each of which have been broken within the last two years. The women’s squad saw seven of its records broken a year ago, while the men’s team had a 30-year-old record broken in 2012. Below is a list of KU’s current school record holders:
|Diamond Dixon||400 Meters||50.88||2012 U.S. Olympic Trials|
|Natalie Becker||5,000 Meters||16:20.80||2014 Stanford Invitational|
|Michael Stigler||400m Hurdles||49.19||2013 NCAA Championships|
|Jessica Maroszek||Discus||56.83m (186-5 ft.)||2013 Big 12 Championships|
|Lindsay Vollmer||Heptathlon||6,086 pts.||2013 NCAA Championships|
Welcome to the 18-Foot Club
With his personal-best clearance of 5.50 meters (18’0½”) at the Texas Relays on March 27, junior Casey Bowen joined an elite club as a member of one of the nation’s most prolific pole vaulting traditions. The Gardner, Kan., native became the ninth Jayhawk to join the 18-foot club, joining former American record holders Scott Huffman and Jeff Buckingham, NCAA Champion Jordan Scott, All-Americans John Bazzoni, Pat Manson as well as Chris Bohanan, Cam Miller and Cedric Fullard.
Kansas’ nine 18-foot vaulters ties the Jayhawks with Tennessee, who has also seen nine clear 18-feet or higher. With one of the richest vaulting traditions in the nation, Kansas has seen its men’s pole vaulters claim All-America honors 31 times since 1969 and claim three NCAA Championships, with Scott most recently winning the national title in 2010.
Vollmer Picks Up Big 12 Weekly Honor after win at Texas Relays
After an outdoor season-opening heptathlon victory at the Texas Relays, Kansas junior Lindsay Vollmer was named the Big 12’s Female Track & Field Athlete of the week the league office announced April 2. The honor was the second awarded to Vollmer this year after she was named the conference’s athlete of the week at the beginning of the indoor season on Jan. 22.
Vollmer turned in a come-from-behind victory in the heptathlon at the Texas Relays March 27 in Austin. The NCAA’s defending national champion in the event, Vollmer trailed by 142 points with two events remaining but was able to overtake the leader to pick up the victory with a final score of 5,640 points. Vollmer’s point total leads the NCAA, is the best by an American and ranks seventh in the world in 2014. She has also now won each of her last three heptathlon competitions versus collegians.
Dixon Named Midwest’s Indoor Track Athlete of the Year
Kansas senior sprinter Diamond Dixon was named the Midwest Region’s Track Athlete of the Year, as was announced by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) March 10. Dixon earned the honor for the fourth time in her career after being recognized following the 2011 outdoor season as well as the 2012 indoor and outdoor seasons.
Dixon, who hails from Houston, Texas, ran to the Big 12 title in the 200 meters in a career-best 23.43 at the conference championships in Ames, Iowa on March 1. She also claimed third in the 400 meters in 52.20, the second-fastest of her career and No. 8 time in the NCAA in 2014. Earlier this year, she posted 1:10.06 in the 500 meters at the Armory Invite, making her the No. 8 collegian all-time in the event.
RocK Chalk Park Earns IAAF Class I Status
The Jayhawks’ new track facility, Rock Chalk Park, will be recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) as the fifth Class I Certified track on United States soil, and will be one of only 105 in the entire world. Rock Chalk Park will join Oregon, Auburn and Arkansas at the collegiate level, and the surface at Icahn Stadium in New York to rank among the nation’s elite track and field facilities. A coup in having a world-class facility like Rock Chalk Park has already been seen, as Kansas was selected to host its first NCAA West Preliminary regional meet May 26-28, 2016, which will feature the top-48 student-athletes in each event west of the Mississippi River.
The track and field stadium will have 7,000 permanent seats, and the ability to bring in 3,000 temporary seats. In addition, there is approximately 90,000 square feet of locker rooms, offices, official rooms, training room and athletic training facilities located under the east stands.
National Championship leftovers
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.
Kansas will split for a pair of meets next weekend, with the throwers journeying to San Diego, Calif., for the Triton Invitational and the rest of the squad heading north to the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa. Action from the Triton Invite will kick off the afternoon of Friday, April 25, while the Drake Relays run from Wednesday, April 23-Saturday, April 26. Log on to KUAthletics.com for complete rundowns of the Jayhawks’ performances and be sure to follow the meets live by following on Twitter and Instagram at @KUTrack.
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