Jayhawks Out to Fast Start at NCAA Championships

NCAA Championships
Hayward Field // Eugene, Ore.

Senior Michael Stigler cleared another hurdle in his march to an NCAA title, earning the top qualifying spot out of the 400-meter hurdle semifinals Wednesday.
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EUGENE, Ore. – The Kansas track & field teams tallied several impressive performances as they kicked off the 2015 NCAA Championships Wednesday inside Historic Hayward Field. The KU men saw a pair of top-15 finishes in the pole vault, while senior Michael Stigler cleared another hurdle in his march to an NCAA title. Senior Lindsay Vollmer also got out to the best start of her career as she competed on day one of the heptathlon.
Competing in their first NCAA Championship meet, Jayhawk pole vaulters Jake Albright and Nick Meyer didn’t seem to be star struck as the both tallied top-15 finishes among the best vaulters in the collegiate ranks. The KU duo cruised through the first two heights, Albright needing only two attempts and Meyer needing four to tackle the opening two heights. Each with clearance over 5.30 meters (17’4½”) under their belts, both Jayhawks tallied three solid attempts at 5.40 meters (17’8½”) but neither managed to get over, which ended their competitions.
Albright earned a 10th-place finish, while Meyer claimed 13th. The Jayhawks, who will both earn Second Team All-America honors, added their names to the already impressive history of the pole vault at Kansas. Their finishes marked the first time since 1989 KU saw two Jayhawks finish among the top-15 in the NCAA Championship pole vault.
“It was my first National Championships so I was nervous but excited,” said Albright following his top-10 finish. “Those first attempt clearances were great because they really helped calm me down and get some confidence. This meet really has me pumped up for my next few years here. Hopefully I can make my way back here to compete for a higher spot next time.”
It was a career day for Vollmer in the opening events of the heptathlon competition. The senior out of Hamilton, Missouri kicked off her final NCAA Championship appearance on a high note with a new personal best in the 100-meter hurdles. Vollmer skipped over the 10 hurdles and leaned across the finish in 13.40, which shaved nearly .2 seconds off her previous best in the heptathlon event. The PR performance garnered Vollmer 1,065 points to start her day and put her in sixth place in the overall standings.
In the heptathlon’s second event, the high jump, Vollmer came dangerously close failing to post a score after she needed all three attempts to get over the opening height at 1.66 meters (5’5¼”). The senior used a clutch third-attempt to extend her high jump competition which peaked when she got over 1.72 meters (5’7¾”) two bars later. The jump added 879 points to Vollmer’s total after two events and moved her up to fifth with two events remaining in the first day of competition.
Vollmer used another solid performance to keep her name among the top-six of the heptathlon standings after an 11th-place finish in the shot put. She unleashed a toss of 12.60 meters (41’4¼”) on her first attempt, a mark she was unable to improve upon during her final two attempts. That mark pushed her total up to 2,645 points heading into Wednesday’s final event.
Vollmer ended her afternoon on a high note with another performance that ranks among the best of her collegiate career. In the 200 meters, she completed her half-lap in 24.05 which would have been a personal best if it weren’t for the tail wind that was slightly over the allowable limit. Wind legal or not, the clocking still was good enough of 976 points and brought Vollmer’s day-one total to 3,621 points.
Vollmer sits in fifth with three events still to come on Thursday. Her 3,621 points amassed on Wednesday were the most Vollmer has ever earned after the first day of a heptathlon competition and has her on pace to smash her own school record of 6,086 points, which came en route to her national title at the 2013 NCAA Championships. Vollmer will look to finish her final collegiate heptathlon strong as she begins the second day of competition in the long jump, set to begin at 2 p.m. (CT) Thursday.
“I felt pretty great today,” said Vollmer. “I had a couple PR’s and my overall day one score is the best I’ve ever too so I really don’t have much to complain about. Tomorrow I just need to keep the momentum from day one and stay consistent. With that, hopefully that will be enough to place really high.”
To close out the evening for the Jayhawks, Stigler was again impressive as he took part in the semifinals of the 400-meter hurdles. Now in his eighth-straight week as the collegiate leader in the event, the Canyon, Texas native again proved his medal, winning his 17th race in his last 18 tries. Stigler finished his quarter-mile in 48.88 to post the fastest time out of the 24 semifinal competitors. No other runner managed to post a time within 0.8 seconds of the senior.
“Today I came out, stayed focused and just executed my race,” said Stigler following his race. “Today isn’t the day where a win counts though, that happens on Friday and that’s the race that counts. Anyone out there will have a chance to win if they put together a good race. I just hope I can go out there, run my race and be up there at No. 1.”
Stigler, who now owns each of the four fastest times by a collegian this season, will look to claim his first NCAA title in the event final set for 8 p.m. (CT), Friday.
Three days of action remain at the 2015 NCAA Championships at Historic Hayward Field. Five Jayhawks are slated to compete on Thursday, including Vollmer as she takes part in the final three events of the heptathlon. The NCAA’s top seed in the hammer throw, junior Daina Levy, will hit the throws ring for the first time this week at 3:30 p.m. (CT). Junior Hannah Richardson will toe the start line in the 1,500-meter semifinals at 6:14 p.m. (CT), while sophomore Zainab Sanni will hit the starting blocks for the 200-meter semifinals at 8:14 p.m. (CT). Follow all the Jayhawks’ performances by logging on to KUAthletics.com and following on Twitter and Instagram at @KUTrack.
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