Hayward Field // Eugene, Ore.
|Michael Stigler became the third Jayhawk in program history to win an NCAA title in the 400-meter hurdles and the first since 1960.
EUGENE, Ore. – Kansas senior Michael Stigler ran into the history books as he claimed to a national title in the 400-meter hurdles Friday evening at the NCAA Track & Field Championships in Historic Hayward Field. The win marked the first NCAA title for Stigler and the 36th individual NCAA Outdoor title in program history.
“It feels so good to finally by No. 1,” said Stigler following his win. “As soon as I crossed that finish line I couldn’t do anything but thank God and give thanks to my coach and my family. To finally get that win and get over that hump, it just means so much to me and I’m so happy all that hard work finally paid off.”
Stigler made his way to the starting blocks Friday as a two-time runner-up in the NCAA event, both second-place finishes coming on the same Hayward Field track. As was the case a year ago, the Canyon, Texas product was the heavy favorite to win the title that had twice eluded him. He had won each of his eight 400-meter hurdle races this season and was the owner of the four fastest times posted by a collegian in 2015. He was the top qualifier out of the semifinal two days prior with his time of 48.90. All that was left to do was tally one more victory in his final collegiate race as a Jayhawk.
The starting gun went off and Stigler, like he has done throughout his career, quickly and forcefully made up the stagger by the time the field reached the second hurdle. He continued to build his lead through the first straightaway and entered the Bowerman Curve already with a 10-meter lead after the first half of the race. Stigler held that lead as he made his way to the home straightaway, though Illinois’ David Kanziera and Boise State’s Jordin Andrade made some late pushes to try and rob Stigler of the win. This time though, Stigler held off the competition. The senior soared over the final two hurdles and sprinted through the finish to claim the victory, over half a second ahead of the runner-up Futch.
“The key with this race was to just stay within myself and not let the field play a factor in my race,” said Stigler. “All year I’ve spent more time focusing on myself and I knew if I executed my race that my best race would be put together on the day that it matters.”
Stigler posted a winning time of 48.84, marking the fourth race he has turned in a sub-49 second clocking in the event this season. The win made him the third Jayhawk to garner a national championship in the 400-meter hurdles and the first since Cliff Cushman won the event in 1960. The victory gave Kansas its 36th NCAA Outdoor Champion in program history and the first since 2010. Stigler also became the first Jayhawk in program history to earn First Team All-America honors in a single event in four-consecutive years.
With an NCAA title under his belt, Stigler will now turn his attention to the USA Championships. He will return to Eugene for the meet in two weeks and try to claim one of three 400-meter hurdle spots on the American team that will journey to the World Championships in July. Stigler currently sits as the fourth-ranked American in the yearly standings.
The Kansas men had two other student-athletes competing on day three of the NCAA Championships, both in the discus throw. Junior Mitch Cooper and freshman Nicolai Ceban were competing in their first NCAA meet; however, it was not the first time either had ventured into the throws ring at Hayward Field. Both Jayhawks had competed for their respective countries at the IAAF Junior World Championships last July, and were hoping to carry that success with them into the event Friday.
Cooper came out as the better of the two, posting a career-best toss on his second attempt. The Australian flung the discus to a mark of 58.19 meters (190’11”), which was nearly good enough to earn him three more throws in the finals. However, Cooper’s mark came less than two feet shy of making him one of the top-nine throwers after three rounds, ending his day in 11th place.
Ceban tallied a top mark of 54.86 meters (180’8″), which came on his first attempt of the afternoon. That throw was good enough to earn the Moldova native a 21st-place finish.
One day remains in Eugene for the NCAA Track & Field Championships as the women will take center stage Saturday. The Jayhawks will have one competing, with junior Daina Levy taking to Hayward Field for the second time this week. She will compete in the discus, which is slated to begin at 3:35 p.m. (CT). Get a recap of Levy’s performance by logging on to KUAthletics.com and follow along with her progress through Twitter at @KUTrack.
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