Cooper’s Fireworks Highlight Final Day at Kansas Relays
| Junior Zainab Sanni sprinted to one of her two individual victories on the day, winning the 200 meters in 23.57.
LAWRENCE, Kan. – A 46-year-old record broken, along as well as 18 event victories, highlighted an impressive final day for the Jayhawk track & field squads on the final day of the 89th Kansas Relays presented by Subway. Both Kansas teams finished second behind the groups from Nebraska in the scored quadrangular, with the KU men amassing 219 points and the Jayhawk women finishing with 191 points.
“I thought we had a great meet, we just came up against a really good Nebraska team and couldn’t quite pull it off today,” said head coach Stanley Redwine. “Mitch Cooper did a fantastic job in breaking a 46-year-old meet record and Zainab (Sanni) was big for us with what she did in the 100 meters, 200 meters and running a leg on the winning 4×4. We know there areas of improvement are for our teams, but I was pleased with the overall performances this week.”
One of the school’s oldest standing records fell by the way-side as Mitch Cooper turned in a historic performance on the north throws field Saturday afternoon. The junior had a stellar throws series, surpassing the 200-foot mark on three of his attempts and coming within 13 inches of the mark on a fourth. With the victory already in tow and heading into the ring for his sixth and final throw, Cooper unleashed the best discus mark ever posted by a Jayhawk with a toss of 62.56 meters (205’3″). The toss surpassed his previous best, achieved just minutes earlier, by nearly three feet and put his name atop the all-time Kansas discus charts.
Cooper’s mark upended Karl Salb’s 46-year-old record (62.12 meters, 203’10”), achieved at the 1970 Drake Relays, one of the longest standing school records in the program’s history.
“I was excited because I knew I already had the (victory). I just wanted to go for it,” said Cooper following his win. “I talked to Coach (Andy Kokhanovsky) before the throw and he was saying to focus on my technique, but I wanted to go for it. It paid off, but it wasn’t the greatest technical throw. You had all the excitement, the fans cheering, it was really good.”
Not only was the throw a school record, but it also moved Cooper among the top discus throwers in the nation this year. The mark is the second farthest achieved among the NCAA DI ranks this season and is first among Big 12 Conference discus throwers.
On the track it was junior Zainab Sanni who carried the scoring load for the Jayhawk women. Sanni started her day helping the women’s 4×100-meter relay to a third-place finish in a season-best 46.41. She then hit the starting blocks for the 100-dash where she tallied her first of three victories on the day. The Aurora, Colorado native broke the tape in 11.36 to take the crown but her day wasn’t done. An hour later she raced to a win in the 200 meters as well, crossing the finish in 23.57, her fastest clocking of the year.
To close out the night, Sanni, along with Adriana Newell, Nicole Montgomery and Whitney Adams, teamed up on the Jayhawk women’s 4×400-meter relay for a win. The group claimed its fifth 4×400-meter relay title at the KU Relays in six years when Kansas passed the baton around in 3:41.64.
After Cooper’s fireworks in the discus, senior Dasha Tsema also turned in some impressive outings of her own, adding 18 points to the women’s scoring. Tsema entered the final round of throws in second place but put an emphatic stamp on her first KU Relays victory after she hit a career best 54.47 meters (178’8″) on her last attempt of the day to earn nine points. The throw put Tsema at No. 3 on the Jayhawks’ all-time discus chart and among the top-20 in the NCAA this season.
Tsema also added a fifth-place finish in the shot put, posting a top mark of 13.93 meters (45’8½”) to garner an additional four points.
Other Jayhawk top performers from the final day of the Kansas Relays included senior Kelli McKenna, who came from behind to win the 1,500 meters in 4:33.24; junior Sharon Lokedi, who took second in the 5,000 meters in a career-best time of 16:51.17; junior Strymar Livingston, who turned in the fastest 800-meter time at the KU Relays in seven years with his winning run of 1:49.93; senior Evan Landes, who tallied a personal best of 14:21.57 en route to a win in the 5,000 meters; sophomore Barden Adams, who claimed second in the triple jump with a leap of 15.36 meters (50’4¾”) and the men’s 4×100-meter team of Jaron Hartley, Jaime Wilson, Alex Wilson and Ivan Henry who posted a KU win in the event for the third-straight year in 40.26.
The Jayhawks will return to their home track next week when they host the Rock Chalk Classic on Saturday, April 30. Kansas will welcome in Big 12 rivals Kansas State and Oklahoma State as well as Minnesota, Oral Roberts, UMKC and Wichita State. The first events from Rock Chalk Park are slated to kick off at 11 a.m., and will conclude at 4:34 p.m.
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