Jayhawks return to track at Bill Easton Classic Friday
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas track & field will look to continue its strong start to the 2017 campaign after a month off from competition. The Jayhawk men and women will host the Bill Easton Classic on Friday, January 6 inside Anschutz Sports Pavilion. Action will kick off in the field at 1 p.m., while the track events are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Admission is free to the public.
Teams competing in Lawrence Friday include Kansas State, Wichita State, Texas Southern and Oral Roberts.
Within its 2017 men’s and women’s rosters, Kansas returns four All-Americans, including senior long jumper Sydney Conley, who has garnered First Team All-America honors three times. Junior Sharon Lokedi is also back for the women after a breakthrough season in 2016, one which saw her claim Big 12 titles in the indoor 5,000 meters and outdoor 10,000 meters as well as First Team All-America status in both events. The KU duo is included on a women’s team that returns over 80 percent of the scorers who led the squad to fifth and fourth-place finishes at last year’s Big 12 indoor and outdoor meets.
On the men’s side, pole vaulter Jake Albright returns for his final year in the Crimson and Blue looking for his second conference championship in the event and leads perhaps the deepest pole vault group in the nation. Senior Mitch Cooper and junior Nicolai Ceban head up an impressive throws group primed for success in 2017. Cooper is the Big 12’s reigning discus champion and a two-time Second Team All-American, while Ceban will look to improve upon his 15th-place finish in the shot put at last year’s NCAA Indoor Championships.
Both the KU men’s and women’s rosters are full of new faces as nearly a third of the teams are made up of newcomers.
Success at the Bill Easton
In its first seven years as KU track & field’s calendar year-opening meet, the Bill Easton Classic has proven to be one of the more successful meets in terms of individual victories. Since 2010, Jayhawks have won a combined 101 competitions at the Bill Easton Classic, including 19 at the meet a year ago. Last season, the KU women were nearly perfect on the track, claiming wins in 11 of the 12 running events, while 11 Jayhawk men turned in career-best marks in their first outing of the New Year.
Jayhawks Flying at the Top of the NCAA
Kansas saw several of its athletes put up some of the top marks in the nation at the season-opening meet in December. Seven Jayhawks and four relays find themselves ranked in the NCAA top-10 in six events including Sydney Conley (60m), Andrea Willis (pole vault) and the 4×400-meter and distance medley relay teams on the women’s side, as well as Strymar Livingston (400m), Jake Albright (pole vault), Nick Meyer (pole vault), Nick Maestretti (pole vault), Kai Shean (high jump) and the 4×400-meter and distance medley relays teams for the men. An additional seven Jayhawks hold marks that sit in the top-25 of the national rankings.
Record Book Watch
A host of Jayhawks enter the 2017 calendar year in good position to continue to move up Kansas’ all-time indoor record books. Twenty four Jayhawks (8 men, 16 women) on this year’s roster currently find themselves among the top-10 performers on the school’s all-time charts. Senior Strymar Livingston and junior Sharon Lokedi are the two active school record holders as Livingston is KU’s fastest in the 600 yards, while Lokedi boasts the school’s top 5,000-meter clocking. The Eldoret, Kenya product also finds herself among the top-five in the 3,000 meters, while Livingston ranks third on the school’s 800 meter list.
Senior Whitney Adams finds herself in the top-six in three different indoor events, which includes the No. 3 times in both the 600 yards and 800 meters. Senior sprinter Zainab Sanni has worked her way into KU’s all-time top-five in both the 60 meters and the 200 meters and is joined by Sydney Conley, who ranks sixth on the 60-meter list as well as fourth on the long jump chart.
Last Time Out
Jayhawks claimed victories in 18 events as the Kansas track & field teams enjoyed a successful season-opening meet at the Bob Timmons Challenge inside Anschutz Pavilion on December 2. Sydney Conley started her senior campaign with a career-best performance in the 60-meter dash, while the women’s 4×400-meter squad topped the five-year-old Anschutz facility record en route to a victory in the event.
Less than a year after suffering a shoulder injury that sidelined her for the 2016 season, Conley returned to the track and once again showed her mettle as one of the top track athletes in the nation. The Fayetteville, Arkansas product hit the starting blocks for the 60-meter dash and cruised to victory in a new personal-record time of 7.42, saving .03 seconds off her previous best. The mark edged Missouri State’s Marissa Kurtimah by .08 seconds and moved Conley to sixth on the Jayhawks’ all-time 60-meter list.
The women’s 4×400-meter team of Adriana Newell, Mariah Kuykendoll, Whitney Adams and Nicole Montgomery posted the fastest time in the 30-year history of Anschutz Pavilion en route to a win in the event. The team, comprised of two seniors, a sophomore and a freshman, passed the baton around in 3:42.89, surpassing the Jayhawk squad that clocked in at 3:43.61 at the 2011 Jayhawk Classic.
The record time earned the Jayhawks the event win by nearly five seconds and marked the fifth time in the last six years the Kansas women took the Bob Timmons 4×400-meter relay title.
Senior Mitch Cooper kicked off the day with a win in the weight throw. His third-career win in the event came with the help of his final attempt, a personal-record toss of 17.53 meters (57-5¾). That mark moved Cooper to No. 8 on KU’s all-time weight thrower list.
Junior Brandon Lombardino was the runner-up to Cooper in the weight throw with a fourth-attempt sling of 17.25 meters (56-7¼). His best mark, just 10 inches behind Cooper’s winning toss, was also a personal record. Lombardino also earned the victory in the shot put, using a throw of 15.90 meters (52-5) to outduel teammate Kenny Boyer by an inch-and-half.
Senior Strymar Livingston made his way onto the winner’s podium after a strong outing in the 400 meters. The Brooklyn, New York native completed the quarter-mile loop in 48.64, coming from behind in the final 50 meters to overtake Oral Roberts’ Reihard Ndlovu and the victory.
The Kansas track & field program will see a major youth resurgence this year, especially on the women’s side. Both teams feature a combined 33 athletes who will don the KU singlet for the first time, which includes nearly a third (16 of the 54) of the athletes currently listed on the women’s team roster. Sixteen newcomers also comprise the 60-person men’s roster.
Several of those newcomers are expected to be in action for Kansas on Friday. For the men Roy Bay, Isaiah Cole, Quentin Dancer, Ethan Donley, Chris Gleghorn, Mitch Grosserode, Avery Hale, Denzel Harper, Cody Johnson, George Letner, Chase Pennewell, Marcus Quere, and Aaron Thacker are scheduled to suit up in the Crimson and Blue. The women’s team will see Chloe Akin-Otiko, Jedah Caldwell, Rachel Clowers, Zantori Dickerson, Janai Garrett, Callie Hicks, Mariah Kuykendoll, Lisa Lauschke, Catherine Liggett, Allie Tweitmeyer and Andrea Willis all competing in their first or second meet as Jayhawks.
Head coach Stanley Redwine has taken Kansas track & field to a level it hasn’t seen in quite some time during his first 16 years at the helm. Over Redwine’s tenure, he has seen 110 indoor and outdoor Big 12 Champions, 156 First Team All-Americans and 15 NCAA Champions come through his program at KU.
Redwine’s teams have also collected a combined seven top-10 NCAA team finishes, including coaching the 2013 women’s team to the program’s first National Championship at the NCAA outdoor meet.
At Home in Anschutz
The 31-year indoor home facility for the Kansas track & field team, Anschutz Pavilion, has hosted dozens of collegiate and high school meets since 1984. In August of 2011, the facility got a major facelift when a new six-lane track (eight lanes on the sprint straightaway) was installed, which replaced the original track installed in 1984.
The Jayhawks will hit the road for the first time this season when they journey to Wichita, Kansas to take part in an intrastate battle when they go up against Kansas State and Wichita State in a triangular-style meet on Thursday, Jan. 12. Follow both the men’s and women’s teams as they try to take down their in-state rivals by following on Twitter and Instagram at @KUTrack.
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