Jayhawks See Three Title Winners on Day One of Big 12 Championship

Big 12 Outdoor Championships
Lowdon Track Complex // Fort Worth Texas

Senior Daina Levy claimed her first conference title in the hammer throw Friday morning.
Day 1 Coverage
Day 1 Results: PDF | Live
Kansas Composite Results
Meet Central


FORT WORTH, Texas –Three Jayhawks secured places atop the awards stand as the Kansas men’s and women’s track & field teams competed on the first day of the 2016 Big 12 Outdoor Championship inside Lowdon Track complex. Senior Daina Levy picked up her first league title in the hammer throw, while junior Jake Albright led a strong outing by the Jayhawk men’s pole vaulters with his win in the event. Junior Sharon Lokedi turned in a championship performance with a win in the 10,000 meters, breaking a 20-year winless streak by the Kansas women in the event.
After the first day of competition, the Jayhawk women hold a slight lead over the field after amassing 21 points in the first two events of the meet. The KU men find themselves in second overall behind their 33 points on day one.
Levy added yet another accolade to her already impressive Kansas résumé with a relatively easy victory in the hammer throw Friday morning. The senior, who finished second in the event a year ago, met little resistance en route to becoming the second Kansas female to claim a conference weight throw and hammer throw title in the same year. Levy began her day atop the leaderboard, turning in a first attempt toss of 62.72 meters (205’9″) which immediately put her in first place.
The three-time defending champion, Kansas State Sara Savatovic, proved to be Levy’s largest obstacle as the Wildcat briefly replaced her name for the top spot in field after going seven inches further than Levy on her third attempt. Savatovic’s stay as the leader lasted only minutes however, as Levy posted a mark of 64.45 meters (211’5″) on her next trip into the runway and moved her into first place, where she would remain for the rest of the competition.
“Personally, I feed off competition and I feed off that energy,” said Levy of her thought process after falling to second midway through the event. “I think the best thing that could’ve happened in that series was to drop down to second place, because after that I really had a fire lit. That was really big for me.”
Levy improved on each of her next two throws, topping out at 66.52 meters (218’3″) on her fifth attempt. No other competitor was able to come within eight feet of that throw, securing Levy her first career conference championship in the hammer throw and her third victory of the season in the event.
“This has been a long time coming so there’s definitely a lot of satisfaction,” said Levy following her win. “For me, winning (a Big 12 Championship) means a lot so having accomplished that after not having done it before, really means a lot. It’s a great feeling.”
Levy’s win marked the fourth Big 12 hammer throw title by a Kansas female and the first since Alena Krechyk won the event in 2012. Her winning toss of 66.52 meters (218’3″) would have also been good enough to win all but two of the 20 meets in Big 12 history.
As has become somewhat of a tradition at the Big 12 Outdoor Championship, the Kansas men’s pole vaulters enjoyed another unprecedented outing on against their conference foes. By day’s end, the Jayhawks would score more points in the event than any other school had in the 20-year history of the Big 12 meet and notched its fifth conference champion since 2007.
Early on in the competition, it was Nick Meyer who seemed it would be his turn to snare Big 12 gold. The junior out of Kingman, Kansas needed only three attempts to get over each of his first three bars, a feat no other vaulter in the competition was able to match. While Albright was unable to match his teammate’s perfect start to the day, he too worked his way up the standings after he matched Meyer, junior teammate Nick Maestretti and three other competitors with a clearance of 5.35 meters (17’6½”).
Albright and Meyer then separated themselves from the rest of the field in impressive style. On back-to-back attempts, the Jayhawk duo soared over 5.45 meters (17’10½”), a bar no other vaulter could master. With KU now having clinched its fifth Big 12 title winner since 2007, the two Jayhawks squared off each looking to claim the first conference championship of their careers.
On this day, Albright was the one left standing as the Bucyrus, Kansas native posted a personal best clearance of 5.50 meters (18’0½”). Albright got over the career-high bar on his second attempt, while Meyer couldn’t manage another clearance.
“It always feels good to PR but this feels a lot better than I thought it would,” said Albright following his win. “This will definitely boost my confidence heading into regionals in two weeks. I’ll just have to stay relaxed and ready to go like I did today. But definitely try to enjoy this. A PR and Big 12 title feels great.”
Albright’s win marked the fifth by a Jayhawk at the last 10 conference meets. The victory, along with the runner-up finish by Meyer and the sixth-place finish by Maestretti gave the Jayhawks 21 points out of the event, the most ever by a single school in the Big 12 Championship pole vault.
Along with the win, Albright became the 11th Kansas pole vaulter to clear the 18-foot barrier and the second this season. He now sits among the top-10 vaulters in the NCAA with the preliminary rounds of the national championships kicking off in less than two weeks.
In her first 10,000-meter race since she smashed the school record in early April, Lokedi added another memorable performance with a run-away victory. The sophomore out of Eldoret, Kenya entered the day as the league’s top-ranked runner in the 10,000 meters after she posted a career-best 33:10.06 in the event at the Stanford Invitational on April 1. While Lokedi would end up crossing the finish-line with a six-second victory and another top-five time in KU history, her 10,000-meter journey was anything but easy on a hot and humid evening in Fort Worth.
The race got out to a slow start with the pack of runners posting 90 second splits over the first 800 meters. Texas’ Sandie Raines then turned up the pressure on the competition as she built a 20 meter lead on the field less than 2,000 meters into the race.
The Jayhawk refused to panic and managed her pace as she maintained her second-place position. By the midway point of the 6.2-mile race, Lokedi had made up noticeable distance on the Texas junior, whose pace had begun to falter.
By the 6,000-meter mark, Lokedi and Raines were running neck-and-neck, with the Jayhawk strategically holding off on her closing kick until the time was right. With four laps to go, Lokedi made her move and never looked back, building a six second lead over the final 1,200 meters and closing out her first 10,000 meter victory in 34:58.59.
The win was the first by a Kansas female in a conference 10,000-meter race since Sarah Heeb won the Big Eight title in the event at the 1996 league championships.
Senior Evan Landes closed out an impressive day for the Kansas track & field squads with a gutsy outing in the men’s 10,000 meters. The Mulvane, Kansas native led for the majority of the event giving way to the eventual champion, Oklahoma State’s Cerake Giberkidane, with around 2,000 meters to go. Despite losing the lead, Landes continued to fight for second position and withstood strong challenges from Oklahoma’s Dan Schubert and Eric Aldritt. The KU senior kicked it into high gear in the final lap to cement his silver medal finish in 30:16.73.
Landes’ finish was the best by a Jayhawk at the conference championships since Benson Chesang won the event in 2002. Along with the senior, sophomore Chris Melgares turned in a sixth-place outing in 30:57.97 to help Kansas pick up 11 points in the event and close out a strong day one for the Jayhawk men with 33 points after the first three events of the meet.
Two days remain of the 2016 Big 12 Outdoor Championship. Saturday will feature preliminary action from the track as well as finals of the men’s and women’s shot put, men’s high jump and men’s and women’s triple jump events in the field. Stay updated on all the Jayhawks’ performances through the meet central page at Big12Sports.com and watch for the complete recap, along with results and videos, which will be posted following the finish of the day’s events.
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