Kansas opens outdoor season with three victories at Arkansas Spring Invitational
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Coming off an indoor season that saw both men’s and women’s teams post top-20 finishes at the NCAA Indoor Championships for the first time in school history, the Kansas track & field teams opened the outdoor season at the Arkansas Spring Invitational with three victories. Laura Taylor, Joel Long and Brandon Lombardino each came away from John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville, Arkansas with first-place finishes on Saturday to kick off the 2018 outdoor campaign.
Taylor, a senior from Tualatin, Oregon, won the women’s pole vault with a clearance of 4.20 meters (13-9.25 ft.), which currently ranks first on the Division I West qualifying list and second in the NCAA. Taylor didn’t miss on an attempt until her sixth bar of the day where she was unable to clear 4.30 meters (14-1.25 ft.), but wrapped up the victory as the only other competitor at the height was unable to clear it as well and had faulted on earlier heights.
Taylor’s victory comes on the heels of a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships where she earned First Team All-America honors for the first time in her career. She was just one of four Jayhawks to finish in the top-eight in the women’s vault on Saturday, with Andrea Willis (4th; 3.95m/12-11.5 ft.), Alexis Romero (6th; 3.95m/12-11.5 ft.) and Khristen Bryant (8th; 3.70m/12-1.5 ft.) also recording top-eight marks.
Long picked up a victory in the high jump by tying a personal-best mark of 2.11 meters (6-11 ft.). The Topeka, Kansas native needed just three jumps to seal his victory, after entering at 2.01 meters (6-7 ft.) and clearing 2.06 meters (6-9 ft.) before his PR-tying jump, all without a miss. Long was just one of two competitors to clear the 2.11-meter bar, and his perfect prior attempts sealed the win as neither competitors were able to top 2.14 meters (7-0.25 ft.).
Lombardino’s win came in his second event of the day, the discus. After finishing fifth in the shot put with a mark of 16.56 meters (54-4 ft.), Lombardino posted a throw of 50.32 meters (165-1 ft.) on his first attempt in the discus to move into first, and never relinquished the lead. The Round Lake, Illinois product’s throw was nearly two meters farther than the second-place finisher at 48.51 meters (159-2 ft.).
Freshman Lea Riedel wasted no time moving into the Kansas top-10 performers list, jumping to No. 7 in the shot put in her first-career outdoor meet. Riedel finished fifth in the shot with a mark of 14.56 meters (47-9.25 ft.).
Junior LaTyria Jefferson finished third in the long jump with a personal-best mark of 6.23 meters (20-5.25 ft.) on her second attempt of the day. Her PR jump was one of just two marks she posted on the day, scratching on her other four attempts. Jefferson’s mark moved her into the No. 9 spot on the KU women’s outdoor performance list.
Jedah Caldwell, a sophomore from Chanhassen, Minnesota, became the No. 8 performer in school history in the 200 meters by posting a wind-legal time of 23.77 seconds to finish fourth in the event.
Others to post top-five finishes on Saturday included seniors Nick Giusti and Christian Hicks, who finished third and fourth, respectively, in the 110-meter hurdles, posting wind-aided times of 14.61 seconds and 14.73 seconds. Aaron Thacker finished third in the 100 meters with a PR time of 10.68 seconds, Jaron Hartley took fifth in the 200 with a wind-aided time of 21.33 seconds and Paulo Benavides finished fifth in the pole vault with a clearance of 4.80 meters (15-9 ft.).
Caraline Slattery and Courtney Griffiths finished second and fourth in the open division of the 800 meters, Gabbi Dabney took fifth in the 100-meter hurdles, and both women’s 4×400-meter relay teams finished in the top five with second and third place finishes.
The Jayhawks will return to action next week, splitting up between three meets. Part of the Kansas squad will head to Austin, Texas for the Texas Relays, March 28-31, while others head to Stanford, California for the Stanford Invitational, March 30-31. The remaining Jayhawks will travel to Tulsa, Oklahoma to compete in the Oral Roberts Invitational on March 31.
KUAthletics.com: The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.