Two titles propel Kansas women to second place after day one of Big 12 Championship

AMES, Iowa – The Kansas women’s track & field team earned two individual titles on the first day of the Big 12 Indoor Track & Field Championship in Ames, Iowa, which placed the squad in second with one day of action remaining. Senior Laura Taylor and junior Sharon Lokedi brought titles to the Jayhawk women, while Kansas junior Hussain Al Hizam earned the only Jayhawk men’s crown during Friday’s action at the Lied Recreation Center on Iowa State’s campus.
Taylor entered the weekend as the top-seeded women’s vaulter in the conference and was able to maintain her top ranking by clearing 4.34 meters (14-2.75 ft.) to take the crown. The Tualatin, Oregon native became the first Kansas female to win the indoor pole vault title since Kate Sultanova won back-to-back gold in 2007 and 2008.
Although Taylor was unable to surpass her season best and personal record of 4.38 meters (14-4.5 ft.) from the Rod McCravy Memorial on February 3, that clearance still ranks her as the No. 7 performer in the NCAA this season and should stand up to qualify her for the NCAA Indoor Championships in College Station, Texas, March 9-10.
Coming off a 2016 Big 12 indoor title in the 5,000-meter run, Lokedi sat out the 2017 indoor campaign, utilizing her redshirt season. Her time away from the indoor track didn’t produce any rust, however, as she was able to capture her second 5,000-meter title on Friday.
The Eldoret, Kenya native was the heavy favorite to win the race, coming into the weekend as the No. 6 performer in the NCAA in the event, and she put the competition away with ease, winning the race by 16 seconds and still finishing 47 seconds slower than her school record time set earlier this season. The redshirt junior will look to complete the double and take the 3,000-meter crown on Saturday, with the race scheduled to begin at 4:20 p.m. CST.
Al Hizam became the second Jayhawk in as many years and the fourth in the last six years to win the men’s Big 12 Indoor pole vault title. With last year’s indoor champion and teammate Paulo Benavides utilizing his redshirt season this year, Al Hizam was able to take the men’s pole vault title at two-straight conference meets after winning the outdoor crown last season.
Hizam didn’t reach his season best 5.53 meters (18-1.75 ft.), but didn’t need to after clearing 5.49 meters (18-0 ft.). His season best still ranks the Jubail, Saudi Arabia product No. 7 in the NCAA this season and should hold up to qualify him for the NCAA Indoor Championships in two weeks.
Quotes from Kansas head coach Stanley Redwine…
 “The three champions had really great performances and I couldn’t be more excited for all three of them. The manner in which they competed, they represented Kansas really well and that was fun to watch. From top-to-bottom, it seemed like our women’s team did a really good job and we advanced quite a few athletes to the finals. We had some mishaps along the way, but there were more positives than negatives overall. On the men’s side there were a few guys that didn’t make it to finals that we really thought could have, but we are proud of the way they competed. Overall, we thought it was a really good day.”
On top of the two titles in the pole vault, both of the podiums were littered with Crimson and Blue. For the women, Alexis Romero and Andrea Willis each earned trips to the awards stand and Nick Meyer and Kyle Rogers each made an appearance on the stand for the men.
Romero placed third in the women’s vault with a clearance of 4.09 meters (13-5 ft.) to earn six points and Willis tied for fourth in the event at 3.99 meters (13-1 ft.) for 4.5 points.
Meyer earned five points with a fourth-place finish, clearing 5.29 meters (17-4.25 ft.) and Rogers racked up two more points for the Jayhawk men with a seventh-place finish at 5.04 meters (16-6.5 ft.).
The 400-meter dash finals on Saturday will be loaded with Crimson and Blue, as Tre Daniels (47.39) and Ivan Henry (47.40) posted qualifying times in the men’s race and Mariah Kuykendoll (PR – 54.36), Nicole Montgomery (54.39) and Megan Linder (54.58) moved on to Saturday’s final for the women.
Senior Nick Giusti clocked a career-best time of 8.13 seconds in the 60-meter hurdles to auto-qualify for Saturday’s final. His time is an improvement from his previous best of 8.14, which ranks him as the No. 8 performer all-time at KU.
The Kansas distance medley relay teams each posted top-four finishes. The women’s team of Riley Cooney, Honour Finley, Hannah Dimmick and Courtney Coppinger placed third, while the men’s team of Bryce Hoppel, Marcus Davis, Jacob Goldberg and Dylan Hodgson placed fourth.
Barden Adams earned a point in the long jump with a personal-best mark of 7.48 meters (24-6.5 ft.) to finish eighth. Adams will compete in his signature event, the triple jump, on Saturday with hopes to take home the crown.
LaTyria Jefferson hit a PR by one foot in the long jump to take third place and earn six points. Jefferson hit a distance of 6.15 meters (20-2.25 ft.) for the bronze.
The Jayhawks will conclude the Big 12 Indoor Track & Field Championship action on Saturday, February 24, with action slated to being at noon for Kansas with the women’s high jump.



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