Two titles push KU men into lead at Big 12 Indoor Championship

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AMES, Iowa – Two Jayhawk underclassmen claimed their first-career league titles as the KU track & field teams competed on day one of the Big 12 Indoor Championships Friday inside the Lied Recreation Center. Sophomore Paulo Benavides claimed KU’s the seventh Big 12 pole vault title in the last 11 years, while freshman Gleb Dudarev continued the torrid start to his collegiate career, adding the conference weight throw crown to his résumé.
With help from a huge contribution from the Jayhawk men’s pole vaulters, the Kansas men lead the team points race after day one with 54.5 points, more than 27 points ahead of second place Oklahoma State. After the first six events in the women’s meet, Kansas sits fourth overall after amassing 28 points on day one.
In what has become somewhat of a tradition at the league championship meet, the Kansas pole vault crew one again put forth a dominant effort the led to Jayhawks occupying the top four steps of the awards stand. Led by a career-best effort from Benavides, seniors Nick Maestretti, Jake Albright and Nick Meyer rounded out what eventually turned in to an inter-squad battle for the league title.
After all four Jayhawks got over their first two heights of the day with little difficulty it was the underclassmen that managed to outduel his senior teammates, vaulting over the highest bar of his career on his third and final attempt. Benavides soared over the bar set at 5.47 meters (17-11¼), a mark none of the other remaining competitors could match.
Benavides’ victory marked the seventh Big 12 indoor pole vault title won by a Jayhawk since 2007 and highlighted an unprecedented point scoring effort by the KU vaulters. With Maestretti earning the runner-up finish, Albright taking third and Meyer earning a tie for fourth, Kansas managed to amass 28.5 points in the event.
The career-best vault also moved Benavides up this season’s national chart as he now sits in 12th overall.
In only his third collegiate weight throw competition, Dudarev once again added to his trophy case with another victory in the event Friday evening. While the Belarus native ended up winning the competition with a throw that no other competitor came within three feet of, his day did not come without some nervous moments.
 Gleb DudarevDudarev, who entered the day ranked second in the NCAA, fouled on each of his first two attempts meaning a foul on his third throw would end his abruptly day without a place or a score. The freshman kept his composure though and unwound for a third-attempt mark of 21.95 meters (72-0¼) which immediately moved him to the top of the leaderboard and extended his competition by three more rounds. Dudarev took advantage of those extra throws as, on his fourth trip into the ring, he got the 35-pound implement out to a distance of 22.02 meters (72-3). That throw would eventually earn him the conference title and the seventh by a KU male since 1999.

In only her second long jump competition of the season, senior Sydney Conley came within two inches from putting another conference champion trophy on her mantle as she was forced to settle for a runner-up finish in the event. Conley, who returned to the runway just last week after sitting out the first six weeks of the season due to injury, didn’t waste any time in leaping to the top of the leaderboard. On her first sprint down the runway, she soared to a mark of 6.49 meters (21-3½), a jump the topped her previous indoor best by nearly eight inches.
That first-attempt jump appeared as though it might have been enough to hold Conley in first for the entirety of the competition, however Iowa State’s Jhoanmy Luque had over plans. The Cyclone senior turned in her own personal best leap, getting to a mark of 6.53 meters (21-5¼) on her third attempt to overtake Conley atop the leaderboard.
The Jayhawk posted three solid attempts to try and regain the lead but was unable to improve on her first jump, forcing her to settle for second place.
Though Conley did not leave with the gold medal, she put herself in position to possibly contend for an even grander stage. Her performance moved her name into the top-10 of the NCAA’s latest long jump rankings, meaning she will likely qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships to be contested in two weeks. The senior will have the opportunity to earn First Team All-America status for the fourth time in her Kansas career.
Both the men’s and women’s distance medley relays were nothing short of spectacular en route to runner-up finishes as the 4,000-meter races closed out the first day’s festivities Friday night. First the women’s team, comprised of sophomore Riley Cooney, freshman Mariah Kuykendoll, junior Hannah Dimmick and senior Hannah Richardson, went nose to nose with the Oklahoma State squad that had won four of the last six conference distance medley titles.
 Sydney ConleyOnly 600 meters in, the Jayhawks and Cowgirls had already separated themselves from the rest of the pack as the remainder of the race became a two-team battle. In the final leg, Richardson was almost able to overtake Oklahoma State’s NCAA champion, Kaela Edwards, however came up just short in the homestretch finishing less than a second behind Edwards.
Kansas ended the race with a final time of 11:20.00, marking the fifth fastest distance medley time ever posted by a Jayhawk team.
The men’s team followed up the women’s performance with a strong showing of their own. The youthful quartet of sophomore Bryce Richardson, freshman Isaiah Cole, freshman Bryce Hoppel and sophomore Dylan Hodgson fought hard against several veteran squads in Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Texas. With the four teams bunched at the final exchange, Hodgson completed a stellar mile leg that helped earn his team the runner-up finish in a season-best 9:47.44.
Kansas’ time was less than a second from entering the school’s all-time top-10 and gave the Jayhawks their final eight points from a very successful day one.    
It was preliminary day on the track for the majority of running events and, while several Jayhawks were happy with times that advanced them to Saturday’s finals, one left the track with an extra feather in her cap. Senior Adriana Newell posted the fastest 600 yards in school history as she posted the fastest qualifying time out of the two preliminary heats. Newell clocked in at 1:19.99, shaving more than two seconds off her previous best and .39 seconds of Kim Clark’s previous school record of 1:20.38 which she set at the Big 12 Indoor Championships in 2003.
Newell will look to claim her first conference title in the 600-yard final at 2:30 p.m., Saturday.

* Junior Barden Adams added a scoring effort for the KU men with his fourth-place finish in the men’s long jump. Adams’ top leap came on his third attempt, a leap of 7.38 meters (24-2½).
* Junior Talia Marquez started the day with a strong performance in the five-event pentathlon. Marquez posted personal bests in each of the final three events to end her day in sixth-place with a score of 3,709 points, also a personal record. That score moved Marquez to sixth on the school’s all-time pentathlon list.
The Jayhawks will return to the Lied Recreation Center to close out the conference meet Saturday, Feb. 25. The final three events of the men’s heptathlon will all kick off the day at 11 a.m., with the finals in the track events beginning at 1:30 p.m. Stay updated on the last day’s action by following on Twitter at @KUTrack and logging on to for updates and a recap. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.