LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas track & field will look to continue its strong start to the 2016 campaign after a month off from competition. The Jayhawk men and women will host the Bill Easton Classic on Friday, January 8 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 Oral Roberts, Tulsa, Emporia State, Texas Southern and UMKC.
Within its 2016 men’s and women’s rosters, Kansas returns three First Team All-Americans, including senior long jumper Sydney Conley, who garnered First Team All-America honors three times in the last two years. Senior Daina Levy is back after a breakthrough season in 2015, one which saw her claim runner-up conference finishes in the weight and hammer throws. The KU duo is included on a women’s team that returns over 70 percent of the scorers that led the squad to sixth and fourth-place finishes at last year’s Big 12 indoor and outdoor meets.
On the men’s side, pole vaulter Casey Bowen returns for his final year in the crimson and blue looking for his third conference championship in the event and leads perhaps the deepest pole vault group in the nation. 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 six 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 91 competitions at the Bill Easton Classic, including eight at the meet a year ago. Last season, seven NCAA top-10 performances, including a pair of victories from Sydney Conley highlighted Kansas’ first meet of 2015.
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. Five Jayhawks and four relays find themselves ranked in the NCAA top-10 in six events including Zainab Sanni (60m, 200m) and Sydney Conley (60m) and the 4×400-meter and distance medley relay teams on the women’s side, as well as Jaron Hartley (400m), Casey Bowen (pole vault), Paulo Benavides (pole vault) and the 4×400-meter and distance medley relays teams for the men. An additional five Jayhawks hold marks that sit in the top-25 of the national rankings.
Last Time Out
Jayhawks claimed victories in 19 events as the Kansas track & field teams enjoyed a successful season-opening meet at the Bob Timmons Challenge on Dec. 4 inside Anschutz Pavilion. Junior Zainab Sanni ran to the 60-meter and 200-meter titles, while both the men’s and women’s 4×400-meter and distance medley relays were won by the Jayhawks.
Sanni turned some heads en route to a win in the 60 meters. The junior out-leaned her senior teammate, Sydney Conley, to claim her first-career victory in the event. Sanni sprinted through the finish in 7.41, just .05 seconds ahead of Conley. The mark shaved .07 seconds off her previous personal best, and made her the fourth-fastest KU female in the history of the event. The time also, for the moment, put Sanni atop the national rankings after the first week of the indoor season.
Sanni returned to the track two hours later and again ran her way to the top of the podium. This time she was running in the lane next to former KU teammate and 13-time All-American Diamond Dixon, but showed no signs of intimidation. Sanni accelerated down the final straight-away crossed the finish in 24.18 to pick up her second trophy of the day.
The Jayhawks 4×400-meter relay squads closed out the day on a fitting note with wins on both the men’s and women’s sides. The women’s team comprised of Sanni, Whitney Adams, Nicole Montgomery and Adriana Newell led from start to finish, passing the baton around in 3:44.69 to win the event by over five seconds. The time was the fastest by the women’s 4×400-meter squad in the seven years of the season opening meet.
The men were next and posted an impressive time of their own. Drew Matthews, Alex Wilson, Strymar Livingston and Jaime Wilson completed their eight laps in 3:15.70 to claim 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 40 athletes who will don the KU singlet for the first time, which includes nearly a third (20 of the 55) currently listed on the women’s team roster. Twenty newcomers also comprise the 58-person men’s roster.
Several of those true freshmen are expected to be in action for Kansas on Friday. For the men, Paulo Benavides, Erik Harken, Cain Hassim, Dylan Hodgson, Braden Klainschmidt, Joel Long, Lane Macari, Connor McMullen, Bryce Richards, Alex Wilson and Tanner Wilson are scheduled to suit up in the Crimson and Blue, while the women’s team will see freshmen Riley Cooney, Gabbi Dabney, Deanna Dougherty, Emily Downey, Kayla Funkenbusch, Morgan Griffiths, LaTyria Jefferson, Hayley Krumwiede, Kelly McKee, Nicole Montgomery, Wumi Omare, Caraline Slattery and Hannah Swift 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 15 years at the helm. Over Redwine’s tenure, he has seen 103 indoor and outdoor Big 12 Champions, 153 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 30-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 return to Anschutz Pavilion to take part in an interstate battle when they go up against Kansas State and Wichita State in a triangular-style meet on Friday, Jan. 15. Follow both the men’s and women’s teams as they try to take down their in-state rivals by following on Twitter, Instagram and Vine at @KUTrack.