Preview: Kansas Relays to start today, new facility

The 87th Kansas Relays will commence Wednesday as the first event held at Rock Chalk Park, the new, state-of-the-art facility that will now be the home of Kansas track and field.

Nearly 90 Kansas athletes will represent the Jayhawks at the Relays, in addition to athletes from other schools, which will wrap up on Saturday. While each event with Jayhawk competitors will be exciting in their own respects, here are a few events to watch out for that will feature high-profile Kansas athletes.

George Mullinix/KANSAN

George Mullinix/KANSAN

One of the most anticipated events of the weekend is the heptathlon, featuring junior Lindsay Vollmer, who holds the school record in this event. So far this outdoor season, Vollmer, who won last season’s NCAA outdoor heptathlon title, has met the high expectations being put on her. In her first meet of 2014 outdoor campaign, Vollmer won the Texas Relays heptathlon on March 27 with a winning 5,640 point total. This is the fourth highest in Kansas heptathlon history.  Vollmer will enter the meet still ranked atop the Big 12 in the heptathlon. While her focus for the weekend will surely be on continuing her success, Vollmer admits she is just happy to be there for this memorable moment in Kansas sports history.

“Our team is blessed to have this facility and I know there will be some great performances on this track,” Vollmer said.  “This year will be the start of a great future for the Kansas Relays and I’m just glad I get to be a part of it.”

The women’s 5,000 meters will also be a good race to watch, as Jayhawk senior Natalie Becker will be riding a hot streak into the event on Friday.  Becker rewrote Jayhawk track and field history books two weeks ago at the Stanford Invitational when she ran the 5,000 meters in 16:20.80, making her the fastest in the event in school history.  Becker will look to have a similar performance on Thursday when the 5,000-meter race gets underway.

Eyes will also be on the women’s 400 meters prelims this Friday as senior Diamond Dixon will make her 2014 outdoor season 400 meters debut, an event which she not only holds the school record (50.88), but also an event that she has won at the last three Big 12 Conference Championships. Dixon will try to prove in the qualifying race Friday and the finals Saturday that she can make a run at the four-peat for the 400 meters conference title.

On the men’s side, the pole vault will be a key field event to look out for, as the Jayhawk men already have five pole vaulters clear the 17-foot mark this outdoor season.  There is currently no other team in the NCAA this outdoor season that has more than three athletes that have reached this mark so far. One of these five Jayhawks is junior Casey Bowen, who three weeks ago at the Texas Relays became the ninth pole vaulter in Kansas history to reach the 18-foot mark. As he and his teammates have shown skill and unmatched depth so far this outdoor season. Bowen is not only thrilled to see what his team can do this weekend, but what they can do for the rest of the season.

“I am excited to see what the team can do this year,” Bowen said.  “We have tons of talent, now it is just a matter of putting it together at the right time.”

Yet another school record holder will be in action on Friday when junior Michael Stigler takes the track for the 400-meter hurdle preliminaries.  Coming off a 50.08 time in the event at the Texas Relays, which still stands as the fastest in the Big 12 so far this season, Stigler will look to get past prelims and impress the Jayhawk crowd for the finals on Saturday.

Action from Rock Chalk Park will kick off today at 10 a.m. and is expected to wrap up on Saturday around 3:30 p.m. Fans looking to catch this historic meet will be admitted for free on Wednesday and Thursday, while tickets for Friday and Saturday to the public will be $5.  University of Kansas students will be admitted for free all weekend.

  • Updated Apr. 15, 2014 at 11:21 pm