Kansas won its first NCAA championship in a women’s sport Saturday when the outdoor track and field team ran away from the competition in Eugene, Ore.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
Officially, the Jayhawks clinched the title when sprinter Paris Daniels finished fourth in the 200 meters and collected five points.
That gave Kansas enough of a lead over its competitors that the results of the final five women’s events weren’t going to alter the outcome.
The Jayhawks won with 60 team points to outdistance Texas A&M (44), Oregon (43) and LSU (40).
Kansas spread the wealth to claim this trophy, never losing the lead over the four days of competition.
Kansas had one champion — Lindsay Vollmer, with a career-best effort in the heptathlon — but scored points in all but one of the 11 events it entered.
“Everyone came into this week with the idea that this was something we could do,” coach Stanely Redwine said. “When Lindsay Vollmer won the heptathlon that was a sign that everyone wanted to do well and contribute to the team effort.”
Team points piled up with high finishes. Andrea Guebelle was second in the long and triple jumps, Natalia Bartnovskaya took second in the pole vault, Daniels was part of the relay teams as well as her 200 effort.
Oddly, the only event that Kansas entered and didn’t score in was the 400, where Diamond Dixon failed to qualify for the final. She owns an Olympic gold medal as a member of the winning 1,600-meter relay team last summer.
The NCAA championship is the 11th in Kansas’ history, the first since the men’s basketball team won the 2008 title.
Kansas’ other championships have come in men’s track and cross country, and for many decades, the school’s national athletic reputation was as strong in track as it was basketball.
When Kansas hired Coach Stanley Redwine from Arkansas’ powerful program in 2000, it looked to recapture that glory.
Steadily, the programs improved. This year, Kansas won its first Big 12 title, when the women captured the indoor meet. The Jayhawks went on to a second-place finish in the NCAA indoor event.
Kansas added a conference outdoor championship, and will now hang a banner for the biggest prize, an NCAA championship.
The Jayhawks entered Saturday’s final day of competition with a 15-point lead over Oregon but Kansas had fewer scoring chances than the Ducks or Southeastern Conference powers Texas A&M or LSU, which had strong sprinting lineups in the blocks on the final day.
KU needed to take advantage, and that’s what happened.
The day opened with the 400 relay. KU qualified fifth, and that’s where they finished, picking up four points with the team of Daniels, Tianna Valentine, Denesha Morris and Dixon finishing in 43.92 seconds.
That result reduced the lead over Oregon to 14, and the Ducks had an excellent scoring chance next with two runners in the 1,500 meters.
But neither finished in the top eight, and with only one event remaining for the Ducks, their title chances were over.
So were the other competitors’ when Daniels took fourth in the 200.
“We know that we needed 12 points today and if we got to 60 then we’d be pretty safe,” Redwine said.
The Jayhawks’ final event, the 1,600 relay, was a victory lap (or laps), and they finished sixth.
UMKC picked up an All-America when Courtney Frerichs, a sophomore, finished sixth in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Missouri shot putter Kearsten Peoples, a sophomore from Ottawa, Kan., also reached the podium by finishing sixth.
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.