LAWRENCE — When Kansas hung its Big 12 indoor championship banner earlier this year, freshman longer jumper Sydney Conley admired its red background and wanted to know why there weren’t more of this color, to go along with all of the blue banners.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
Leave it to a senior to explain the facts of life.
“Because women are red and men are blue,” senior jumper Andrea Guebelle told her. “She’s like, ‘All of those are men?’ ”
Until this year, yes. But with a conference outdoors championship to go with the indoors, and now space cleared for an NCAA banner after winning the school’s first national title in a women’s sport over the weekend, red is starting to make a move.
“The history of KU track is great,” Guebelle said.
“It’s old. It needed to be updated.”
The Jayhawks returned to a hero’s welcome in Lawrence on Sunday as fans filled a lower end-zone section of Allen Fieldhouse to greet the team.
Guebelle, who took second place in the long and triple jumps, and sprinter Paris Daniels, who scored in three events, carried the trophy across the floor. Throws coach Andy Kokhanovsky hoisted it aloft.
The 11th NCAA championship in school history is the first since the 2008 men’s basketball team and first in track since 1970. And, it turned out, this one happened easily.
“We won on Friday,” jumps coach Wayne Pate said. “We didn’t have to show up on Saturday. That’s how special this was.”
That’s right. Kansas finished with 60 points. Runner-up Texas A&M had 44. The Jayhawks had 48 points after Friday’s action.
But for a program that hadn’t won even a conference championship in its first 40 years – indoors or outdoors – nobody was suffering from overconfidence.
Sprints coach Elisha Brewer figured 12 points were needed from the team’s three events on Saturday — Daniels in the 200 and the 400 and 1,600 relays — to feel comfortable about the championship.
That’s precisely what happened, led by Daniels’ fourth-place finish, and the Jayhawks were off and running.
It was a dominant, spread-the-wealth title. Kansas scored in 10 of the 11 events in which it competed, and because the Jayhawks were strong in field events, they got off to a fast start and maintained a lead throughout the competition.
Lindsay Vollmer, the team’s lone individual champion, reflected the team effort.
Vollmer captured the seven-event heptathlon, setting personal records in six events. She entered the meet seeded ninth based on past performance, but after the four events on the first day, Vollmer stood third and felt confident.
“On day one, when you’re having so many PRs (personal records), it carries over day to day, event to event, actually,” Vollmer said.
And, perhaps, as athletic director Sheahon Zenger said, team to team.
“What I take from this team is they can open the eyes, minds and hearts of every athlete, coach and administrator here to what is possible,” Zenger said.
Head coach Stanley Redwine thought national prominence was attainable when he was hired from Tulsa by former athletic director Bob Frederick in 2000. At the time, Kansas track had fallen on hard times, and Frederick asked Redwine, who had competed and coached at powerhouse Arkansas, to revive the program.
“He didn’t want to be at the bottom of the Big 12,” Redwine said.
Frederick, who died in a bicycle accident four years ago this week, would have beamed over the latest accomplishment, which was summed up by jumps and pole-vault coach Tom Hays, himself a Kansas track athlete in the 1980s.
“It’s time to go to the White House,” Hays said. “That’s how big this is.”