Wichita State, Kansas and Kansas State, at one time, planned to hold track and field meets this weekend. Instead, they decided to get together at Kansas State, a rare opportunity for all three to face off in a scored meet.
“It’s a really important meet for us, because it’s two weeks from the conference meet and this is really our last dress rehearsal,” WSU assistant coach John Wise said. “Our kids are excited. Those schools recruited our kids and we recruited their kids. And a lot of them are from Kansas.”
The schools will see more of each other in future seasons. In 2015, they will begin a three-year series of triangulars to open the indoor season.
“Track at the collegiate level is always trying to figure out to promote itself a little bit more,” Kansas associate head coach Tom Hays said. “The easiest thing is to do is kind of go in your own backyard. People are interested in seeing the in-state kids compete.”
Saturday’s Ward Haylett Invitational, which also includes Air Force, begins at 9:30 a.m. with field events at Kansas State’s Christian Track. This weekend has been reserved for WSU’s Track-It-Buster the past three seasons at Cessna Stadium, scheduled to include Air Force. Kansas also looked into holding a meet at its new Rock Chalk Park. Three meets would stretch the area’s capacity for officials.
“We were getting spread thin, so we decided to take a year off from Track-It-Buster,” Wise said.
Kansas and Kansas State are also nearing their conference meet — May 16-18 in Lubbock, Texas.
The Kansas women, defending NCAA outdoor champions, are ranked No. 17 nationally by the coaches association computer rankings. In the Midwest Region, KU is No. 1 with Kansas State No. 3 and WSU No. 12. On the men’s side, Kansas is No. 5, K-State No. 7 and WSU No. 8.
WSU coaches must make tough decisions on its 32-person roster for the Missouri Valley Conference Championships, May 16-18 in Carbondale, Ill. On the men’s side, coach Steve Rainbolt is considering as many as 49 athletes for those spots.
“This weekend will be majorly significant,” he said.
WSU coaches, always looking for ways to promote his sport, are excited about the possibilities of the indoor series, which start on Jan. 17 at Kansas State and move to Kansas in 2016 and WSU’s Heskett Center in 2017. The format will limit schools to 32 athletes so the meet can unfold in a spectator-friendly time of around three hours.
“It’s going be a small meet … it’s going to be scored and it’s going to be promoted at each school,” Wise said. “When we have it, we’re going to treat it like a Missouri Valley Conference meet. It’s going to be tough to make the team to compete in it.”