Campus Corner

The Star's blog on college sports, featuring Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri

KU's Memorial Stadium track had its glory days

06/25/2014 2:10 PM

One of Kansas’ most famed pieces of athletic real estate began its demise on Wednesday, with the removal of the track that circles the football field at Kansas’ Memorial Stadium.

The Twitter account of Jayhawks football coach Charlie Weis (@CoachWeisKansas) gleefully provided photos of the process, starting with the trucks lining up Tuesday night, through the first backhoe scoop and more.

Weis should be happy. Appearances can be important. Memorial Stadium is now a football-only facility. Major college football stadiums with tracks are like 1 p.m., kickoffs on Saturday afternoons, a thing of the past.

And with the new track at Rock Chalk Park opening to rave reviews this year, there was no need to maintain the oval at the football stadium.

But along with Weis’s delight, a moment should be taken to remember the greatness that passed through, usually during the Kansas Relays, at top speed.

World records were set and future gold medalists provided sneak peeks of their podium performances in Lawrence. It was the home track of famed runners Glenn Cunningham, Wes Santee and Jim Ryun, who ran before crowds of 30,000 and more at the Relays.

Sprinter and future NFL star wide receiver Mel Gray burned up the straightaway for Missouri. One of the greatest female sprinters of all time, Merlene Ottey, represented Nebraska in winning three straight Relays outstanding performer titles.

Kim Kardashian’s step dad made a name for himself at the Relays in the early 1970s when Bruce Jenner won two decathlons for Graceland (Iowa) College before winning the 1976 gold medal.

Track and field’s decline as a front page sport was reflected in the Relays. Time was, a football stadium was needed to accommodate the sport at Kansas, and that time has passed, with no damage to the track program. With last year’s NCAA women’s championship and success by several individuals, the Jayhawks are enjoying something of a renaissiance in the sport.

But in its glory days, the Memorial Stadium track was as meaningful on the national scene as any basketball court, football or baseball field in Kansas.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to bkerkhoff@kcstar.com. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.

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