LAWRENCE, Kan. – Four gold medals and a pair of meet records were collected by Jayhawks on the third and final day of the Big 12 Championship hosted at Rock Chalk Park. For the second-straight year, the Kansas men posted a runner-up finish in the team standings after collecting a program-record 143 points. The women finished the weekend fifth overall after amassing 84 points.
STANLEY SAID IT
“It was a good meet for us. It was really exciting; we had seven individual champions. I think that’s an all-time high for us, so that’s really good. Our team placing, obviously you know, you always want to win. Fifth (place) for the women was about as good as I thought we could probably do. I thought we would score 85 points and we scored 84. On the men’s side, I thought we would score 145 (points) and we scored 143. Again, (that was) about the best we could do. We just have to fill in where we can and continue to get better.”
– Head Coach Stanley Redwine on this year’s Big 12 Championship
“It was just amazing. When you sit back and look at the results, it’s really good because you start off with Gleb (Dudarev), who won (the hammer throw) and has the nation’s No. 1 throw. He just set the tone for them (the team). Mitch Cooper, who scored in all four throwing events, that’s never been done before for us. People like that stepped up for us. Then you have people like Sharon (Lokedi) who won in the 5 and the 10 (5,000 meters and 10,000 meters), which was really good. What Sydney (Conley) did was amazing also. When you have seven individual champions, what else can you say?”
– Redwine on the meet’s individual performance highlights
RECORD THROW PRODUCES SECOND DISCUS TITLE FOR MITCH COOPER
It was a monumental day for Mitch Cooper in the discus as the senior defended his conference title in record fashion. On his third attempt of the competition, Cooper unleashed a throw that soared to 63.98 meters (209-11). It was a mark that not only broke both his own personal and school records, but also took down the meet record as it surpassed Ryan Crouser’s (Texas) previous mark from 2014 by two inches. Cooper’s toss also shattered his school-record mark from last season by more than five feet.
“It’s been a big week and I didn’t think I could pull something that big out,” said Cooper following his win. “I knew I could do really well, that we’ve had great weather and it’s a great facility, as always. It just felt good today and it just connected. That’s what I’m always looking for.”
No other competitor was able to come within 18 feet of his record attempt as Cooper sailed to his second league discus win in as many years. It made him the fifth male to win multiple discus titles at the Big 12 meet and the first Jayhawk since Doug Knop in 1970 to win back-to-back conference championships in the discus.
His performance also completed an impressive weekend for Cooper as he managed to score in all four of the throwing events, collecting a total of 15 points which made him the KU team’s high scorer.
“It’s been a long weekend and I was still psyching myself up but I was like, ‘It’s ok if it’s not the biggest throw of all time,'” said the senior from Queensland, Australia. “As long as it was a good throw, I can try to get better before the (NCAA) Championships. I just went after it today, I didn’t want to hold anything back”
Cooper also led a strong KU contingent that saw the Jayhawks amass 22 points in the event. Junior Nicolai Ceban was the second-place finisher after he produced a top throw of 57.96 meters (190-2). Junior Brandon Lombardino tallied a personal best en route to a fifth-place finish with his toss of 54.88 meters (180-1 ft.).
AL HIZAM’S RECORD VAULT LANDS HIM BIG 12 TITLE
For the fifth time in the last 11 Big 12 Outdoor meets, a Jayhawk collected the gold medal from the pole vault as sophomore Hussain Al Hizam added his name to the long list of Kansas pole vault conference champions. After needing multiple attempts at two of the first three heights of the day, Al Hizam rattled off three-straight first-attempt clearances to immediately shoot his name up the leaderboard.
A Kansas win wasn’t certain though as Texas Tech’s Drew McMichael matched Al Hizam at both the 4.46 meter (17-11) and 5.51 meter (18-1) bars. However, Hussain slid over the next bar of 5.56 meters (18-2) on his second attempt, a feat that McMichael could not match.
Al Hizam’s vault marked the best in the history of the Big 12 Outdoor meet, taking down former Jayhawk Jordan Scott’s previous meet record 5.55 meters (18-2) at the 2007 meet.
The victory also highlighted another big performance by the Jayhawk pole vault crew at a Big 12 meet. In addition to Al Hizam’s victory, senior Jake Albright, the defending league champion, and sophomore Paulo Benavides were two of the three finishers in a tie for fourth place with their vault of 5.26 meters (17-3). They were followed by senior Dylan Poirier, who also got over 5.26 meters for a new personal best. The Jayhawk foursome combined to bring in 20 points toward the team total.
LIVINGSTON COMPLETES 2017 800-METER SWEEP
Senior Strymar Livingston held off a late charge from Texas Tech’s Vincent Crisp to claim his first outdoor conference champion and his second league title of the year. The Brooklyn product waited until the start of his second lap to kick it into high gear as he overtook the leader and never looked back. After he fought the strong south winds on the back stretch, Livingston still held the lead as he entered the final straightaway. Crisp shortened the gap between himself and the Jayhawk over the last 100 meters but it wasn’t enough as Livingston broke the tape first to win the title.
“I expected a faster race, but the wind was really strong,” Livingston said. “When Jones (Texas Tech junior Charles Jones) dropped back in the race, that shocked me.”
He completed his half-mile in 1:48.77 to take the victory, marking the first 800-meter race won by a Jayhawk at a league meet since 1979. Livingston, who also won the 800-meter crown at the Big 12 Indoor Championship in February, became the first Jayhawk to win both events in a single season since Jim Ryun did so in 1967.
“It feels good,” Livingston concluded. “I’ve been working really hard. I just needed more luck and that’s about it. I just learned to execute my races and have fun with it.”
LOKEDI COMPLETES DISTANCE DOUBLE WITH 5K TITLE
Junior Sharon Lokedi entered the league history books as she tallied her second conference win of the weekend with a dominant victory the 5,000 meters. Lokedi, who also won the 10,000 meters Friday night, showed little signs of fatigue as she ran away from the field over the final 800 meters of the race. Her pace quickened over the final lap to put an emphatic stamp on her second victory in three days as she crossed the finish line in 16:15.26, more than 10 seconds faster than the field.
The win made Lokedi the seventh female in Big 12 history to complete the 5,000-meter/10,000-meter double at a single meet and the first in school history. Her time was also the second-fastest ever posted by a Jayhawk, coming up 15 seconds shy of her own school record, which she broke earlier this season.
With the win, Lokedi brought her weekend point total to 20, which led the Kansas women’s team. Only three other Jayhawks have ever score more points at the Big 12 Championship.
* Sydney Conley backed up her victory in the long jump Saturdaywith another stellar outing in the 100-meter dash final Sunday evening. The senior sprinted across the finish in a wind-aided time of 11.26, good for a second-place finish. The time is among the top-20 posted by DI collegians this year. It also brought Conley’s weekend point total to 18.5, the sixth-most in program history.
* Junior Barden Adams added a career best in the triple jump en route to a bronze medal finish. There were some tense moments as Adams posted two fouls on his first two attempts but came up big on his third sprint down the runway, getting out to a mark of 16.29 meters (53-51/2). That jump marked the sixth-farthest in program history and the best triple jump mark by a Jayhawk since 1987.
* The men’s 4×100-meter relay team tallied its highest finish ever at a Big 12 meet with a smooth pass around the oval. The Jayhawk squad of Quentin Dancer, Ivan Henry, Alex Wilson and Tre Daniels got the baton around in 40.77, good for a third-place finish. The quartet’s performance marked the highest ever by a Jayhawk squad in the 21-year history of the Big 12 meet, surpassing its previous best of fourth place in 2014.
With the final regular-season meet in the books, the Kansas men and women will look toward the preliminary rounds of the NCAA Championships. The Jayhawks will travel to the West Region Preliminary meet May 25-27 at Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas, which will provide KU athletes with opportunities to advance to the NCAA National Championships in Eugene, Oregon, two weeks later. The Jayhawks will wait to see who will compete in Austin when the qualifier lists are released Wednesday, May 17. Log on to KUAthletics.com for complete coverage of the Jayhawks’ journey through the rounds of the NCAA Championships and follow on Twitter at @KUTrack.