A collection of some of the nation's elite student-athletes will compete at Kansas State University this weekend in the 2012 Big 12 Outdoor Track and Field Championships. For the first time since 2005, K-State is hosting the event, which begins Friday, May 11, and ends Sunday, May 13.
Five men's teams and eight women's squads enter the event ranked in the top 25 nationally. Defending men's outdoor champion, Texas A&M, leads the league with a No. 2 ranking, followed by Texas Tech (3rd), Texas (10th), Oklahoma (20th) and Kansas (23rd). On the women's side, four teams rank in the top 10, the most of any conference. The Longhorns sit in third while KU and Texas Tech follow in fifth and sixth, respectively. The Aggies round out the top 10 with an eighth-place nod. No. 13 Oklahoma is followed by No. 20 Iowa State, No. 23 Baylor and No. 25 Kansas State.
In the last Big 12 Championship at the R.V. Christian Track Complex, 14 facility records were broken as the Aggies swept both the men's and women's titles. Overall, the Texas men have totaled four crowns (1997, '99, 2003, '06), while TAMU has claimed two (2001, '11). Texas Tech (2005) and Oklahoma (2007) have each collected one.
The Texas A&M women have strung together five-straight title wins (2007-11), while Texas paces the field with a league-leading six crowns (1997-99, 2003-04, ‘06). Kansas State (2001-02) has nabbed two championship squad victories.
The Big 12 owns the best marks in the nation in nine categories including the men's 400 (Gil Roberts, TTU) and 800 meters (Michael Preble, TAMU), as well as the women's 4x400-meter relay (Texas). Oklahoma owns three national top marks with Tia Brooks in the shot put, Brittany Borman in the javelin throw and Luke Bryant in the discus.
The Championships kick off Friday at noon with the heptathlon and decathlon events.
Fans can purchase tickets online or through the K-State Athletics Ticket Office. They can also call the office at 800-221-CATS. All-session passes are $20 for adults and $10 for youth and senior citizens. Single-session tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth and seniors. All tickets are good for general admission access to the R.V. Christian Track Complex.
Team by team previews:
The Lady Bears enter the weekend with a total of 11 ranked in the conference's top five, including a pair of nationally-ranked throwers. Junior Skylar White leads the league with a 189-2 mark in the discus and is fourth-best in the shot put at 55-5.75, while sophomore Erin Atkinson is second in the Big 12 in the hammer at 202-10. Baylor will be without the services of injured three-time league champion hurdler Tiffani McReynolds, but will have a trio of seniors to pick up the slack. Triple jumper Jessica Ubanyionwu is ranked third in the league at 42-0.5, distance runner Cate Westenhover is ranked fourth in the 5,000 meters at 16:13.84 and Diamond Richardson is also fourth in the 400 meters at 52.94.
Iowa State women
Senior Kianna Elahi is one of the nation's top performers in the 400-meter hurdles. In her final chance at the event, she won the event at the prestigious Drake Relays. Teammate Ese Okoro is also a top-flight competitor in the 400 hurdles. Both Elahi and Okoro compete on the team's 4x400 relay team. The 4x1600 meter relay team also has a chance for a high finish.
The Jayhawks enter this year's Big 12 Outdoor championships in the middle of their most successful season in program history. Their No. 5 national ranking is the highest for any KU track team - men's or women's - since the ranking system began in 2007. Leading the way for the women this weekend will be junior Diamond Dixon, who currently sits at No. 2 in the nation in the 400 meters. The sophomore is the defending conference champion in both the indoor and outdoor 400 meters and will be the favorite this weekend in Manhattan. Andrea Guebelle is the NCAA's leader in the triple jump and is looking to also score big this weekend. Geubelle was the indoor national champion in the event earlier this year and also garnered All-America first team honors in the long jump as well. She will be in action in both events Saturday and Sunday. Senior Alena Krechyk has the top hammer throw mark in the conference this year and will try to take home the conference crown for the first time.
Kansas State women
Ryann Krais, the defending NCAA champion in the heptathlon and the defending Big 12 champion in the 400 meter hurdles will attempt to win both events on her home track. Senior Boglarka Bozzay (800 meters, 1,500 meters), senior TiAra Walpool (triple jump) and freshman Alyx Treasure (high jump) should all contend for medals this weekend.
Kearsten Peoples (shot put) and Lesile Farmer in the 400-meter hurdles are both school record holders in their events.Freshman Katrine Haarklau has the school record in the pole vault and is a threat to medal in the Big 12 Championship. Cortni Ervin is a top competitor in the shot put and the hammer throw, which is also the top event for teammate Melissa Coli. Sophomore Bethany Pfeiffer (javelin) and Camile Hayes (high jump) give Missouri solid competitors in the field events.
Jessica Engel (10,000-meters) and Brittany Borman (javelin) are defending champions. Borman has won the discus title each of the last two years. Borman has the nation's best effort in the javelin (194 feet, 11 inches). Ti'Anca Mock won the 2009 long jump title. Tia Brooks is one of the best shot putters in the nation and this season she set a school record with an effort of 60 feet, seven and a quarter inches. Alex Acker is in the top 10 nationally in the pole vault.
Sophomore Natalja Piliusina continues to add to her already decorated career, as the Klaipeda, Lithuania, native broke the school record and set the top mark nationally in the 1,500 meters at the Payton Jordan Invitational after clocking a 4:09.51. That time ranks No. 7 in the world and is just .61 seconds off the Olympic "B" Standard mark. She also ran a 2:04.01 in the 800 meters at the Stanford Invitational, which ranks seventh nationally. The emergence of Toni Young, a star player on the Cowgirl basketball team, in the high jump has also been a major story line this season. Young set the school record with a jump of 1.84m/6-00.50 at the Payton Jordan Invitational. That mark is tied for fourth nationally and 30th in the world.
The Longhorns are ranked No. 3 nationally, one week after sitting in the top spot of the national polls following an outstanding performance at the Drake Relays. The Longhorns have used a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships to bolt them through the outdoor season. Several strong performances have them with 11 top 10 even rankings nationally. The 4x400m relay team has the fastest time in the country this year while Chalonda Goodman has the third fastest time in the 200m, Danielle Dowie the fourth fastest in the 400m hurdles and Shanay Briscoe is tied for fourth in the high jump. The Longhorns will be looking for their seventh conference title this weekend.
The Lady Raiders are ranked No. 6 nationally and have been consistently ranked in the top 10 this season. Texas Tech has the Big 12's top two pole vaulters as junior Shade Weygandt is ranked No. 2 nationally while sophomore Kyal Meyers is No. 11 in the nation. Weygandt set a school record with a vault of 14 feet, nine inches and was named the Big 12 female track and field athlete of the week.
The Bears have nine student-athletes ranked in the Big 12's top five, led by a strong group of sprinters. Junior Everett Walker is ranked third in the league in both the 100 meters (10.22) and 200 meters (20.53), while joining Whitney Prevost, Woodrow Randall and Zwede Hewitt on the third-ranked 4x100-meter relay team (39.43). Randall is ranked fifth in the 100 meters at 10.29 and Hewitt is fifth in the 400 meters with an altitude-adjusted best of 46.73, while sophomore Blake Heriot is fourth in the 200 meters at 20.55. Hewitt and Heriot make up half of the league's third-best 4x400-meter relay team, along with James Gilreath and Justin Allen, with a best of 3:04.67.
Iowa State men
Sprinter Ian Warner ran a personal best 10.33 in the recently completed Drake Relays. The native of Canada has hopes of competing in the Summer Olympics on his country's team. Warner also runs on the Cyclones' 4x100 relay team. Cameron Ostrowski, a red shirt freshman, finished third in the high jump in the Big 12 Indoor championships. He recently cleared 7-foot-2 ½ inches in a meet in California.
The KU men have been a consistent presence within the nation's top 25 this season, despite the fact 20 newcomers were added to this year's roster. Junior Mason Finley picked up right where he left off last season after sitting out for the indoor portion of this year due to injury. Finley holds the NCAA's No. 2 marks in both the shot put and discus and is the two-time defending conference champion in the outdoor shot put. Other nationally-ranked KU men to watch for this weekend are senior Austin Bussing, who sits at second in the Big 12 in the Steeplechase, junior Kyle Clemons in the 400 meters, sophomore Alex Bishop in the pole vault, sophomore Johann Swanepoel, whose javelin mark sits at No. 2 in the Big 12 and freshman Michael Stigler, who boasts the fifth-fastest 400-meter hurdle mark in the conference this year.
Kansas State men
High jumper Erik Kynard hopes to use the Big 12 championship and NCAA competition to put him in contention for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. He's ranked as the Big 12's top high jumper and he's the defending champion. Sprinters Carlos Rodriguez (100 and 200) and Martynas Jurgilas (100) should be threats to medal while Mantas Silkauskas in the 110 meter hurdles is one of the top competitors in the Big 12.
The Tigers' best finish in the Big 12 Championships is third and they finished ninth last season. Max Storms (10,000 meters and Dan Quigley (5,000) meters give Missouri two distance runners who have a chance of winning a medal. Asa Wyatt (javelin), Tyrell Everett (800 meters),Blake Irwin, Malcolm Pennix (high jump) Brian Duncan (hammer throw) and Tim Opfer (discus) all have a shot at earning a medal.
The Sooners will be led by Bill Kogel in the 10,000-meter run. On April 6 he set a school record and the best collegiate time this season when he clocked 28 minutes, 39.54 seconds at the Stanford Invitational. George Alex is also a threat to medal in the 5,000 meters. Luke Bryant has the best effort in the discus on the college level this season with a throw of 202 feet, four inches.
Junior Tom Farrell earned an Olympic "A" Standard at the Payton Jordan Invitational on April 29 after running a 13:15.31 in the 5,000 meters, which ranks No. 5 in the world and set an OSU record. Junior Girma Mecheso has been impressive; his time of 28:16.97 in the 10,000 meters, which he ran at the Payton Jordan Invitational, ranks No. 7 in the NCAA and beat the OSU school record by nearly 30 seconds. He also ran a 13:34.83 in the 5,000 meters at the Stanford Invitational (10th nationally, 3rd in OSU). Freshman Nick Miller has had a remarkable first season in the hammer throw, taking first in each of the past four events he's competed in. His top mark of 67.06m/220-00, which he acheived at the John McDonnell Invitational, ranks No. 8 nationally. OSU coach Dave Smith also said he expects big things from veterans German Fernandez and Raul Botezan.
The Longhorns are ranked 10th nationally. Following the cross country and indoor seasons, the Longhorns ranked tied for third in the John McDonnell Program of the Year standings. Seven individuals are ranked in the top 10 in their events led by Isaac Murphy with the second best decathlon score in the country (8,067 pts.) and Marquise Goodwin with the fourth best long jump (7.93m). UT has won four Big 12 Outdoor titles in 1997, 1999, 2003 and 2006.
The Aggies are defending champions and are ranked No. 2 nationally. Returning champions for Texas A&M includes Sam Humphreys, two-time defending champion in the javelin, Michael Preble in the 800 as well as all four relay events. Humphreys will try to make Big 12 history by winning the javelin in three consecutive years. Other Aggies defending their individual titles are Prezel Hardy, Jr. (60 meters), Ameer Webb (200 meters), Deon Lendore (400 meters) and Preble (600-yard run).
The Red Raiders are ranked No. 3 nationally and have spent the season ranked in the top 10. Junior Bryce Lamb has the tops efforts this season in the Big 12 in both the long jump and triple jump. Gil Roberts is ranked No. 1 nationally in the 400 meters. Roberts is fresh off winning his first outdoor 400 of the season and was named the Big 12 male track and field athlete of the week.