Jayhawks Break In New Anschutz with Season Opening Bob Timmons Challenge
Dec. 2, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. - Kansas track and field opened its 2011-12 indoor season Friday evening with the Bob Timmons Challenge in the newly renovated Anschutz Pavilion. Fifteen Jayhawks won events on the night, while legendary KU coach Bob Timmons was honored as well, making the opening night of the upgraded facility a memorable one.
"I was really pleased," said 12th-year head coach Stanley Redwine. "We had several winners, which is always good, but I was more impressed with the facility. Anschutz was great today. It was the first time running in our new facility and I'm really happy with how the performances were in here. Our team did great, so I'm happy."
The facilities' unveiling was made even more special when former KU coaching legend Bob Timmons was honored for his induction into the U.S. Track and Field Hall of Fame. Timmons, whose name graces the meet's title, coached for 22 years at KU, won four NCAA titles and 31 conference championships. He and his wife Pat were on hand to be recognized for the outstanding achievement and were greeted with a standing ovation from the crowd on hand.
The first competitive race run on the newly installed track was the women's 3,000 meters, which featured four Jayhawks. Junior Natalie Becker was not about to let a non-Jayhawk take first in the inaugural race in the new facility. She would go onto win the race in 10:25.92 and was followed be her three teammates, Madison Moser (10:43.04) in third, Sara Seiwald (10:44.68) in fourth, and Kathleen Thompson (10:50.01) in fifth.
"It feels good," Becker said of her performance. "This is a new track, so it was neat that I got to be in the very first race out there. (My teammates) were a great help, leading me through the first few laps, which helps out a lot in the beginning."
In the men's 3,000 meters, senior Donny Wasinger made his return after recovering from an Achilles injury in the early weeks of the cross country season. He didn't disappoint and followed the women's lead, winning the event, with a host of his teammates following close behind. Wasinger clocked in at 8:37.13 and was followed closely by freshman Gabe Gonzalez (8:38.51) in second.
"I'm happy," said Wasinger following the race. This was my first race back after a long time of being out, so it was a good way to get back into it."
Francine Simpson may have had the brightest day of all the Jayhawks competing at the Bob Timmons Friday. The junior started her meet by winning the 60-meter dash in 7.63 and finished it by also taking the long jump title. She notched a top mark of 6.16 meters (20-02.50 ft.) and earned first by nearly 14 inches.
Junior Rebecca Neville started her season out right with a victory and a personal best in the 60-meter hurdles. The Merrillville, Ind., native bested her previous PR by only .04 seconds but topped the runner up nearly a third of a second, crossing the finish line in 8.72.
Shayla Wilson started out her senior campaign in good fashion as well. She first won the 600 yard run by five seconds, clocking in at 1:24.56, and then led the women's 4X400-meter relay to a victory as well. Joining Wilson was juniors Denesha Morris and Taylor Washington and freshman Alisha Keys. The four passed the baton around in 3:46.85, which is already within eight seconds of the NCAA automatic qualifying mark.
In the women's pole vault, sophomore Demi Payne staked her claim as the top returning women's pole vaulter on the women's squad, winning the event with a top mark of 3.95 meters (12-11.50 ft.). The Corpus Christie, Texas native was happy to get the win, but is hungry for improvement in the coming months.
"This is a really good way to start the season," Payne explained. "I think this will really light a fire under me because I wanted to PR and I didn't, so this next month I'm going to work really hard to improve. Overall thought, I'm really pleased the the way I performed today."
Returning All-American Jessica Maroszek showed she hadn't lost any of her skills in the offseason. The sophomore took the shot put title easily, topping the next best competitor by two meters. She hit a mark of 14.66 meters (48-01.25 ft.) on her final throw, an indoor personal best for the Seymour, Wisc., native.
Other Jayhawks to find the first-place podium Friday evening were sophomore Branden Soucie, who won the men's mile with a time 4:21.68, sophomore Nick Seckfort, coming in first in the 800 meters in 1:56.24, the men's distance medley relay team, led by previous winners on the night, Wasinger and Seckfort, won the race in 10:25.76 and Jamaica Collins, who took home gold in the women's triple jump. She notched a final leap of 11.46 meters (37-07.25 ft.).
Rounding out the night, first on the track, was the men's 4X400m relay. Senior Kyle Clemons, junior Dominique Manley and freshmen Michael Stigler and Kenneth McCuin made the mile run in 3:16.23 to win. And in the final event of the night, freshman Colleen O'Brien sent her fans and teammates home with a smile, winning the women's high jump with a leap of 1.70m (5-07ft.). O'Brien not only set a personal best with the mark, but was also the only KU freshman to win individually on the evening.
"We're getting ready to go back into a base period," said Redwine following the race. "It will be really important for the athletes to focus on their academics right now, make sure they do well with their classes and then come back from break ready to go."
The Jayhawks will now have five weeks off before their next meet, the Bill Easton Classic, on Jan. 7, 2012. The meet will once again be held in KU's freshly refurbished home, Anschutz Pavilion and will begin at 1 p.m. Stay connected to Jayhawk track and field until then through twitter at @KU_Track and be sure to visit Meet Central at kuathletics.com on Jan. 7 for complete meet coverage of the Bill Easton Classic.