(Courtesy: KU Athletics)
WACO, Texas - The University of Kansas women's track & field team was crowned team champions Sunday at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships. Four individual champions as well as wins in both the 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter relays propelled the Jayhawks to the first outdoor team title in program history.
"Today was a total team effort and I couldn't be happier for everyone involved in this championship," said 13-year head coach Stanley Redwine. "The team knew what was on the line and the ladies went out there and competed so well. To have eight individual champions today was outstanding and well deserved. It's just a great day for KU."
The women finished the meet with 158 points, outduelling the reigning Big 12 Outdoor Champion, Texas Longhorns, who tallied 145 team points for the runner-up finish. The Jayhawks' point total was the most accumulated by a women's team since Texas amassed 188 points in 2003.
With a host of Jayhawks turning in championship performances, it was senior Paris Daniels who stood above the rest as she scored 23 of her team's final 84 points to help seal the victory. The St. Louis product started the afternoon by running the leadoff leg on the women's 4x100-meter relay. Daniels, along with freshman Tianna Valentine, senior Denesha Morris and juniorDiamond Dixon, ran away from the field down the final 100 meters to take the event crown in 43.89.
Daniels then returned for the final of the 100 meters, a race in which she had placed second a day earlier in the semifinal round. Daniels sprinted down the straight away and nearly caught the leader, Texas Tech's Cierra White, but settled for the runner-up finish, clocking in at 11.34 and adding eight points to her team's total.
Daniels saved her best individual event for last as she attempted to go for the title repeat in the 200 meters. There was little doubt from the opening gun she would be beat as she pulled away from the competition down the final 50 meters to earn her second-consecutive league title. The win also tallied an additional 10 points in the team standings for the Jayhawks.
Having already clinched the team title, Daniels, along with Morris, Dixon and senior Taylor Washington again were able to outduel Texas in the 4x400-meter relay for the second year in a row. The quartet passed the baton around in a season-best 3:32.00 to earn its second-straight Big 12 championship in the event and put an exclamation point on the team title.
With Daniels' 2.5 points in both the relay events, her eight points in the 100 meters and her 10 points in the 200 meters, she was the highest female scorer of the meet, earning her outstanding performer accolades, marking the first time a KU woman has earned the honor.
Dixon also had heavy influence in the team scoring. In addition to her hand in the 4x100-meter and 4x400-meter relay titles, she also earned her third-straight outdoor 400 meter championship. The Houston, Texas native rounded the track in a season-best 51.73 to beat the rest of the field by a wide margin of nearly a second. Dixon's victory marked the second time in the team's history an athlete has claimed three or more outdoor conference championships in a single event.
Dixon also added a fourth-place finish in the 200 meters, posting a personal-record time of 23.38 to garner an additional five points for her team.
In the women's triple jump Andrea Geubelle looked to make conference history by becoming just the second woman in Big 12 history to repeat as league champion in both indoor and outdoor triple jumps. The senior left little doubt of her impending victory after her first leap of the morning when she hit a distance of 13.55 meters (44'5.5"). None of the other 12 athletes would be able to come within 2.5 feet of her opening mark, making it a stress-free day for the All-American.
Geubelle was able to improve on her fourth trip down the runway when she turned in a mark of 13.59 meters (44'7"). That would be as far as she could get but the mark was more than enough to garner her second-straight outdoor triple jump victory and KU's fourth in the event since 2005. Geubelle now joins current teammates Francine Simpson (long jump) and Dixon (400m) as well as four other Kansas women to defend their individual outdoor conference titles.
Coming of her own repeat in the long jump Saturday, Simpson managed to add five points to Geubelle's 10 in the triple jump. In her first career outdoor triple jump competition, Simpson soared to a distance of 12.68 meters (41'7.25"). The mark would move her into the finals and eventually give the senior a fourth-place finish and five points to add to Geubelle's 10 in the event.
Perhaps the most clutch individual title of the day came in the women's discus when junior Jessica Maroszek turned in the best performance of her career. The Seymour, Wis., native never trailed in the event leading from her first attempt of the afternoon. On her third attempt, Maroszek unleashed a throw of 56.81 meters (52'1.75"), which not only tallied a new personal best, but also smashed her own school record in the event. Only one other thrower was able to come within 10 feet of Maroszek's record mark, earning her the first conference title of her career and the first discus title for a Jayhawk since 1986.
Maroszek's win, coupled with freshman Anastasiya Muchkayev's five points after her fourth-place finish, gave Kansas 15 vital points late in the day after Texas had cut the Kansas lead to two.
Other Jayhawk scorers on the final day of competition were Morris in the 400 meters (sixth, 53.77), senior Heather Bergmann in the javelin (third, 49.30m), sophomore Lindsay Vollmer in the high jump (fouth, 1.75m) and freshmanHannah Richardson and junior Natalie Becker in the 1,500 meters, who combined for eight points with their fourth- and sixth-place finishes, respectively.
The No. 2-ranked KU women now set their sights on a team title at the NCAA Championships. The Jayhawks will get one final chance to earn marks that will extend their seasons into the NCAA Championship rounds as the KU women will travel to Atlanta, Ga., for the Georgia Tech Invitational May 10-11.
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