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Archive for Saturday, August 16, 2003

Bookman concentrating on running

NCAA champion gives up football to tap ‘big-time potential’

August 16, 2003

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Two-sport standout Leo Bookman has decided to cut his workload in half.

Bookman, Kansas University's 6-foot-1, 210-pound senior track sensation from Dickinson, Texas, who won titles in the 200 dash at both NCAA indoor and outdoor championships last season after failing to catch a pass as a receiver for the KU football team, will spend all of his time in track this season.

"It was a pretty difficult decision," said Bookman, who placed first at the NCAA Indoor in Fayetteville, Ark., with a school indoor-record time of 20.53, then months later blazed to the NCAA Outdoor crown in 20.47 in Sacramento, Calif.

"I have had a lot of success in track. It'd be hard for me to not concentrate on that especially with my goals being the 2004 Olympics," Bookman added.

Bookman, who probably will add the 100 dash to his repertoire this season, is the headline performer for the Jayhawk men's track team, that's for sure.

"Any time you have an NCAA champion coming back, you have to be extremely excited," KU coach Stanley Redwine said. "They come few and far between. He's done a very good job for us, representing the university well ... not only in track and field, but on the football field.

"He's a great athlete, a great competitor who has a great opportunity to reach his potential (in track). We will do some things differently. He'll be able to get a wider base."

Bookman, who placed second in the 200 at Big 12 Outdoor last year in a personal-best 20.37, competed at USA nationals this summer, beating Maurice Greene in a quarterfinal heat of the 200, but ultimately placing 14th overall and not qualifying for the finals after notching seventh in his semifinal heat.

He figures to vie for NCAA honors again this season, then perhaps make an international name for himself on U.S. national teams.

"There is big-time potential there," said Redwine. "He is a true competitor. That's the key. The guy loves to compete."

Bookman is one of many returnees who figure to contend for league titles this season.

Benson Chesang, a sophomore from Kenya, won the 10,000 at his first Big 12 Outdoor in 31:05.09. He had not run a 10K all season before entering the conference race. Chesang, who arrived between semesters, figures to be one of KU's top cross country runners this season.

"Coming in at semester there was a lot of pressure put on him. He wanted to show he could do well. He's just gotten better every single day," Redwine said.

Jeremy Mims, a junior from Iowa City, finished second in the 800 at the Big 12 Outdoor (1:48.71), then improved on that personal best at NCAA regionals, notching third in 1:48.04. That's the fourth best outdoor time in KU history. Mims did not qualify for the finals at the NCAA meet.

Owner of the third best 800 indoor time in KU history, Mims notched third in the 600 at the 2003 Big 12 Indoor.

"Being ranked in the top 20 in the nation as a sophomore is quite an accomplishment," Redwine said of Mims. "He's just one of the many outstanding young athletes we have in the program."

T.J. Hackler, a senior from Overland Park, placed sixth in the high jump at the Big 12 Outdoor after winning the title at the Kansas Relays.

Sophomores Mike Mehring (pole vaulter, Overland Park) and Brett Terp (high jumper, St. Charles, Mo.) both qualified for the NCAA regional.

Top sprinters who return include Mike Walker, Aaron Thompson and Ryan Nelson.

Some top returnees in cross country include Cameron Schwehr, Chris Jones, Dan Ferguson, Brian Raggett and Joshy Madathil. Schwehr, a sophomore from Colbert, Wash., was KU's second best runner at the league meet, placing 31st in 24:59.09.

He placed an impressive fourth in the junior 1,500 at the USA Track and Field meet in a personal best 3:52.59.

Jones placed 43rd at league, Ferguson 60th and Raggett 64th. Jones placed 15th at regional, while Schwehr was 26th.

KU is bringing in Gavin Ball of Cottage Grove, Wis., the No. 1 high school discus thrower in the country. Ball, who attended Monona Grove High, has career bests in the discus and shot put in 191-9 and 61-11/4.

"He's going to be very good for our program," Redwine said. "We believe he will have a great impact for us at our conference and national meets. Coach Reynolds (Doug, throws coach) has done an outstanding job recruiting a student-athlete of this magnitude."

Other recruits: Tyler Kelly, distance, Bristow, Okla.; Adrian Ludwig, middle distance, Free State High; Cody Roberts, throws, Bloomington, Ill.; Barrett Saunders, sprinter/jumper, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.; and Wallace Spearmon, sprints,

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