No offense to Kansas University, but when Free State High senior Lauren Abney thinks about college, she doesn't think about driving up the street from her parents' house here in Lawrence.
"I was looking for a place like KU," Abney said, "without going to KU."
Abney thinks she found it. Tuesday, she gave her oral commitment to attend the University of Kentucky and throw the javelin. She plans to make it official with a signing ceremony within the next week.
The multisport senior, who played basketball this past winter and softball in past seasons, chose Kentucky over Duke and several other Division One programs interested in her.
Growing up around KU gave Abney a good idea of what kind of school she was looking for. And while the local university wasn't a bad option, Abney said she wanted her college experience to be like it is for most students -- and that meant leaving town.
"When I think about college, I think about moving away and starting over and being on your own," Abney said. "That's just the way I always thought about it."
Abney's abilities in the javelin will be a welcome addition to Kentucky. According to the DyeStat rankings, an online compilation of the nation's best track and field performances, Abney's throw of 138 feet at the Kansas Relays of Friday is the third-best mark in the nation this year. The girl who beat her at the Kansas Relays, Maize's Ulrika Hinson, has the second-best mark behind Rachel Yurkovich of Newberg, Ore.
Abney's personal-best throw is 138-8.
"In the past year, she's gotten 26 contacts from Division One schools," FSHS coach Steve Heffernan said. "I knew Kentucky was up there on the list someplace, but it wasn't until the last couple of weeks that I knew she was trying to decide between Kentucky and Duke."
Once the mailed letter of intent arrives from Lexington, Ky., a ceremony is expected to take place at Free State. Abney will be the Firebirds' third Division One signee this year. Alex Brunfeldt signed to swim at Indiana, and Ryne Price will play baseball at KU next year.