When you’re given a name like Diamond, nicknames don’t really seem that interesting.
Such is the case for Kansas University freshman track star Diamond Dixon, one of a handful of KU athletes who will compete at the 2011 NCAA Outdoor Championships, which begin today in Des Moines, Iowa.
Dixon, named Monday as the Midwest Region Track Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, will compete in the 400-meter dash and the 4x400 meter relay.
Dixon enters her lone individual event as one of the favorites. Her top time of 51.55 seconds is tied for the fastest in the nation this season. It’s also a school record.
Despite the last few months passing by like a whirlwind, Dixon, a freshman from El Paso, Texas, has done her best to soak it all in.
“I can’t say I didn’t expect it at all,” she said of her immediate success. “But I didn’t really expect to have the top time in the nation as a freshman and stuff like that. It’s been pretty amazing.”
In addition to the regional honor, Dixon was named the Big 12 outstanding female freshman of the year after winning the 400-meter title at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships. In all, she won the event three times this season and was ranked in the Top 25 on a regular basis. Hard work had something to do with her success, but something different was actually the driving force.
“I just don’t like to lose,” she said. “And I really want to be the best.”
She’ll get that chance at 6:45 tonight, when she kicks off the meet for the 16th-ranked KU women at Drake Stadium on the campus of Drake University. Later this week, Dixon will join senior Kendra Bradley, junior Shayla Wilson and sophomore Taylor Washington in the 4x400 meter relay. So far this season, the team has turned in the second-fastest time in KU history.
As for those nicknames, Dixon said she hasn’t really heard too many throughout the years.
“Some of my teammates call me Triple D or whatever,” she said. “But the only other thing I hear is just like, ‘Diamond in the Rough’ and stuff like that.”
Triple D? Seems odd for a woman whose middle name is Britney. Dixon agrees.
“I don’t even know where the extra D comes in,” she said with a laugh.
Here’s a quick look at the rest of the Jayhawks scheduled to compete at this week’s outdoor championships in Des Moines.
Rebecca Stowe — 3,000 Steeplechase
Stowe is competing in this event at nationals for the second straight season and she enters the meet with the second-fastest time in the field. A junior from Olathe, Stowe set a school record in the event in May by running a 9:53.12.
She took second at the Big 12 Outdoor Championships with a time of 10:15.29, which earned her the trip to Iowa. The semifinals of this year’s event will kick off at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Andrea Geubelle — Long jump, triple jump
Geubelle, a sophomore from University Place, Wash., will participate in her two jumping events for the second consecutive year. She reached the meet by finishing seventh in the triple jump and eighth in the long jump at the West Prelims. She currently ranks 13th nationally in both events, a ranking that was boosted by her third-place finish in the long jump at the Big 12 meet. First up for Geubelle is the long jump at 5:30 tonight. She’ll close the meet with the triple jump at 5:35 p.m. Friday.
Heather Bergmann — Javelin
Bergmann, a sophomore from Concordia, will be competing at nationals for the first time when she tosses the javelin at 3:05 p.m. Thursday. The school record holder placed fifth at prelims to earn a spot in the field. She set the school record (51.38 meters) at the Kansas Relays. Bergmann has two victories to her credit this season and also finished fourth at the Big 12 championships.
Jessica Maroszek — Discus
The freshman from Seymour, Wis., advanced to nationals with a third-place showing at the prelims last week. Maroszek has been ranked in the Top 10 in her signature event throughout the 2011 outdoor season and counts her winning throw of 54.21 meters at the Kansas Relays among her season highlights. She took home gold at three other meets this season and finished eighth at the Big 12 championships. Maroszek will heave the discus at 3 p.m. today.
Mason Finley — Shot put, discus
Sophomore Mason Finley, 6-foot-8, 375 pounds, is one of four athletes from the 20th-ranked KU men’s squad that will compete at nationals this week. Finley, the Big 12 champion in the shot put and runner-up in the discus, placed in the top three at prelims last week in both events to qualify. He is ranked in the top three in both events and is a serious threat to sweep. His season-best throw of 19.84 meters in the shot put is one of the three best puts in the nation this year. As is his throw of 60.65 meters in the discus. The men’s discus will begin at 6 tonight. The shot put competition is set for 5:30 p.m. Friday.
Kyle Clemons — 400-meter dash
Clemons enters the NCAA championships on a little bit of a roll. Last week, he ran his second fastest time of the season (46.34) at prelims to qualify. He won three times this season, including at the Kansas Relays, and finished sixth at the Big 12 championships. Last year at nationals, the sophomore finished in 23rd place. He’ll look to improve on that at 7 tonight.
Donny Wasinger — 1,500-meter run
Wasinger, a junior from Winona, Minn., qualified for nationals with an eighth-place finish at prelims. This season, he turned in a career-best four top-three finishes, including a gold-medal run at the Kansas Relays. This is his first career trip to nationals. He’ll run at 6:15 p.m. Thursday.
Johann Swanepoel — Javelin
The freshman from Shawnee Mission South High qualified for nationals in his first try by finishing ninth at last week’s prelims. This season, Swanepoel recorded four top-three finishes and threw the fourth-best throw in school history (73.60 meters) at the Kansas Relays. Swanepoel will kick off this year’s meet for the KU men by hopping on the runway at 3:05 p.m. today.