Kansas University’s tradition of quality men’s pole vaulting is alive and well.
Never was that more evident than Friday at the Jayhawk Classic, KU’s second indoor home meet of the season at Anschutz Pavilion. Four Jayhawks and one former Jayhawk swept the top five spots in the event, which was won by 2011 graduate Jordan Scott, the lone competitor to clear 17 feet, 4 inches.
For a program that boasts so many former All-Americans and Olympians, Kansas’ possible return to a golden age of pole vaulting is something that has current athletes and coaches glowing with excitement.
“We know we have a pretty stacked team right now,” senior Alex Bishop said. “And the main thing is just coming out and giving it everything. We support each other but we have the competitiveness between each other. And that’s what drives us. That’s kind of the backbone of what we do.”
That, too, was on full display on Friday, as freshman Nick Meyer and Bishop tied for third and junior Greg Lupton finished fifth. KU’s squad fields such quality depth at the moment that Jayhawks took eight of the top 10 spots in Friday’s final standings. Sophomore Jake Albright finished seventh. Junior Alex Blevins took eighth. And sophomore Nick Maestretti finished 10th.
Of that group, Albright, Bishop, Lupton and Meyer all are currently ranked in the Top 30 nationally.
Junior Casey Bowen, who has national team experience at the junior world championships in 2012, finished second while competing unattached. Bowen is likely to red-shirt the indoor season, but would almost certainly give KU five guys in the Top 30 nationally if he were competing.
“They’re on fire,” said 2010 national champion Scott, a little surprised that he held off the current Jayhawks. “And they’re a threat. It’s unreal. Coach (Tom) Hays has really developed a great crew here, and I’m so glad that we could keep it going and bring back some of the tradition that was here.”
The end of Friday’s event basically came down to the KU athletes duking it out, jump for jump, with each other. Being among the last men jumping is something the group is used to by now. And each one said having the big stage all to the Jayhawks only fuels their competitive fire.
“There are some fun comments like, ‘I’m coming for ya,’ and stuff like that,” Bishop said. “It’s fun, but it’s pretty playful.”
In an event where 18 feet is sort of a Mount Rushmore mark, there is no better coach to tutor such a talented group than Hays. During his career, Hays, a former KU pole vaulter himself, has coached seven athletes who have cleared 18 feet. That mark ties him for most in the nation, and both he and his current crew are gunning to push him over the top.
“Coach always says, ‘We’ve got six guys over 17 feet; who says we can’t have all eight over 17 feet,’” Lupton said. “‘And if we can get four guys over 18 feet, why not six, why not eight?’”
Hays did not back down from such lofty goals when asked whether they were realistic.
“I don’t think any school’s ever had more than three 18-footers in one year and that’s a goal,” he said. “There is no reason that all eight won’t be (over 17), and half of them need to be thinking about 18 feet.”
That’s not a problem, according to Lupton, who said it’s rare for any of KU’s eight vaulters to leave a meet feeling too good about themselves.
“If you get done with a meet and you’re satisfied, that’s not such a good thing,” he said. “You’ve always gotta be hungry for that next mark.”
Added Bishop: “The hardest thing about our event is you always end on a miss.”
By “miss,” he means that moment when the bar is knocked off of its perch and lands on the mat below. And while that happens at every meet for every KU vaulter, it’s the only time Hays is willing to associate that word with any of his current crew.
“First of all, they try to listen,” the coach said. “I say that because all of them got here because they did it their own way. But they’ve bought into the culture, they believe in it, they’re trying and they still have their own personalities, which is kind of cool.”
Other notable Jayhawk finishes at Friday’s meet included:
Former Jayhawk Andrea Geubelle smashing her own facility record with a long jump of 21 feet, 4 inches. Geubelle’s old Anschutz record was 20 feet, 6.25 inches.
Sophomore Sydney Conley finishing second in the long jump with a leap of 20 feet, 6.25 inches. It marked the second week in a row that Conley set a new personal best.
Junior Lindsay Vollmer getting her 2014 pentathlon schedule off to a great start. Vollmer set personal records in two of the four pentathlon events (60 meter hurdles and high jump) before scratching out of the fifth event (800 meter run) because of injury. Despite missing the final leg, the defending NCAA outdoor heptathlon national champion still won the event with 3,355 points. She was on pace to set a PR before the injury.
Junior Kenneth McCuin winning the 600 yards in 1:10.94, while freshman Whitney Adams won the women’s 600 in 1:22.76.
Jayhawks sweeping the men’s and women’s mile, with junior James Wilson PR-ing at 4:12.57 and senior Natalie Becker winning with a 4:51.28, the fourth best time in the Big 12 this year.
KU newcomer Daina Levy finishing as the top collegiate weight thrower with a mark of 60 feet, 1.25 inches, which is third all-time at KU.
Senior sprinter Diamond Dixon ripping off a converted time of 53.26 seconds in the 400 meter run, which is the best time in the nation this year.
KU sweeping the top four spots in the women’s 1,000 meters, with sophomore Hannah Richardson winning in 2:53.98.
Friday at Anschutz Sports Pavilion
Women’s high jump: 1. Colleen O’Brien, 1.77 meters. 4. Grace Pickell, 1.62 meters.
Men’s high jump: 1. Nick Giancana (Unattached-KU), 2.15 meters. 5. Jonathan Fuller, 2.00 meters. 7. Kevin Jones, 1.95 meters.
Women’s pole vault: 4. Jaime House, 3.65 meters. 5. Abby Row, 3.65 meters.
Men’s pole vault: 2. Casey Bowen (Unattached-KU), 5.20 meters. 3. Nick Meyer, 5.20 meters. 3. Alex Bishop, 5.20 meters. 5. Greg Lupton, 5.20 meters. 7. Jake Albright, 4.90 meters. 8. Aaron Blevins, 4.75 meters. 10. Nick Maestretti, 4.75 meters.
Women’s long jump: 2. Sydney Conley, 6.25 meters.
Men’s long jump: 16. Brian Katzfey, 6.60 meters. 17. Richard Smith, 6.46 meters. 33. Ryan Fontenette-Mitchell, 5.58 meters.
Women’s triple jump: 5. Amanda Caines, 11.25 meters.
Men’s triple jump: 7. Richard Smith, 14.44 meters. 19. Ryan Fontenette-Mitchell, 12.70 meters.
Women’s weight throw: 5. Daina Levy, 18.32 meters. 7. Jessica Maroszek, 16.93 meters. 14. Dasha Tsema, 14.92 meters.
Men’s weight throw: 6. Mitchell Cooper, 15.81 meters. 11. Paul Golen, 14.57 meters.
Men’s shot put: 4. Paul Golen, 15.39 meters. 8. Kenny Boyer, 14.59 meters. 15. Michael Jensen, 12.78 meters.
Women’s pentathlon: 1. Lindsay Vollmer, 3325 points. 12. Talia Marquez, 2310 points.
Women’s mile run: 1. Natalie Becker, 4:51.28. 6. Kyra Kilwein, 5:13.52.
Men’s mile run: 1. James Wilson, 4:12.57.
Women’s 600-yard run: 1. Whitney Adams, 1:22.76. 6. Timmie Morris, 1:29.89.
Men’s 600-yard run: 1. Kenneth McCuin, 1:10.94.
Women’s 400-meter dash: 2. Diamond Dixon, 53.97 seconds.
Men’s 400-meter dash: 3. DeMario Johnson, 48.53 seconds.
Women’s 1,000-meter run: 1. Hannah Richardson, 2:53.98. 2. Nashia Baker, 2:58.23. 3. Maddy Rich, 2:58.71. 4. Malika Baker, 2:58.72.
Women’s 60-meter dash: 1. Tianna Valentine, 7.46 seconds. 4. Sydney Conley, 7.51 seconds. 5. Zainab Sanni (Unattached-KU), 7.57 seconds. 6. Alisha Keys, 7.60 seconds.
Women’s 800-meter run: 1. Rhavean King, 2:14.13. 2. Kelli McKenna, 2:16.07. 5. Lydia Saggau, 2:18.08.
Men’s 800-meter run: 1. Brendan Soucie, 1:53.891. 2. Dalen Fink, 1:53.893. 3. Daniel Koech, 1:54.18. 6. Dominique Manley, 1:56.56.
Women’s 200-meter dash: 1. Alisha Keys, 24.91 seconds. 2. Tianna Valentine, 25.22 seconds. 3. Zainab Sanni (Unattached-KU), 25.35 seconds. 4. Mercedes Smith, 25.97 seconds.
Men’s 200-meter dash: 4. Shawn Smith, 22.96 seconds.
Women’s 3,000-meter run: 2. Courtney Coppinger, 10:15.90. 6. Hayley Francis, 10:29.18. 7. Jennifer Angles (Unattached-KU), 10:45.41. 8. Julia Dury, 10:52.56.
Men’s 3,000-meter run: 8. Conner Day, 8:53.86. 12. Eric Lightfoot, 9:10.67.
Women’s distance medley relay: 1. Nashia Baker, Lydia Saggau, Hannah Richardson, Natalie Becker, 12:02.89. 2. Malika Baker, Kelli McKenna, Maddy Rich, Kyra Kilwein, 12:23.37.
Men’s distance medley relay: 1. Daniel Koech, Brendan Soucie, Ben Brownlee, James Wilson, 10:19.42.
Women’s 4x400-meter relay: 1. Adrianna Newell, Diamond Dixon, Whitney Adams, Rhavean King, 3:45.16. 3. Mercedes Smith, Alisha Keys, KayLee Farmer, Mackenzie Klaver, 3:56.91.
Men’s 4x400-meter relay: 5. James Wilson, DeMario Johnson, Dominique Manley, Kenneth McCuin, 3:20.77. 8. Alex Hermes, Shawn Smith, Drew Matthews, Kellum Schneider, 3:25.30. 13. Nick Ucherek, Dalen Fink, Nick Seckfort, Adebayo Braimah, 3:28.33.