KU freshman Zach Bradford breaks 36-year-old record at Kansas Relays
photo by: Kansas Athletics
The final day of the Kansas Relays featured a KU newcomer breaking an old record.
Freshman pole vaulter Zach Bradford broke a 36-year KU record in the pole vault, clearing 18 feet, 11 inches on his second attempt.
For his efforts, Bradford was named Male Performer of the Meet, giving the Jayhawks the honor for the second year in a row.
Bradford’s mark, which also set facility record, was the second best in NCAA competition and the fourth best mark in the world so far this season.
“He is just an awesome athlete, and one thing that great athletes do is they find a way to compete,” Kansas coach Stanley Redwine said of Bradford. “The exciting part is that he didn’t think he would break the school record this year, but he did it, so now we get to see where he goes from here.”
While Bradford was doing exciting things for a new batch of Jayhawks, a few former Jayhawks were back at their old stomping grounds drinking in some nostalgia.
One such runner was former national champion Sharon Lokedi, whose uniform on Saturday still read “Kansas,” but came with a very different vibe than the one she had been used to during the past several years.
“I’m just like, ‘This is so different,'” Lokedi said. “I wish there (were) many more races to run here, but this was just a special one.”
Lokedi, who now is pursuing a career as a professional runner after exhausting her outdoor track eligibility at KU, ran the fastest time in the 1,500-meter run on Saturday at 4:24 in her first race as an alumna at the Kansas Relays.
After winning a national championship in the 10,000-meter run and competing at nationals in the 5,000-meter run last May, Lokedi decided to run in the 1,500 meter-run in preparation for an upcoming race.
“The biggest part of my life is here,” Lokedi said. “I’ve learned a lot, and there’s a lot of people I’ve never met. I have amazing fans and I enjoy being here. I am never going to forget everything I did here, the opportunities that I got and the life that it shaped me to be who I am.”
Lokedi took first in a race that featured four Jayhawks in the top eight finishers. Catherine Liggett took second with a time of 4:30, Avryl Johnson took third, Lauren Harrell took sixth and Cameron Gueldner took seventh.
“We’re all still training together,” Lokedi said. “I do everything just the same. I haven’t changed anything. I just feel normal.”
As Lokedi crossed the finish line, another reigning national champion was getting ready to race. Competing in two events on Saturday, junior Bryce Hoppel cruised to a pair of wins with a time of 3:48 in the 1,500 and 1:49.1 in the 800.
Hoppel’s victories pushed his winning streak to 12 in a row in both races. The last time he failed to win a race individually was at the 2018 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
“It kind of pushes me more to keep competing and running faster,” Hoppel said. “I never really save anything in the races that I am in, I just kind of compete as hard as I can in each one I am in.
Hoppel earned two of the Jayhawks’ six wins on the day. Kansas also had six second-place finishes and four third-place finishes.
After posting the top qualifying time on Friday, freshman Cordell Tinch picked up a win in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 13.71. Senior Nicole Montgomery added to KU’s medal count with a win in the women’s 800-meter run with a time of 2:10.
Kansas will travel to compete in the National Relay Championships at the University of Arkansas next weekend.
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected from a previous version.