More Jayhawks advance through hard-fought men’s prelims, on to NCAA track championships

KU junior Chandler Gibbens sets the pace in the 5,000-meter run at the Kansas Relays at Rock Chalk Park on Thursday, April 13, 2023. Gibbens recently set the school record in the event, knocking KU legend Jim Ryun from the top spot. (Photo courtesy of Kansas Athletics)

A discus flew 4 centimeters farther, a runner finished half a second faster and a pair of Kansas track and field athletes earned their places at the NCAA Championships by the narrowest of margins.

At the NCAA West Preliminary in Sacramento, Calif., Friday afternoon, KU sophomore thrower Dimitrios Pavlidis edged out UCLA’s Aidan Elbettar for 12th place in the discus, as Elbettar’s final mark of 56.82 meters didn’t quite stack up to Pavlidis’ 56.86.

Later, in one of the final events of the night, Big 12 champion Chandler Gibbens was tested in the 5,000 meters, but just beat out Northern Arizona’s Theo Quax to claim sixth place in his heat. He had entered preliminary competition ranked No. 2 overall in the region.

Pavlidis and Gibbens each secured the final qualifying places in their respective events, earning berths in Austin, Texas, for the national championships that begin June 7. They accounted for two of the four KU athletes who kept advancing past Friday’s men’s preliminaries.

Junior sprinter Michael Joseph was the most dominant Jayhawk on the day, punching his ticket by finishing second in the 400 meters at 45.23 seconds, just behind Justin Robinson of Arizona State. Fellow junior Cameron Wilmington posted a personal best of 50.21 seconds in the 400-meter hurdles and came in eighth overall, third in his heat, and sealed an automatic qualifying spot.

A.J. Green qualified with the second-fastest time among runners who were not top three in their heats — the eighth-best time overall — in the 800 meters at 1:47.34. Teammate T.J. Robinson missed the cut at 19th in the same event.

A pair of high-ranking KU jumpers were also unable to advance past Friday, including Jaden Patterson in the triple jump. A minuscule difference between competitors did not go this particular Jayhawk’s way, as he ended up in 14th place, just 0.03 meters short of the 12th-place qualifying mark. High jumper Devin Loudermilk also bowed out in a tie for 16th place.

The men’s 4×400-meter relay team finished 14th and did not qualify.

Patrick Larrison, whose personal-best 19.38-meter shot-put throw from Wednesday had already earned him a spot in Austin, trailed Pavlidis by nine spots in the discus and didn’t make the cut in that event, a mild surprise since he had entered regional competition with a higher ranking in the discus (No. 12) than the shot put (No. 17).

Alexander Jung and Tayton Klein had already qualified in the decathlon earlier this month, as had Clayton Simms in the pole vault Wednesday. They will round out the Jayhawk men’s contingent in Austin.


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