Recent KU record setter helps kick off 100-year anniversary of Kansas Relays in signature event

photo by: Photo courtesy of Kansas Athletics

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.

On opening day of the Kansas Relays at Rock Chalk Park on Thursday night, KU junior Chandler Gibbens paced the 5,000-meter run, a worthy featured event for the start of the 100-year anniversary of the historic meet.

The reason had everything to do with who Gibbens has become since the calendar flipped to April, transforming from a promising athlete with big time potential into the kind of runner who has headliner potential.

Gibbens only paced Thursday’s event — meaning he set the speed for his teammates but did not finish — because he is focusing his attention at the Kansas Relays on the 1,500, which he will run on Saturday.

Two weeks ago, at the Stanford Invitational in northern California, the KU junior shattered the school record in the 5,000 meters by running a 13:28.71.

Not only was the time a personal-best mark by a whopping 31 seconds, but it also smashed the previous KU record that was owned by legendary Jayhawk and multi-time world record holder Jim Ryun, whose best 5,000-meter time at KU was 13:47.80.

Ryun, a Wichita native, set the record during his four-year career at Kansas from 1965-69.

“It was very special,” Gibbens said of besting Ryun’s mark. “Not only because it’s Jim Ryun but because of how long the record stood. There’s been a lot of really good runners come through here, and being able to take (a record) away from Jim Ryun was really exciting.”

In many ways, it was a moment Gibbens saw coming.

KU coach Stanley Redwine joked this week that Gibbens had been “slacking” leading up to the Stanford meet, which allowed him to break the record by such a large margin. In case anyone listening thought Redwine was in any way serious, the KU coach balanced out his stance by calling Gibbens’ record-setting run “simply amazing.”

Gibbens, who realized his coach was merely kidding, rejected that notion and said that setting the record was the result of good, old-fashioned hard work.

The circumstances surrounding the race did not hurt either, Gibbens said.

“It was great weather, great competition and watching everyone out there race well got me excited to go out and race well,” he said. “I thought this had been building for a bit, and I was really hopeful that I would have a breakthrough day and be able to kind of put myself on the map a little bit.”

A native of Columbia, Missouri, whose family has been lifelong Mizzou fans, Gibbens visited KU out of the idea of due diligence and said he quickly realized that everything about the school and track program was exactly what he wanted.

Even his father, who has been known to wear KU track gear during the past couple of years, realized that the things Kansas could offer his son were simply too good to pass up.

“For my dad, it was a little bit of a hard pill to swallow at first,” Gibbens said. “But, I mean, he knows I love it here and he likes coming here. He came on the visit with me and he said afterwards this is the right place to be.”

Now that he’s starting to make his name known, and still with time to accomplish so much more, Gibbens believes that the KU track standard set by Ryun all those years ago continues to be an advantage for track and field athletes at KU that most other schools simply don’t have.

“It’s a very big inspiration to have his name behind KU track, with all the things that he was able to accomplish,” Gibbens said of Ryun. “You know, you’re always chasing him, chasing his legacy, along with all the other great names. But his kind of stands out among the rest. So, he’s been a big inspiration and always someone to go get, because, until recently, he had every KU distance record, so everyone can look up to him and, you know, be inspired by him.”

The Kansas Relays will resume Friday, with 14 collegiate and high school field events as well as 40 running events.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.